I am writing today to let you know about some changes to the CBC News and Centers management team. This fall Paul Hambleton will be moving to Toronto to take on the role of Managing Editor, radio and television news and centres programming. This is a new role that integrates the management of news programming for both television and radio. It includes the radio news duties formerly handled with such skill by Jack Nagler, plus new responsibilities in television programming. Paul will be reporting to Fiona Conway.
Paul has had an impressive career at CBC News. Highlights include Managing Editor in Newfoundland, Bureau Chief in Prince Edward Island, Executive Producer of Newsgathering in Toronto and, of course, his current role as Managing Editor of our Parliamentary Bureau. Along the way he won a Gemini Award for his work with Susan Ormiston and the digital team on the “Ormiston Online” project during the 2008 Federal election. He also managed our outstanding coverage of the 2011 Federal election. This is a great move for Paul, and we are thrilled to have his expertise back in Toronto.
I am also pleased to announce that Robert Russo will be coming to CBC as the new Managing Editor of the Parliamentary Bureau. Rob is one of the most admired journalistic leaders in the country and no stranger to us at CBC News. He is often called upon to provide political insight on The National, The House, Power and Politics and on local radio current affairs programs across the country. He has been at the helm of CP’s Ottawa Bureau for the past ten years, leading teams that have won numerous awards including a Michener, National Newspaper awards and the press gallery’s Charles Lynch Award for lifetime achievement.
Rob Russo’s journalistic credentials are indisputable. He is a proven leader and innovator. At Canadian Press, Rob managed to ride the waves of change rolling through the industry while still providing quality journalism.
Quality, relevance and enterprise are also our drivers here at CBC News. Our Ottawa team, led by Paul, has helped define the national political agenda with its sharp reporting. Power and Politics is now a real force, The House remains an institution, and our Politics online team sets the digital standard on Parliament Hill.
Rob’s challenge will be to build on that success. We want to raise the CBC’s game on Parliament Hill even further–while working more closely than ever with local news staff and our SRC colleagues. Our focus remains on increasing our commitment to enterprise journalism, a hallmark of Rob Russo’s time at CP. Rob will report to Jonathan Whitten.
Although Rob will be dropping by and touching base with folks in the bureau through the summer, he will begin in earnest after Labour Day. Rob and Paul will spend September working through the transition, at which point Paul will take up his new duties in Toronto.
Please join me in congratulating both of them on their new roles!
General Manager and Editor in Chief,
CBC News and Centres
Canada’s telecom regulator is making it easier for consumers to switch wireless providers, the centrepiece of a set of reforms aimed at creating greater competition and lower prices.
In a surprise move, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Monday its new wireless code will empower Canadians to cancel their cellphone contracts after two years without the sting of cancellation fees, even if they had agreed to a longer term.
Although the CRTC stopped short of banning three-year contracts, its new rule effectively spells the demise of those long-term agreements that slap consumers with penalties if they try to switch carriers prior to expiry.
By tackling that hot-button issue, the commission says it is putting more “control” in the hands of consumers, making it easier for them to shop for better deals sooner while shielding them from “bill shock” with other measures that cap extra charges for data usage and international roaming, and other measures to enable consumers to more easily switch providers.
The CRTC’s move comes as the federal government’s earlier effort at boosting competition, by enticing new entrants into the market, teeters toward collapse, with three independent upstarts up for sale. However, the government has not abandoned that strategy, with Industry Minister Christian Paradis to unveil a key decision Tuesday morning on whether large players will be able to acquire those upstarts.
Carriers and some analysts warned the code could still result in higher prices for consumers, but the CRTC’s head said the changes will boost competition.
“It will make for a more dynamic marketplace,” said CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais in an interview. “So, at least every two years, there is a rendezvous – an opportunity – for consumers to either re-sign with their existing carrier or look what is available across the street.”
Canada’s broadcast regulator has cleared the way for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to transform itself over its next five-year licence term, in a ruling that allows for changes across much of the broadcaster’s operations. The licence, the first renewal since 2000, runs until 2018, and covers a time when the broadcaster is under financial pressure thanks to a $115-million reduction in the amount of money it receives from the federal government.
“All Canadians will continue to receive the quality services they expect from their national public broadcaster,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, as he announced the renewal last week. “In the ever-changing media landscape, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will continue to play a key role for the vitality of Canada’s French- and English-language culture, throughout the country.”
Here are some highlights from the renewal.
