Financial dailies’ Net readers & Booker longlist

The Financial Times had 149,047 digital subscribers at the end of June, up 27 per cent year on year and 17,000 up from January, reports the Guardian in an interview with the Financial Times' chief executive, John Ridding.

The Wall Street Journal, in contrast, had 400,000 online paid subscriptions as of March 2010, says Wikpedia, citing a New York Times report.

And now about books: The 2010 Man Booker longlist is out. Interest will pick up when the shortlist is announced on September 7. Two-time winner Peter Carey (Oscar and Lucinda, 1988; True History of the Kelly Gang, 2001) is in the race for the £50,000 prize again.

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Free because we blog, tweet, in an attention economy


Singapore's Straits Times and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post are the only English language newspapers I know that do not allow their stories to be read online for free.

Even the Financial Times allows some of its stories to be read for free.

Not the Straits Times. All you can read for free on its website are wire stories, letters to the editor, readers' comments — and, yes, its blogs. Just don't expect to see the newspaper's regular columnists there. You can read Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman for free, but you have to pay to read Andy Ho and Sumiko Tan.

It just goes to show the amazing strength of the Straits Times that, while virtually everyone else is giving away original content for free, it can still charge for what it has to offer.

Digital cheap

Newspapers can allow free online access because the digital medium is so cheap, says Chris Anderson in his book, Free. It's fascinating reading. The Wired magazine editor says why readers must pay to read his magazine but enjoy free access to the website:

"In print, I operate by the rules of scarcity, since each page is expensive and I have a limited number of them… Not only are our pages expensive, they are also unchangeable. Once the presses run, our mistakes and errors of judgment are preserved for posterity (or at least until they are recycled)…

"Online, however, pages are infinite and indefinitely changeable. It's an abundance economy and invites a totally different management approach. On our Web site we have dozens of bloggers, many of them amateurs, who write what they want, without editing…

"Standards such as accuracy and fairness apply across the board, but in print we have to get everything right before publication, at great expense, while online we can correct as we go."

The website costs only a fraction of the magazine business:

"We pay dollars to print, bind and mail a magazine to you… but just microcents to show it to you on our Web site. That's why we can treat it as free, because on a user-by-user basis, it is, in fact, too cheap to meter.

"Overall, our server and bandwidth bill amounts to several thousand dollars a month. But that's to reach millions of readers."

Newspaper publishers are beginning to ask what's the point of reaching millions of readers when advertisers are willing to pay for only a certain target audience.

Attention economy

But money alone no longer makes the world go round, as even businesses acknowledge. Why else do they make such a fuss about brand recognition?

Welcome to the attention economy. Another reason to read Free, especially if you are a blogger or interested in the media.

Anderson explains the new economy in terms any blogger or user of Facebook, Twitter or MySpace will understand:

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India has seventh biggest online audience

India has the seventh biggest pool of internet users in the world, trailing just behind France and leading eighth-placed Russia by a big margin.

The number of people aged 15 and older on the internet passed one billion in December, comScore announced, reports Techpulse 360.

Internet users from the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 41 percent of the total.

China has the largest national online audience, with 180 million people connected, or 18 percent of the worldwide total.

The U.S. is the second largest, with 16 percent and Japan follows with 6 percent.

Europe has 28 percent of the world’s internet users.

North America’s 185 million internet users added up to 18 percent and Latin American web surfers accounted for 7 percent.

Here are the top 12 countries.

CountryOnline audience
(in millions)
Global Share
South Korea27,2542.7%

To put things in perspective, internet users make up

65 percent of the Canadian population (33.5 million) [all population figures from Wikipedia]

60 percent of the UK’s population (60.9 million)

55 percent of the South Korean population (49 million)

53.4 percent of the US population (305.6 million)

52 percent of the French population (65 million)

47 percent of the Japanese population (127.4 million)

45 percent of the German population (82 million)

34 percent of the Italian population (59.8 million)

20 percent of the Russian population (142 million)

14.5 percent of the Brazilian population (190.4 million)

13.5 percent of the Chinese population (1.32 billion)

2.8 percent of the Indian population (1.14 billion)

Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia online traffic

Channel NewsAsia is still more popular than the Straits Times online. The Straits Times’ Google PageRank, in fact, is the same as Mr Brown’s. Yes, the popular Singapore blog has the same PageRank as Singapore’s leading newspaper. The 24-hour Singapore TV news station Channel NewsAsia’s PageRank is just one level higher.


The Straits Times


Channel NewsAsia

Channel NewsAsia is ahead in Alexa Traffic rankings too. Alexa rankings are not conclusive proof of a website’s popularity, but Channel NewsAsia beats the Straits Times in social networking too, with more bookmarks, posts and links in Delicious, Digg, Reddit, Technorati and Wikipedia.


