Thursday, 30 July 2009

Is the market stabilising?

The question I most frequently ask members is ‘how’s business?’. As you’d expect, some of the answers have been rather gloomy. But recently, there’s been a discernible change.

Nobody should think that everything’s suddenly perfect. But a significant minority of members now say that things are improving -and the majority of members say that things are now stable.

Our most up-to-date quarterly benchmarking data is just in, covering the period April to June. And it provides figures to back up the words I’ve been hearing. I won’t go into the detail too much, because the full report will be launched next week on our website, but the headlines are certainly encouraging.

The number of members reporting an increase in client spend now roughly matches the number reporting a decrease; the number saying that the new business pipeline is busy now exceeds the number saying it’s quiet. And the number saying they’re reducing headcount is now pretty much matched by those saying they’re increasing headcount.

Don’t read too much into this –the downturn hasn’t suddenly performed an abrupt u-turn. And it would be a brave man who predicted the recovery had started -but it might also be sensible to say that maybe the market’s now stabilised? The only way is up hopefully….

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Anger at the NLA's proposals growing

Well, our work to make the industry aware of the NLA's proposals continues -and the anger those plans are generating has started to snowball.

I've spent the last week talking with members about the NLA plan to charge for the receipt or forwarding of URLs. At first there was disbelief -these URLs are, after all, in the public domain; and when they are received, it is with the explicit intention of directing readers towards the newspapers' own sites. But once people understand that the NLA are deadly serious, there is genuine anger. It's anger not just at the actual cost, or the appalling timing. It's anger mainly at the fundamental absurdity of charging for receiving a weblink to material which the newspapers themselves have decided to make available for free. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -this would be money for nothing.

Yesterday, the NLA's MD conducted a webcast through the PRCA. Over forty agencies tuned in to hear him explain and defend his plans. Those members didn't hold back in expressing their astonishment and anger. He was left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling he has provoked. If you want to see it, it's on our website

He also agreed to undertake a series of face-to-face meetings with the PR community. He's agreed to do one in London and two outside of London. We'll be organising them and meeting the costs. We'll publicise those events in due course -I'd urge you to attend and to be honest about your feelings. Monday also sees us convene a roundtable with other stakeholders -the PCAs, the aggregators etc. According to the NLA, the PCAs support their new billing plans -well, we'll see!

So -go to our website, look at the NLA's plans; let me know what you think; let the NLA know; let PRWeek and other publications know. Because if we are robust and determined in opposing this outrageous back door tax on knowledge, then I am certain we can stop it from happening.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

On the NLA's Web Proposals

Our industry faces many challenges right now –proving the value we bring; owning the digital space; stopping giving away time for nothing. These are not the easiest of times for anyone.

We really don’t need extra costs heaped on us right now. But that’s precisely what the NLA is proposing.

There’s a good deal of effort being made to confuse the issue, but at its heart is the newspapers’ claim that they should be able to charge for the receipt and circulation of URLs.

They’re not talking about the forwarding of material –they’re talking about charging agencies and their clients for URLs. They’re talking about charging PRCA members for directing their clients to the newspapers’ own sites. And then charging clients too. That is simply outrageous. If the newspapers want to make their content available for free, and then live off the advertising revenue, then good luck to them. If they want to charge for web content, then –again-that’s their choice. But charging for links to publicly available, free material is utterly ridiculous.

We’ll be fighting this all the way –if you feel the same, then be vocal about it, support us in the media, and let the NLA know that they have gone too far.