The biggest change to CBC’s licence allows the broadcaster to put ads on Radio 2 and the French-language Espace Musique. The request wasn’t altogether new – CBC was allowed to advertise on the radio until 1975 when its licence was renewed and asked the commission to allow sponsored ads at its last renewal (it was denied).
The CBC said adding advertising could help it make up to $25-million a year by the end of the five-year licence.
The CRTC decided advertisements wouldn’t ruin the services, but didn’t share CBC’s enthusiasm. It only gave the broadcaster three years to experiment with advertising, and limited it to buying national ads (which only account for about 30 per cent of all radio advertising in Canada).
It also decided that musical quirkiness was at the heart of both services, and that it didn’t want to see that change as the services tried to make themselves more attractive to advertisers. So it wrote some conditions into its new licence: Espace Musique must “broadcast a minimum of 3,000 and Radio 2 a minimum 2,800 distinct musical selections each broadcaster month.”
“The commission’s research demonstrates that a key measurable characteristic that distinguishes the programming of Espace Musique and Radio 2 is that they broadcast a far greater number of distinct musical selections than commercial stations.” the CRTC wrote. “This practice helps ensure that these services contribute to the diversity of programming available to Canadians.”
While almost two dozen television channels appeared in front of the commission in late May to ask to be included in basic digital cable packages across the country, commissioners were already considering a similar request by CBC for its English and French language news networks.
Mandatory carriage means that a channel is broadcast into every home. It is a highly coveted designation because it comes with subscription revenue and the ability to charge more for advertising because of the potential number of viewers.
The two networks, RDI and CBC News Network, already enjoy this privilege, but only in certain markets – the French-language RDI is mandatory in English markets and CBC News Network is mandatory in French markets.
The CRTC decided to leave this as-is, something the CBC likely made easier by not asking for an increase to subscriber rates. (RDI costs English-market subscribers 10 cents a month, CBC News Network costs French-market subscribers 16 cents a month).
John Paton is the chief executive officer of Digital First Media, a company created to help newspapers make the transition from print to … something else.
He’s in charge of more than 70 newspapers – from small titles such as the Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio to well-known papers as the Pulitzer Prize winning Denver Post. I had lunch with him in Manhattan a few months ago for a Report On Business Lunch, but only a fraction of any interview usually makes it into a piece.
Here is a barely edited transcript of our conversation.
On newspapers today
Life is harder. If you have been in a newsroom for 10 years, five years ago life was easier than it is today. That’s a fact. Companies have to realize that, and you have some companies that haven’t been able to give raises for five years. When I make speeches to employees, I feel more than half are pulling for us but it’s been a slog and they really do mostly just want me to go away. That’s what you get from newspaper employees – when I give the same speech about changing the business to digital companies they just look at me with a big “duh” look on their face. They say “Of course you are doing this.” They don’t have “digital first” meetings at Google.
The day it all changed
Every newspaper has ways to put advertisers on credit watch to make sure everything is OK using algorithms and patterns. One day in 2008, the CFO walks in and says “We just put GM on credit watch.” We just looked at each other; we knew it was a moment we’d have to remember because our lives just changed profoundly. It was just one account. But it was General Motors. Then it went bankrupt. This little company knew that ahead of time. I wish I could bottle that moment and show it to every reporter and salesman, GM and publisher and mid-level executive and have them understand that this moment is happening all the time now. I remember that one because it was the first – but I bet 10 per cent of our businesses are on credit watch. GM was the moment things changed.
How quickly are things changing in the newspaper industry?
Changes in the industry are so rapid – if a legacy media company today doesn’t have the kind of culture that allows this pace of change they’ll die.
What sort of things can you do to keep up?
I watched a guy demonstrate to me how an ad can be built algorithmically for a client he had never met, that would fit all forms of newspapers, websites, tablets and smartphones in 60 seconds. I was stunned. The ads were certainly were good enough for an ad at the price point of hundreds of dollars versus an ad of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a war of dimes. Trying to find cost effective way to get the dime in the house and make some money.
So, you want to adopt a paywall strategy? It better be a strategy, and not a tactic. The thing that scares me? I think in the past quarter NY Times newspaper, not the entire company, had more circulation revenue than ad revenue. I’m looking at this thinking that’s a bad thing for sustainability, but it’s being lauded as success.
And more on paywalls
I can see it as a very solid line of revenue. But as a game changer? How do these numbers sustain themselves? We’re going to have everybody in the United States subscribe? Everyone in an age demographic? It’s not sustainable, if that’s the model. The circulation line doesn’t go straight up – it goes flat. You run out of people. If you didn’t really focus on the new revenue opportunism that come with digital – not web – if didn’t focus on building those then you are so far behind trying to monetize.
