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The fall of the paywall – enjoy it while you can

The fall of the paywall – enjoy it while you can

By Callum Mollison

News was born free. Its roots can be traced back to the “Daily Acts”, decreed by Julius Caesar, that were placed on public message boards in Ancient Rome. They contained news on everything from political happenings to prominent marriages.

Last month, Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid newspaper, the Sun, followed in this tradition by disarming its paywall. It may safely be inferred that this was largely for monetary reasons. Alas, the Sun has not suddenly emerged as a revenant of the enlightenment, fighting for the right of the public to free information.

The fact is that the Sun has failed to garner the same number of views as its rivals, the Mail Online and the Mirror, behind its paywall. The advent of social media has diversified methods of news distribution, so whilst paywalls have gone up, barriers to journalism have fallen – the information behind a paywall can be placed on Facebook by anyone with an opinion. However, those newspapers without a wall can benefit from the social media users option to share, which generates subsequent click-through views.

The Sun recently took down their paywall.

The Sun recently took down their paywall.

 

However, free news will not last. The emergence of the digital age may have given news-lovers a brief, charge-free moment in the sunshine, but the sun is already setting. To understand this you must look to history. The appearance of the first modern newspaper was accompanied by a charge when the Venetians decided to charge one gazette for news-sheets in 1556. The newspaper meant that news was no longer a state-funded right but an independent and profitable venture. As long as there is money to be made, news will never be free.

One survey has shown that nearly three-quarters of newspapers are now charging for online content and print-media is dying. The Sun’s publisher, News UK (owned by Rupert Murdoch), is, in fact, keeping the subscription model for its Times and Sunday Times publications. This model is also proving successful for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the Economist.

As soon as other news sources learn how to grow their audiences, take advantage of social media and make more from advertising they will erect paywalls. Other business models are simply inadequate when people are willing to pay.

The future of the news is paved with paywalls. Why am I so sure of this? Look around you on public transport. Do you see young people carrying newspapers? Rarely. The real picture you see is dozens of people glued to their phones and this trend will certainly worsen as accessible WiFi spreads. The modern man doesn’t want to carry a newspaper; he wants quick, easy, weightless information. In fact, a 2013 study in the Guardian showed that 20% of 25-34 year-olds have already paid for online news. 

There will be no more Julius Caesar’s. There will only be newspapers catching up with technology.

Five tips for PR interns

I’ve learned a lot in my short stay at The PHA Group about the world of PR and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

So, if you are thinking about a PR internship, here are five quick pointers:

  1. Be curious about the bigger picture: One of the things that makes PR so interesting is its complexity. More is constantly going on than meets the eye. Always deliver on a brief but be sure to ask about the bigger picture and where it fits in with the strategic goals of the clients and the agency. Knowing this will also motivate you to do the ‘mundane’ tasks and, take my word for it, doing them fast and well will get you far enough.
  1. Don’t think “sell-in”, think “pitch in”: When I was first told to sell-in a story, I didn’t really feel up to the task. I thought I had to master some kind of sales skills and that put me off.  Turns out I had the term down wrong; to “sell-in” is to chat with a journalist and convince them that your content will enhance their piece or publication. So rather than a sales call, you should think about it as a persuasive dialogue. Also, be sure to discretely eavesdrop when an account manager or someone more senior is pitching and study them (without staring creepily though…)
  1. Less is more: If you’re moving straight from academia, you probably use words like ‘ameliorate’ where ‘improve’ works just fine. Of course you do – essays are more about expanding than condensing. To make the leap to PR, you’ll need to make your content short and snappy. Put it this way, you’ll have a journalist’s attention for less than 20 words or 15 seconds (if that). Make them count!
  1. Make friends: This may sound obvious. You want to have a good time and all that. Who wouldn’t right? That’s all well and good but what friends have to offer other than fun is guidance and crucially, backing. If you like the company and you think you’re well-suited for a role, make sure you take time to build relationships with the whole team and you’ll hopefully have more than just yourself making a case for you.
  1. Ask and take risks: Ask questions, and make sure you’re getting enough feedback to improve on your writing, time-management skills and pitching-in. But be grateful and understanding when people take the time to walk you through a task and show you’ve mastered it the next time around. It is useful to volunteer for a task that is more challenging than your previous one – this shows you’re growing and listening. Internships are short and if the learning curve isn’t steep and a bit scary, you’re not doing it right.

