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Hypergene MediaBlog » Will the BBC make it harder for UK newspapers to survive?

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Sunday, 19 Jun 2005

Will the BBC make it harder for UK newspapers to survive?

For years, the BBC was the proverbial elephant in the room no one wanted to talk about. And until recently, UK newspaper publishers considered themselves safe to go about their business publishing in a different medium.

Then, as so many of these stories go, the Internet arrived.

According to the Economist (sub req’d) UK newspapers now find themselves in danger of being stampeded by a once-lumbering giant, who, as it turns out, is smarter and faster than anyone had imagined.

For those of us Stateside, here are a few facts about the BBC you might not know:
• $27 million spent this year on its news website
• $93 million spent on its other 524 sites (such as this)
• 5,000 journalists worldwide
This public-service broadcaster’s improbable success has collided with the realization that the UK’s newspapers must support flagging offline sales with aggressive online news revenues. (Total newspaper readership has fallen by 30% since 1990 and, predictably, the overall readership has aged.)

Breaking even has been a bit of a challenge for the other news sites. None have the depth of content that the BBC has or the ability to keep readers on their site for more than few pages. (The Guardian, which is the most successful news site, gets only about half as many visitors.)

And fewer page views means fewer opportunities to monetize readership. Yet some papers, The Guardian included, are finding ways to make a profit or get close to breaking even. And the BBC has even been making an effort to link to other paper websites. But, unless they get creative, the trickle-down approach to readership growth will likely be of little comfort.

And when you consider the BBC’s continued skill at providing multimedia and user-contributed content, UK newspapers and, perhaps all Internet newspapers, are in for a jolly good time.

Other UK newspaper sites:
Financial Times
Telegraph
The Sun

Also see:
The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth by Cory Doctorow: “Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience.”

Posted on Jun 19, 2005 | 11:01 pm EST
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