Oh, also some stuff about his paywalls
The all-access strategy in many places is simply an excuse to raise the home delivery price for the newspaper and throw in digital and say someone is getting something for free. That has only so much life in it before it runs out of gas. I think people will pay for things that are worth paying for. And I would argue that at general interest newspapers, there is a small chance that equals what’s in the paper and that’s why I don’t like paywalls. There’s a larger chance to build apps – true standalone products that are different from the Web and different from newspapers. People will buy things that they use differently.
From a pay perspective on the web, I don’t want to do anything that will mess up traffic. The bigger the audience, the more my opportunity. People can argue about declining CPMs, but I will give you this analogy – a billion people using Facebook. I read all over the place that Facebook hasn’t figured out monetization. Facebook hasn’t figured out mobile. I think any entrepreneur would come back and say, “Well we have a billion people and we’ll figure it out.” The opportunity is so much bigger because of the size of the audience.
On paywall alternatives (ie, more paywalls)
At Digital First Media we have 60 million Americans using our products. I’ll start with that audience, thank you. I have to be able to find a way to monetize that audience. I don’t want a paywall to stop that audience from coming. I think “pay” can mean “earn your way past the paywall.” As a test at we put a Google consumer survey, poll, on media gallery sites. They get massive traffic, but advertisers don’t like them. So I argued this – if traffic fell what would I care? It’s hard to monetize. So we put Google surveys after every 10 on 75 sites, question pops up. We’re getting paid to survey. One question, true or false. Generates a much higher revenue rate than the paywall does. And it turns out the traffic comes back – it’s only one part of site and not harming overall site traffic.
We have to be able to think about what monetization looks like, and what we’re asking the consumer to do. Consumers take out phones when they are in line to get a coffee – they have ten minutes. When that person does, that app better come up and it better be awesome. He needs to use all his 10 minutes. Having a paywall without thinking about what that mobile opp ought to do is a diversion of management’s time – there’s definitely more dollars serving up that audience you’re going to get on a really well defined app.
Innovation, Part II
I started spending a lot of time in Silicon Valley. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but more time than other newspaper executives. I want to spend time with people who expose me to ideas that aren’t newspaper related but are definitely media related.
On his digital investments
I started Digital First Ventures, taking small interest in startups in tech that look at content and advertising. And investing in those companies puts me in front of people who newspaper people don’t usually get to see. There’s no part of my day that doesn’t involve some sort of tech development as it relates to content and sales. If you’re going to be a CEO these days, you have to do that. You just have to.
I think the timeline is the wrong question. There’s a realization that if the largest part of your business is legacy, it needs to become something else. The question is – what does it become? And the answer to that is, ‘Not what it is today.’ And that’s why you need to build the revenue streams and cost structures to build whatever that is going to be, fully realizing you’ll need to fund all of that from the profits of your printed products. What it is today is what it will be five years from now but smaller. You’re going to need a plan – the timeline is only important against the plan – what are the things you are building now that will be bring value to your shareholders and customers. What will the revenue streams and cost structures look like to achieve that – fully realizing that you’re going to have to fund all of that from the profits of what you have now.
On funding new businesses to replace the old
The business of newspapering has to become the business of maximizing free cash flow to feed the new, growing businesses. Is anyone arguing print isn’t challenged forever and a day? Of course it is. Is anyone arguing there’s a bottom? Of course there’s not. The idea is to recognize that and start building new businesses while you have the opportunity to do so. You can argue over timeline, and it’s a good argument to have, but is anyone arguing that print isn’t challenged forever and a day? Of course it is. So, the idea of a digital first strategy is to recognize that and start building new businesses while you have the opportunity to do so and let print will become whatever it’s going to become.
The future of print
Any media owner has to ask basic questions. Not about the future of print, we know it’s less than it was. If you don’t accept that answer you can’t build the right plan. So if you do accept the answer, then you think about the strategy and tactics around future products. There’s a role for print, but not the role that it had. Print will do whatever it will do and you will care less because you have built what customers want.
If you’re hiring managers they need to understand that part of plan is to build new things. You need to have a team that is fully focused on what to build this year, and not be fixated on how many dollars they might be losing. Need to where the fastest revenue growth is, you need to look at your legacy side and maximize your cash flow to get it done.
