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Posts Tagged ‘strategy’

Up in the cloud

Cloud computing is growing rapidly and has started to dominate many parts of the IT market. Cloud revenues are rising at around 25% per year and, according to Jeremy Duke of Synergy Research Group:

“Major barriers to cloud adoption are now almost a thing of the past, especially on the public-cloud side. Cloud technologies are now generating massive revenues for technology vendors and cloud service providers, and yet there are still many years of strong growth ahead.”

The market leader in cloud services (as opposed to cloud hardware) is Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon. At the end of 2016, it had a market share of around 40%, larger than the next three competitors (Microsoft, Google and IBM), combined. AWS originated cloud computing some 10 years ago. It is set to have generated revenue of $13 billion in 2016.

The cloud computing services market is an oligopoly, with a significant market leader, AWS. But is the competition from other players in the market, including IT giants, such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, enough to guarantee that the market stays competitive and that prices will fall as technology improves and costs fall?

Certainly all the major players are investing heavily in new services, better infrastructure and marketing. And they are already established suppliers in other sectors of the IT market. Microsoft and Google, in particular, are strong contenders to AWS. Nevertheless, as the first article states:

Neither Google nor Microsoft have an easy task since AWS will continue to be an innovation machine with a widely recognized brand among the all-important developer community. Both Amazon’s major competitors have an opportunity to solidify themselves as strong alternatives in what is turning into a public cloud oligopoly.

Articles
While Amazon dominates cloud infrastructure, an oligopoly is emerging. Which will buyers bet on? diginomica, Kurt Marko (16/2/17)
Study: AWS has 45% share of public cloud infrastructure market — more than Microsoft, Google, IBM combined GeekWire, Dan Richman (31/10/16)
Cloud computing revenues jumped 25% in 2016, with strong growth ahead, researcher says GeekWire, Dan Richman (4/1/17)

Data
Press releases Synergy Research Group

Questions

  1. Distinguish the different segments of the cloud computing market.
  2. What competitive advantages does AWS have over its major rivals?
  3. What specific advantages does Microsoft have in the cloud computing market?
  4. Is the amount of competition in the cloud computing market enough to prevent the firms from charging excessive prices to their customers? How might you assess what is ‘excessive’?
  5. What barriers to entry are there in the cloud computing market? Should they be a worry for competition authorities?
  6. Are the any network economies in cloud computing? What might they be?
  7. Cloud computing is a rapidly developing industry (for example, the relatively recent development of cloud containers). How does the speed of development impact on competition?
  8. How would market saturation affect competition and the behaviour of the major players?
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A high-risk game of thrones

The negotiations between Greece and the ‘troika’ of creditors (the IMF, the European Commission and the ECB) have seen many twists and turns before breaking down on 26 June. Throughout, both sides have sought to give as little as possible while seeking a compromise. Both sides have claimed that their position is reasonable, even though a gulf has remained between them.

What has been playing out is a high-stakes game, where the optimum outcome for each side is quite different.

Greece seeks bailout terms that would allow it to achieve a smaller primary budget surplus (but still a surplus in the midst of a deep recession). The surplus would be achieved largely through tax rises on the wealthy rather than further cuts that would hit the poor hard. It is also seeking a substantial amount of debt forgiveness to make servicing the remaining debt possible.

The troika is seeking a larger budget surplus than the Greeks are willing to contemplate. This, it maintains, should be achieved largely through additional cuts in government expenditure, including further reductions in pensions and in public-sector wages.

Both sides used threats and promises as the negotiations became more and more acrimonious.

The troika threatened to withhold the final €7.2bn of the bailout necessary to pay the €1.6bn due to the IMF on 30 June, unless the Greeks accepted the terms of the austerity package put to them. The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, in rejecting the proposals, called a referendum on the package. This threatens the stability of the eurozone as a No vote, if it led to a Greek exit from the eurozone, could undermine confidence in monetary union. After all, if Greece could be forced out, other countries facing severe difficulties might also be forced out at some point in the future. Once a country leaves the eurozone, the monetary union becomes more like a system of pegged exchange rates. And pegged exchange rates are open to destabilising speculation at times of economic divergence.

