The Guardian provides an update on how Fairfax, a company we features in our course 7 years ago, is doing:
Hywood counters by claiming that readership has never been higher – Fairfax’s website is the most popular news site in the country, and a barely-believable 5.1 million visitors access it every month. However, this is missing the point.
It is not readers, it is revenue that is needed to run those great full-service newsrooms. And cut-throat competition has driven online advertising through the floor – for every dollar a newspaper loses in print advertising it is lucky to recoup 10 cents online. Few newspapers are lucky enough to be owned by a trust, rather than accountable to shareholders, like the Guardian, or to attract a fairy-godfather like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has adopted the Washington Post.
Hywood’s solution has been to diversify into a dozen different fields. Fairfax’s metropolitan newspapers now produce less than half its revenue. The company has morphed into selling baby goods, organising fun runs and ocean swims, a dating service, a real estate site. It has partnered with Channel Nine to launch a video-to-the-home service, though many fear this will end in tears. Apart from its unlikely name of Stan, it is about to face formidable competition from the world’s largest and most aggressive player in video-streaming, the US giant Netflix, which launches in Australia next month.
But many fear these ventures are just postponing the inevitable demise of the newspapers that have chronicled the country since the earliest days of white settlement, leaving Murdoch, at least for now, with a monopoly on everything Australians read in print. “They’ve saved the company, but f——d the papers,” as one analyst told me.
From NY Times:
Microsoft has long salivated over the notion of controlling the living room and becoming a major entertainment force. Kinect may well stand as its best bet yet for turning that vision into a reality. “This is an incredibly amazing, wonderful first step toward making interactivity in the living room available to everybody,” says Mr. Ballmer, while cautioning that Microsoft still has “a lot of work to do.”
The first Kinect prototype cost Microsoft $30,000 to build, but 1,000 workers would eventually be involved in the project. And now, hundreds of millions of dollars later, the company has a product it can sell for $150 a pop and still turn a profit, Mr. Mattrick says. (People who don’t have an Xbox can pay $300 for a package that includes the console, Kinect and a game.)
For Mr. Ballmer, Kinect is far more than a business opportunity or a pleasant diversion for consumers. It offers a moment to prove to investors and company directors that Microsoft is capable of an Applesque, game-changing moment under his leadership.
This one of the most vivid examples of challenges to the existing business model of a firm. The Wall Street Journal reports:
After nearly 17 years of consistent growth, Barnes & Noble is stumbling. Revenue fell 3% to $5.12 billion for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2009, while earnings dropped about 45% to $76 million.
When it launched the iPad last month, Apple championed a new approach to e-book pricing. Earlier this year, most large publishers agreed to establish a so-called agency model, where the publisher receives 70% of the digital price while e-book sellers act as agents and receive 30%. While some best sellers remain at $9.99, many major authors are priced at $12.99 or $14.99.
The Economist reports how Rolls-Royse figured out a different way to make money in the jet engine business:
The big pay-off from getting engines under more wings comes from selling spares and servicing them. This is because selling aircraft engines is like selling razors. The razor and engine make little if any profit; that comes later, from blades or spare parts and servicing (see chart 3). Gross margins from rebuilding engines are thought to be about 35%; analysts at Credit Suisse, an investment bank, estimate that some makers of jet engines get about seven times as much revenue from servicing and selling spare parts as they do from selling engines. Many analysts suspect that Rolls-Royce (and others) sell engines at a loss. Judging this is hard, though, because of the way Rolls-Royce accounts for long-term contracts, often by booking a profit on the sale for income that will be received only over many years. Rolls-Royce says that, on average, engines are sold at a profit. The trouble with selling razors at a loss is that someone else may make the blades to fit them. And the juicy margins in engine maintenance have indeed attracted a swarm of independent servicing firms (and engine-makers after each other’s business).