The Straits Times


Channel NewsAsia

Channel NewsAsia has the advantage of being a free site. The Straits Times allows only limited free access.

The Straits Times’ search engine optimization has improved. It now shows up much more often on Google News.

The Straits Times gets most traffic from Singapore, the USA, China, India and Malaysia in that order and Channel NewsAsia from Singapore, China, the USA, India and Indonesia.

Here is a look at the traffic and social popularity of the Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia.

Straits Times online, according to Google

It's been more than a month since Singapore's leading newspaper, the Straits
Times, and its website were relaunched on August 8. I see the newspaper only on
Saturdays, so I don't know if it has reported any increase in its circulation.
But the Straits Times online traffic has not  gone up dramatically enough to
make it one of the top sites in Singapore. However, AsiaOne, the old Singapore
Press Holdings portal which links to all its newspapers, is on the top 20 list
of internet traffic monitor Hitwise. AsiaOne is 19th in the Hitwise
rankings for August.

AsiaOne  ranks 64th among all the sites visited by internet users in
Singapore, according to Alexa, another internet traffic monitor. But the Straits Times
does not figure on its list of top 100 Singapore sites.

Alexa can't measure total internet traffic, but one can't deny the authority
of Google, the No 1 search engine, and this where the Straits Times does badly.
Yesterday, I wrote that the Straits Times website is not search engine
optimised. And it shows in the following screenshots.


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Older is better (sometimes) online

The idea that the Internet is the playground for the young is wrong, I think.
They may Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, but blogging is not their sole
domain. Nobody will call Arianna Huffington, Lawrence Lessig, Jeff Jarvis, Dave
Winer or Andrew Sullivan young. Robert Scoble is 43, Om Malik 41, Michael
Arrington 38, Josh Marshall 39, Markos Moulitsas 36, Heather Armstrong 33, still
young but hardly fresh-faced. They have been around: that's what gives them
perspective. They can relate the present to the past. That's why they can write
or blog with authority.

Age and experience count. The New York Times did not put a young geek in
charge of breaking and updating news online. That's the job of an old pro. David
Stout, domestic correspondent for the surreally named Continuous News Desk, has
been a journalist for 43 years. Having graduated with a degree in English from
Notre Dame in 1964, he must be in his 60s. It's his job to write and edit
breaking domestic stories at the "speed of write", as one of the subheads
beautifully puts it. The New York Times doesn't worry whether he will develop
arthritis on the job. It knows he has the knowledge and experience to flesh out
stories faster. Things the young will have to research to find out he will be
able to recall from memory and put together easily because he will be covering
old ground and know where to look for what. It's the story of the tortoise and the
hare. The tortoise can finish faster.

The people at the Straits Times should read the New York Times Newsroom Talk with the Continuous News Correspondent. That may
help the Singapore newspaper update stories faster and keep the content fresher
on its redesigned website.

Only web-savvy journos for Guardian

Writing, reporting and editing skills are no longer enough for journalists working for the Guardian and Observer newspapers in Britain.

Guardian News and Media denies it is ditching experienced print journalists in favour of web-savvy younger staff, reports Press Gazette.

But it hopes to enroll all 800 of its staff journalists on a voluntary "digital awareness programme" ahead of its move to a a new high-tech 24/7 integrated newsroom in London's King's Cross at the end of this year, reports Brand Republic.

The one-day course teaches basic video and audio and web publishing skills.

It's the smart thing to do — especially for a newspaper like the Guardian.

Drop in readership

The Guardian has suffered the biggest year-on-year drop in readership numbers among the British national dailies.

It was read by an average of 1,121,000 people between January and December 2007, down 10 per cent from the previous year, reports Brand Republic.

In fact, the staff have been told to expect job cuts as the company reshapes its operations over the next 18 months to focus on digital media and move to new offices this year.

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Bloggers jailed

Two Singaporeans were sentenced to prison yesterday for posting racist remarks online. One was jailed for a month, the other for a day. This is the first time jail sentences have been handed down for online racism in Singapore. Though one cannot condone the ugliness of racism, one wonders whether the punishment will induce a change of heart or breed greater resentment. But the sentences convey an important message.

  • The Government is committed to preserving racial and religious harmony.
  • Blogs and other websites will have to be as careful as the rest of the media.

Both those jailed happened to be bloggers. Clearly, blogging is taken seriously by the authorities in Singapore. I have no idea what the two wrote or how many people actually read them. But both were charged under the Sedition Act. That is, treason against the state.