A Greek exit from the euro (dubbed ‘Grexit’) is seen as undesirable by most Greeks and by most politicians in the rest of Europe. The optimum for both sides collectively would be a compromise, which saw more modest cuts by Greece and the eurozone remaining intact. By both sides seeking to maximise their own position, the Nash equilibrium is certainly not the best outcome.

But as long as the troika believes that the Greeks are likely to vote Yes to the proposed bailout terms, it still hopes to get the outcome that is best from its point of view – an outcome that would probably involve regime change. And as long as the Greek government hopes that a No vote will force the troika to think again and come back with less austere proposals, it still hopes to get the outcome that is best from its point of view. But the outcome of this game of ‘chicken’ could well be Grexit and a Nash equilibrium that neither side wants.

But while the endgame is being played out by politicians, people in Greece are suffering. Policies of severely depressing aggregate demand to turn a large budget deficit into a primary budget surplus have led to the economy shrinking by 26%, overall unemployment of 27% and youth unemployment of over 60%. The Greeks truly believe themselves to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The following articles look at the nature of the ‘game’ being played and at the effects on the Greek economy, both of the proposed austerity package proposed by the troika and Grexit. They also look at the knock-on effects for the eurozone, the EU and the global economy.

Can game theory explain the Greek debt crisis? BBC News Magazine, Marcus Miller (26/6/15)
Against the Grain: What Yanis Varoufakis can learn from a real game theory master – Nicola Sturgeon City A.M., Paul Ormerod (24/6/15)
John Nash’s Game Theory and Greece Bloomberg, Mohamed A. El-Erian (29/5/15)
The Greek crisis: that 1931 moment The Economist, Buttonwood column (23/6/15)
How game theory explains Grexit and may also predict Greek poll outcome The Conversation, Partha Gangopadhyay (1/7/15)
Greece debt crisis: Tsipras may resign if Greeks vote yes BBC News (30/6/15)
Greek debt crisis: Is Grexit inevitable? BBC News. Paul Kirby (29/6/15)
Existential threat to euro from Greek exit BBC News, Robert Peston (29/6/15)
How I would vote in the Greek referendum The Guardian, Joseph Stiglitz (29/6/15)
Greece in chaos: will Syriza’s last desperate gamble pay off? The Guardian, Paul Mason (29/6/15)
What happens if Greece defaults on its International Monetary Fund loans? The Telegraph, Mehreen Khan (30/6/15)
For Greece’s international creditors, regime change is the ultimate goal The Telegraph, Jeremy Warner (29/6/15)
Europe has suffered a reputational catastrophe in Greece The Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (2/7/15)

Questions

  1. What is meant by a primary budget surplus?
  2. What was the troika’s proposal on the table on the 26 June that was rejected by the Greek government?
  3. What was the Greek government’s proposal that was rejected by the troika?
  4. Explain the decision trees outlined in the first BBC article below.
  5. In terms of game theory, what form of game is being played?
  6. Are the negotiations between the Greek government and the troika a prisoners’ dilemma game? Explain why or why not.
  7. Does the game being played between the SNP and the Conservative government in the UK offer any useful lessons to both sides in the negotiations over Greece’s possible bailout and its terms?
  8. Does a No vote in the referendum on 5 July imply that Greece must leave the euro? Explain.
  9. What would be the effects of further austerity measures on aggregate demand? What benefits to the Greek economy could be achieved from such measures?
  10. Why may pegged exchange rates be regarded as the worst of both worlds – a single currency in a monetary union and floating exchange rates?
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Death of a beautiful mind

John Nash was one of the pioneers of game theory and in 1994 was awarded the Nobel prize in economics for his work in this field. He was also the subject of the 2001 film, A beautiful mind, where the young John Nash was played by Russell Crowe, for which he won an Oscar.

Tragically, John Nash and his wife were killed in a car crash on May 23: he was 86 years old. Since his death there have been many tributes paid to him and his work.

As a student of economics you will almost certainly have studied the concept of a Nash equilibrium: a situation where everyone makes their best choice, given the choices of the other ‘players’ in a ‘game’. But a Nash equilibrium is not in the collective best interests of the participants in a non-cooperative game.