It’s hard if you’ve established print will remain challenged. You need a culture that understands that. If not, you end up with newspaper guys telling you about how everything was better the year before and digital people telling you what they would do if they weren’t hampered by the print side. The digital side needs to understand they don’t have any money unless we can do print well, and the print people need to get that they are feeding the digital future. If the print guys don’t understand this, then you’ve got the wrong print guys.
On high wires
The plan is about “how do I make the print company as stable as I can, considering it’s not coming back and how I can feed the engines of growth and make digital investments. All while keeping expense down. This here is a high-wire act. And people will tell you there’s nothing left to cut in this industry – well if you go out of business, there’s 100 per cent more to cut.
On the haters
When I’m speaking, about half the room thinks there’s no way I’ll be able to do any of that. Half the room, usually editors and ad sales, look like they hope the devil will leave soon because they don’t want to have to figure this out. And funny thing – age isn’t the defining thing here. You have people in their 60s that are so adept. And then you have reporters in their 30s who are saying “Hey man, I’m here to do my story because that’s what you hired me to do.” You look at a reporter like that and just think “If that’s the way it is, we’re both going to be out of work.”
On new things
I’m working with a team that says “We’re figuring out the newspaper side but the effort has to be building value on the other side.” When we get to the other side of it these are companies that are new businesses, they are related to what we used to do but will not be the same. When the old business eventually goes away in 25 years or 10 years or five years, these new things that have been built on back of old will exist. It’s easy to say and incredibly difficult to do.
I came here as a Canadian and wanted to be quiet and do my thing, but you realize in NY that’s not going to serve you well, so you get louder about what you think is right. The bankruptcy has everything to do with pension issues, debt and real estate and has nothing to do with performance. But it becomes about a bankruptcy of ideas, so you need a thick skin. They come at me because I’ve been so loud about having all the answers. I used to be really comfortable saying that. These days it’s pretty uncomfortable.
On legacy costs
Capital structure is an issue for every media company private or public. They all have debt and obligations- long-term leases, pensions, whatever. They all have that. That is part and parcel. I never let that deter me – it’s what we have to deal with. You take some brain damage figuring out some tough steps like bankruptcy or just laying people off. This is hard to do, but doable if you have a plan. You need to get in front of things and have a plan.
Looking forward is a gift. You can see that with investors. They say “Hey, you used to be worth $100 a share and now you’re only a dollar.” Well, the smart investor says “What can we do to make it a buck and a half?” And look, we have a plan. I believe in our plan. I think we can do this. I’m not at the forefront of anything except trying. If this plan doesn’t work, we’ll find another one.
Clearly, this has not been edited for length.
When Peter Worthington agreed to be the founding editor of the Toronto Sun, his goal was to kick authority in the shins.
It was 1971, and the already legendary newspaperman had built a reputation for tough reporting from some of the world’s most dangerous war zones for the Toronto Telegram (one legend has him fending off an attack by feral dogs in Vietnam by killing one and throwing the carcass at the other). When that paper folded, he saw an opportunity to replace it with a scrappy tabloid that would fearlessly stand up for the “little guy” with irreverence and a sense of humour.
Decades later, the Sun Media newspaper chain is the largest in the country by number of titles and operates with his founding principles in mind as it agitates and pokes at authority figures and fights for those who have little voice outside its pages. That goes double for the company’s Sun News Network, a television station built on the Sun’s reputation as a source of “hard news and straight talk” with a heavy conservative focus that sets it apart from other news outlets in Canada.
“In the Sun, there is no such thing as the oth
er side [in editorials] – it’s always our way or the highway,” says Mark Bonokoski, a national editorial writer for Sun Media and former publisher of the Ottawa Sun. “That’s what makes working there such a delight.”
Mr. Worthington died Monday, but not before filing his own obituary for the paper’s Tuesday edition. He leaves his wife, Yvonne Crittenden, son Casey Worthington and stepchildren Guy Crittenden and Danielle Crittenden. He had six grandchildren.
The 86-year-old journalist never stopped writing for the paper he founded and was a regular presence in the newsroom, submitting as many as four columns a week on subjects as wide-ranging as his ongoing battle with backyard racoons and the United States military’s decision to allow openly gay soldiers among its ranks.
In an interview last year, he said he was often surprised by the way readers would respond to his work. He was particularly vexed by those who would leave comments on his pieces, saying it was often “depressing” what would receive the most attention.
“Sometimes you hit a chord and you get maybe 400-500 responses and it’s usually about something inconsequential,” he said. “[It’s] not Syria-Afghanistan, it’s something about smoking or hamburgers or dogs or something.”