Highfield gives a speech at the Media & Telecoms 2014 conference, titled Reinventing Local Media.
I became convinced, reading enough articles by Mark Sweeney, that the official name of our company was “beleaguered Johnston Press”…There was a tsunami that hit the regional and local press industry. In just one year, 2007-2008, Johnston Press’ share price fell 99%. The dotcom crash that hit the local press industry happened eight years after the dotcom crash, but my God, it was every bit as severe, and every bit as rapid. That was the shift of the classified industry, particularly in motors and property, away from print and on to Autotrader and Rightmove. Well that shift’s happened. That’s gone. The industry that we are now in, of providing local news and information to people in communities that really matter to them, is a pretty stable business. Since then we have had a four-fold increase in share price.
At the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit 2012, Highfield says he will not introduce a paywall at Johnston Press. He plans for Johnston Press’s 255 titles to derive 20% to 25% of advertising revenue from digital within three years. Currently 5% of total income comes from digital.
The danger with content behind a paywall as News International did is that it is not indexed [on internet search engines such as Google], you then fall off the social graph and then no one cares what The Times says. It can be a spiral, a dangerous place to end up. Regional [newspapers] are about community, engaging with communities, and you have to be by and large free to do that. It is interesting but nothing we are about to follow soon.
Highfield is also launching a combination of paid-for iPad apps and 140 free mobile phone apps, such as the Scotsman at £7.99/month, to drive revenue and readership for its regional papers. The mobile apps have added 2 million new unique users, boosting the publisher’s total digital audience to 10 million. Highfield also says that he can see new models such as “newspaper first to digital first” and perhaps by 2020, “digital daily, print weekly”.
We need to make a digital transition, we need to do it and need to do it quickly. But this is not a panic situation. I don’t believe in a glide path to oblivion, but I’m not saying we don’t have to grasp the nettle. [Regional newspapers] are social, local and mobile but we just haven’t claimed that territory. It is going to be hard but there is survival.
Highfield speaks at IAB Mobile Engage 2011. He talks about the growth in the mobile phone market, the lag of mobile advertising behind consumer uptake.
I think that mobile advertising is going to increase much more rapidly i.e. we are going to get through 5 and 10% of total budgets within two years, not the four or years it took Internet advertising. It’s self evident why: Most brands and companies have gotten used to digital advertising. I think that the benefits of mobile advertising, highly-targeted, highly social, highly engaging, is going to mean that the rate of adoption is going to happen far, far quicker.
Highfield gives a presentation at IAB Engage 2009. He talks about where the television industry is going.
What took the telephone 100 years to achieve mass market penetration, took the television industry 50 years. It took the PC industry barely 20 years. In the UK this year we reached a tipping point where there are more PCs sold than television sets…When low-end netbooks become ubiquitous and disposable the idea of receiving your video content through traditional means almost becomes absurd…Whilst TV has to change dramatically, video content has an extremely rich and monetisable future.