This is a very different concept of equilibrium from the simple equilibrium in a perfectly competitive market. In fact, in the complex world of strategic decision making, where firms are constantly looking at their rivals’ behaviour and possible reactions to their own behaviour, there are all sorts of Nash equilibria which are clearly sub-optimal. Competition may be highly destructive.

The following obituaries look at Nash’s contribution to the development of economics. As the Bloomberg article states:

The game theory concepts that Nash’s math[s] brought to the field were a true paradigm shift in economics. Macroeconomists, who continue to use the old Walrasian notion of equilibrium typically engage in hand-waving about how the macroeconomy is too big for strategic interactions to matter. But most of the economics profession has gradually shifted toward Nash equilibrium. The 2014 Nobel winner, Jean Tirole, is emblematic of the new economics. And many of the biggest successes in applied economics, like the auctions that power Google’s advertising, rely on Nash’s technique.

Do we owe him as much as Adam Smith?

Articles
Death of John Nash and His Beautiful Ideas Bloomberg, Noah Smith (26/5/15)
John Nash, economist and mathematician, 1928–2015 Financial Times, Ferdinando Giugliano (25/5/15)
Obituary: John Nash: Lost and found The Economist (28/5/15)
Remembering John Nash: Finding equations to explain the world The Economist (28/5/15)
John F. Nash Jr., Math Genius Defined by a ‘Beautiful Mind,’ Dies at 86 New York Times, Erica Goode (24/5/15)
Explaining a Cornerstone of Game Theory: John Nash’s Equilibrium New York Times, Kenneth Chang (24/5/15)
John Nash’s Indelible Contribution To Economic Analysis Forbes, Jon Hartley (25/5/15)
John Nash’s ground-breaking contributions to maths BBC News, John Moriarty (24/5/15)
From the archives: Nash’s Nobel prize The Economist (24/5/15)
A beautiful strategy: John Nash’s ‘game theory’ explained Hindustan Times, Gaurav Choudhury (25/5/15)

Interview with John Nash
Interview with John Nash Nobelprize.org (Sept 2004)

Questions

  1. What is meant by the ‘prisoners’ dilemma’? How is this a demonstration of a sub-optimal Nash equilibrium in a non-cooperative game?
  2. Why is it difficult to predict the outcome of a non-cooperative game?
  3. Give some examples of non-cooperative games played by companies competing with each other.
  4. Give some examples of non-cooperative games played by nations competing with each other.
  5. Why do competition authorities try to prevent cooperation between businesses?
  6. Why may a cooperative equilibrium between firms be an unstable one?
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BT takes on Sky in the sports broadcasting market

With the new Premier League football season only a week away, TV companies are heavily advertising the matches they will be showing. Until recently, BSkyB, having seen off competition from Setanta and ESPN, appeared to have an untouchable position in this market. However, competition now appears to be intensifying.

BT entered the market in 2012 by paying £738m for the rights to screen 38 Premier League matches a season for 3 seasons, with Sky showing another 116 matches. BT is clearly heavily backing its sports coverage with an initial outlay of £1.5b and them continuing to sign up high profile presenters and ambassadors including former players and a current manager.

Furthermore, BT dealt Sky (and ITV) a hefty blow last year when it outbid them to win the rights to exclusively show European club competition matches from 2015. Sky responded by saying that:

We bid with a clear view of what the rights are worth to us. It seems BT chose to pay far in excess of our valuation

If true, this would illustrate the winner’s curse which can arise in auctions. However, John Petter, chief executive of BT Retail, said that the deal demonstrated that BT Sport was committed to establishing itself in this market and countered Sky’s suggestion that they had overpaid by saying:

They would say that, wouldn’t they? Secretly, I’d expect them to be kicking themselves and full of regrets this morning

Clearly important to BT’s strategy is bundling its sports coverage in for free with their broadband packages. This is not without controversy since, at the same time as spending vast amounts of money to setup its sports coverage, BT is receiving large government subsidies to improve rural broadband provision.

An important forthcoming ruling from the Competition Appeal Tribunal will have a significant effect on how competition between BT and Sky develops. In this case Sky is accused of abusing its dominant position by refusing to supply BT’s YouView service with its sports channels at a reasonable wholesale price and could now be forced to do so.