Dimitris Dimitriadis

 

Image: Thomas Edwards, flickr.com

The PHA Group wins Media Employer of the Year Award

February 18th 2015 will long be a date that sticks in the mind of The PHA Group employees for all the right reasons.

On a star-studded evening, hosted by Pathfinders at Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel, the company scooped the biggest prize in their ten-year history as they claimed the prestigious ‘Media Employer of the Year’ award.

It was a vindication of the journey and hard work that the company from the top down have undergone and the ethos that has been established over the best part of a decade.

Credit must also be paid to runners-up, Brandfuel, who were extremely magnanimous in defeat as the judges revealed there was little to separate the two companies, who were by far and away this year’s outstanding candidates.

PHA's Director of PR Stuart Skinner collects the award

PHA’s Director of PR Stuart Skinner collects the award

Particular areas of praise included the firm’s staff appraisal process, high retention rate, and consistent ability to convert interns into full-time staff, something I have particular experience of.

It is difficult to argue that the award was deserved as I have seen first-hand the work and personable nature of the company on a daily basis. Being just days short of my year anniversary (a date which is naturally in everyone’s diaries) has meant that I have been one of the main beneficiaries of the businesses’ numerous schemes and internship programmes. Yes, this was my first year at the company and we claimed victory but to suggest a correlation would be too much… I was just delighted to be involved in the entry process as my experience has been a wholly positive one.

While ‘Bra packer to Junior Account Executive’ is unlikely to be the title of my impending autobiography, it does highlight the importance that the company place on the person behind the CV. Ensuring the job is done to the best of your ability is, of course, paramount in any profession but I do believe that the culture of a workplace is equally crucial and can further fuel success. From the approachability of the company partners, to the strong sense of team, right through to Friday massages and drinks…The PHA Group have their staff’s best interests at heart.

It is equally important that this award is not seen as the end of the journey but merely the beginning of it. It is always nice to be recognised in this nature but it is worth pondering why we were victorious and how such high levels of staff satisfaction can be maintained and even improved upon. The accolade is not to be underestimated and while PHA are ruled out of winning the award in the future, we will have great pride in handing the award to next year’s worthy winners. Now in true Ab Fab style, let the champagne flow!

Director of PR, Stuart Skinner, was understandably delighted with the accolade: “We are absolutely delighted and honoured to receive this award. We have won prizes before for commercial growth, and for client campaigns, but this award genuinely means the most. This one is all about the people in the company and they are the most important asset we have and what drives the business forward.”

For more information on working at The PHA Group click here.

The PHA Group wins Media Employer of the Year Award

February 18th 2015 will long be a date that sticks in the mind of The PHA Group employees for all the right reasons.

On a star-studded evening, hosted by Pathfinders at Soho’s Ham Yard Hotel, the company scooped the biggest prize in their ten year history as they claimed the prestigious ‘Media Employer of the Year’ award.

It was vindication of the journey and hard work that the company from the top down have undergone and the ethos that has been established over the best part of a decade.

Credit must also be paid to runners up, Brandfuel, who were extremely magnanimous in defeat as the judges revealed there was little to separate the two companies, who were by far and away this year’s outstanding candidates.

PHA's Director of PR Stuart Skinner collects the award

PHA’s Director of PR Stuart Skinner collects the award

Particular areas of praise included the firm’s staff appraisal process, high retention rate, and consistent ability to convert interns into full time staff, something I have particular experience of.