It will also be fascinating to see how BT Sport’s strategy develops over time. BT is unlikely to continue to provide all its coverage for free once it includes the European matches that it has won the rights to show at great expense. It will also be fascinating to see the extent to which it continues to have success in winning broadcasting rights in the future.

Competition will inevitably push up the amount that the Premier League raises in the next rights auction. Current predictions are that these will be sold for over £4bn, up from £3bn in the previous auction. This will increase the amount the Premier League clubs receive and is also likely to further push up player wages. It remains to be seen the extent to which this will benefit viewers, not to mention pubs wishing to show the games some of whom have in the past looked for alternative solutions because of the high prices they have to pay.

BT wins court battle forcing review of Sky wholesale pricing decision The Guardian, Mark Sweney (17/02/14)
BT Sport does little to lift BT TV homes informitv – connected vision (01/08/14)
BT Sport continues to invest in football line-up MediaWeek, Arif Durrani (29/07/14)

Questions

  1. What are the key characteristics of the market for sports broadcasting rights?
  2. What are the pros and cons for consumers of BT Sport’s emergence?
  3. How do you think Sky might respond to competition from BT Sport?
  4. How do you think BT Sport’s strategy might develop over time?
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A new direction for an old retailer

When you think about John Lewis, you think of a large department store. It is a department store celebrating its 150th anniversary. Many large retailers, such as John Lewis, have expanded their product range throughout their history and have grown organically, moving into larger and more prominent locations. What’s the latest location? St Pancras station.

The idea of a click-and-collect store has grown in popularity over the past decade. With more and more people working and leading very busy lives, together with the growth of online shopping, it is the convenience of this type of purchase which has led to many retailers developing click-and-collect. Indeed, for John Lewis, 33% of its internet sales do come through click-and-collect. However, John Lewis is going a step further and its new strategy is reminiscent of companies like Tesco. If you just need to pop into Tesco to get some milk, you’re likely to go to the local Tesco express. The first mover advantage of Tesco in this market was vital.

John Lewis is unusual in that it is owned by its employees and this ownership structure has proved successful. Despite a long history, John Lewis has moved with the times and this latest strategy is further evidence of that. In today’s world, convenience is everything and that is one of the key reasons behind its new St Pancras convenience store. It will allow customers to purchase items and then collect them on their way to and from work – click-and-commute, but it will also provide customers with an easily accessible place to buy electronic equipment and a range of household goods. The retail director, Andrew Murphy said:

In the battleground of convenience, we are announcing a new way for commuters to shop with us … Customers spend a huge amount of time commuting, and our research shows that making life easier and shopping more convenient is their top priority.

This appears to be the first of many smaller convenience stores, enabling John Lewis to gain a presence in seemingly impossible places, given the normal size of such Department stores. For many people, commuting to and from work often involves waiting at transport hubs – one of the big downsides to not driving. So it seems sensible for such an established retailer to take advantage of commuters waiting for their train or plane to arrive, who have time to kill. The following articles consider this new direction for an old retailer.

John Lewis to open St Pancras convenience store BBC News (2/5/14)
John Lewis thinks small with convenience store The Guardian, Zoe Wood (2/5/14)
John Lewis to trial convenience store click-and-collect format at St Pancras Retail Week, Ben Cooper (2/5/14)
Why is click and collect proving so popular? BBC News, Phil Dorrell (2/5/14)
The rise of click and collect for online shoppers BBC News, Phil Dorrell (2/5/14)

Questions

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the organisational and ownership structure of John Lewis?
  2. How would you classify this new strategy?
  3. How do you think this new strategy will benefit John Lewis in terms of its market share, revenue and profit?
  4. Is it likely that John Lewis will be able to target new customers with this new convenience store strategy?
  5. How important is a first-mover advantage when it comes to retail? Using game theory, can you create a game whereby there is clear first mover advantage to John Lewis?
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The economics behind the performance

Business performance is always affected by the economy and we can always look at the economic theory to explain why profits rise and fall. Some companies prosper during recession, whereas others decline and the key is to understand the economics behind the data. This blog takes a look at the performance of a variety of companies and asks you to think about the economic theory behind it.

The world of betting has grown significantly and the profits of companies in this market, while certainly linked to economic performance, is also dependent on sport results. Paddy Power has announced pre-tax profits of €141m for 2013, an increase from €139.2m, despite sporting results causing profit performance to fall. On the part of football clubs, Liverpool FC saw a loss emerge for the 2012-2013 financial year, whereas Newcastle’s profits rose by 900% to £9.9m. What factors can explain the vastly different performance (off and on the pitch) of these two clubs?

In the USA, Radio Shack has been forced to close 1100 stores. This is, in part, as a response to a change in the way we are shopping. More and more consumers are purchasing goods online and Radio Shack is therefore experiencing growing competition from online retailers. Sales fell by 10% last year and even during the fourth quarter sales continued to decline.

Companies based in the largest economy in Europe have also experienced declines in performance, showing that a strong performing country doesn’t imply the same for companies operating in it. RWE, Germany’s biggest energy provider, has not made a loss since 1949. However, in 2013, this company posted its first annual loss in over 60 years: a loss of £2.28bn. With energy being in constant demand and criticism being levelled at UK energy providers for the high profits they’re making, the economics behind these data is important.

In better news for a company, Thorntons has boasted a significant increase in pre-tax profits, with much of this due to strong trading in the months leading up to Christmas and a sensible business strategy, involving selling more in supermarkets. Thorntons has cut its number of stores, but its profitable position has been saved by a good business strategy and this is going to lead to significant investment by the company.

Another strong performance was recorded by Berkshire Hathaway, an investment firm run by Warren Buffett. The company made a profit of £11.6bn in 2013, a significant increase on its 2012 performance. It is the insurance, rail and energy parts of the business that have contributed to the big increase in profits.

These are just some recent examples of data on business performance and your job is to think about the economic theory that can be used to explain the varying performance of different companies.

Liverpool announce annual loss of £50m in new club accounts Guardian, David Conn (4/3/14)
Thorntons makes biggest manufacturing investment for 25 years Telegraph, Natalie Thomas (3/3/14)
Thorntons cashes in on the snowman Independent, Simon Neville (3/3/14)
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sees record profit BBC News (2/3/14)
Newcastle says ‘player trading’ helped increase profits to £9.9m BBC Sport (25/2/14)
RWE posts first annual net loss for over 60 years BBC News (4/3/14)
UK among RWE woes as it posts first annual loss since 1949 The Telegraph, Denise Roland (4/3/14)
Germany’s RWE slides into €2.8bn net loss for 2013 Financial Times, Jeevan Vasagar (4/3/14)
John Menzies profits hit by drop in magazine sales BBC News (4/3/14)
Fresnillo profits drop as gold prices and production falls The Telegraph, Olivia Goldhill (4/3/14)
Glencore 2013 profit rises 20% as copper production gains Bloomberg, Jesse Riseborough (4/3/14)

Questions

  1. In each of the cases above, explain the economic theory that can be used to explain the performance of the respective company.
  2. To what extent is a change in the market structure of an industry a contributing factor to the change in company performance?
  3. To what extent do you think a company’s performance is dependent on the performance of the economy in which it operates?
  4. Are the profits of a company a good measure of success? What else could be used?
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Anyone for Chinese style pork?

The growth of emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil brings with it both good and bad news for the once dominant countries of the West. With growth rates in China reaching double digits and a much greater resilience to the credit crunch and its aftermath in these emerging nations, they became the hope of the recovery for the West. But, is it only benefits that emerge from the growth in countries like China?

Chinese business has grown and expanded into all areas, especially technology, but countries such as the USA have been reluctant to allow mergers and takeovers of some of their businesses. Notably, the takeovers that have been resisted have been in key sectors, particularly oil, energy and technology. However, it seems as though pork is an industry that is less important or, at least, a lower risk to national security.