It is difficult to argue that the award was deserved as I have seen first-hand the work and personable nature of the company on a daily basis. Being just days short of my year anniversary (a date which is naturally in everyone’s diaries) has meant that I have been one of the main beneficiaries of the businesses’ numerous schemes and internship programmes. Yes, this was my first year at the company and we claimed victory but to suggest a correlation would be too much… I was just delighted to be involved in the entry process as my experience has been a wholly positive one.

The PHA representatives celebrate the win.

The PHA representatives celebrate the win.

While ‘Bra packer to Junior Account Executive’ is unlikely to be the title of my impending autobiography, it does highlight the importance that the company place on the person behind the CV. Ensuring the job is done to the best of your ability is of course paramount in any profession but I do believe that the culture of a workplace is equally crucial and can further fuel success. From the approachability of the company partners, to the strong sense of team, right through to Friday massages and drinks…The PHA Group have their staff’s best interests at heart.

It is equally important that this award is not seen as the end of the journey but merely the beginning of it. It is always nice to be recognised in this nature but it is worth pondering why we were victorious and how such high levels of staff satisfaction can be maintained and even improved upon. The accolade is not to be underestimated and while PHA are ruled out of winning the award in the future, we will have great pride in handing the award to next year’s worthy winners. Now in true Ab Fab style, let the champagne flow!

Director of PR, Stuart Skinner, was understandably delighted with the accolade: “We are absolutely delighted and honoured to receive this award. We have won prizes before for commercial growth, and for client campaigns, but this award genuinely means the most. This one is all about the people in the company and they are the most important asset we have and what drives the business forward.”

For more information on working at The PHA Group click here.

Is first female CEO of Lloyds a statement of intent for other women?

Inga Beale has been named as the first female CEO of Lloyds of London in its 325-year history, smashing through the so-called glass ceiling to make history in her industry.

Beale, 50, has an ample 30 years’ industry experience and will replace outgoing Richard Ward in January, with her appointment making her one of the most powerful women in the City, with 900 staff and a market of 90 syndicates and companies under her control.

In my view, this is a very positive step in the City where the gender divide has remained stubbornly high, with four in every five workers being male. The appointment of a female to such a prestigious post will surely encourage the steadfastness of other ambitious women pushing to reach higher ranks.

Inga Beale

Inga Beale

As the debate continues as to whether there should be quotas for females in the boardroom there is great value in women establishing themselves as role models. A number of initiatives have been set up to establish such quotas. For example, the 30% Club, a group of companies including Diageo, RBS and John Lewis, has pledged to get more talented women into their boardrooms. However, reports have shown that fewer than half of staff considers their employer to have a clearly formed policy on diversity. In addition, just one in five believe that their firm actively recruits with diversity in mind.

The absence of women in the upper echelons of the Lloyds structure has been obvious in the past, with Claire Ighodaro currently the only member of its 12-strong board.

Beale has frequently vocalised the opinion that there is a necessity to have greater diversity in Britain’s boardrooms. She believes that a variety of perspectives will lead to balance and that, “Diverse boards help companies make better decisions, which affect the bottom line.”

However, in previous interviews, Beale has stated that she believes women can sometimes hinder their own career progression and has been quoted as saying, “Some of the time we put our own ‘glass ceiling’ on ourselves because we are not confident in our ability. I talk to a lot of women who have been working as I have for 30 years in the industry and we wonder what happened to all those women who started when we did.”

There are currently just four female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, including Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts, EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall, Imperial Tobacco’s Alison Cooper and Royal Mail’s Moya Greene.

Whilst quotas may help to promote women in business it appears there needs to be a change of attitude as well with women pushing themselves forward, embracing competition and having absolute faith in their own merit. The more women become visible as powerful, high-flying businesswomen such as Beale, the more motivated others will be to follow.

If women go into their careers believing they can reach that level, rather than doubting they ever will then that mentality will propel them forward. There is no better inspiration for this than seeing others who have reached the top and are respected by those who they share the board with.