Smithfield Foods is a US giant, specialising in the production and selling of pork. A takeover by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings has been approved (albeit reluctantly) by the US Committee on Foreign Investment. While the takeover could still run into obstacles, this Committee’s approval is crucial, as it alleviates concerns over the impact on national security. The value of the deal is some $7.1bn, including the debt that Shuangui will have to take on. While some see this takeover as good news, others are more concerned, identifying the potential negative impact it may have on prices and standards in the USA. Zhijun Yang, Shuanghui’s Chief Executive said:

This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise. Shuanghui International and Smithfield have a long and consistent track record of providing customers around the world with high-quality food, and we look forward to moving ahead together as one company.

The date of September 24th looks to be the decider, when a shareholder meeting is scheduled to take place. There is still resistance to the deal, but if it goes ahead it will certainly help other Chinese companies looking for the ‘OK’ from US regulators for their own business deals. The following articles consider the controversy and impact of this takeover.

US clears Smithfield’s acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Penn Energy, Reuters, Lisa Baertlein and Aditi Shrivastava (10/9/13)
Chinese takeover of US Smithfield Foods gets US security approval Telegraph (7/9/13)
US clears Smithfield acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Reuters (7/9/13)
Go-ahead for Shuanghui’s $4.7bn Smithfield deal Financial Times, Gina Chon (6/9/13)
US security panel approves Smithfield takeover Wall Street Journal, William Mauldin (6/9/13)

Questions

  1. What type of takeover would you classify this as? Explain your answer.
  2. Why have other takeovers in oil, energy and technology not met with approval?
  3. Some people have raised concerns about the impact of the takeover on US pork prices. Using a demand and supply diagram, illustrate the possible effects of this takeover.
  4. What do you think will happen to the price of pork in the US based on you answer to question 3?
  5. Why do Smithfield’s shareholders have to meet before the deal can go ahead?
  6. Is there likely to be an impact on share prices if the deal does go ahead?
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Do you Lovefilm?

If you want to buy a newly released DVD, a cheaper option than buying off the high-street tends to be to buy online, in particular through Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer. However, Amazon has been facing increasing competition from another US giant, Netflix that has over 16 million subscribers and is looking at entering the British market. Arguably, in a response to this threat, Amazon has agreed to purchase Lovefilm, the online movie rental service that has grown rapidly over the past few years, with over 1.4 million members around the UK.

As of 2008, Amazon already had a 42% stake in the business, but as Lovefilm has been running into difficulties, their senior management team has been looking at the possibility of selling the remaining 58% share. Enter Amazon in a bid to cement and defend their place in the British market to companies such as Netflix. Below are a few articles concerning this takeover – more will be added, as further details emerge.

Amazon acquires Lovefilm for £200m Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw (20/1/11)
Can Lovefilm survive the streaming revolution? Telegraph, James Hurley (27/1/11)
Amazon takes full control of Lovefilm Guardian, Josh Halliday(20/1/11)
Amazon buys remaining stake in Lovefilm DVD service BBC News (20/1/11)
Amazon takes control of Lovefilm Broadband TV News, Julian Clover (20/1/11)
Amazon acquires Lovefilm, the Netflix of Europe Tech Crunch, Mike Butcher (20/1/11)

Questions

  1. What type of takeover is this and what are the main motives behind it?
  2. How are consumers likely to a) benefit and b) suffer from Amazon’s takeover bid for Lovefilm?
  3. Who are Amazon’s main competitors? (Think of all the products they sell.)
  4. Will the Competition authorities be interested in this takeover? Explain your answer.
  5. In which type of market structure would you place Amazon, Netflix and Lovefilm? Explain your answer.
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Oh, how Times are charging

Whilst the internet and technological developments provide massive opportunities, they also create problems. For some time now, newspapers have seen declining sales, as more and more information becomes available online. Type something into Google or any other search engine and you will typically find thousands of relevant articles, even if the story has only just broken. As revenue from newspaper sales falls, revenue has to be made somewhere else to continue investment in ‘frontline journalism’. The question is: where will this come from?

The Financial Times and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal charge readers for online access and we can expect this to become more common from May, when the Times and the Sunday Times launch their new websites, where users will be charged for access. Subscription to these online news articles will be £1 per day or £2 for weekly access. Whilst the Executives of the Times admit that they will lose many online readers, they hope that the relatively low price, combined with a differentiated product will be enough of an incentive to keep readers reading.

Critics of this strategy argue that this a high risk strategy, as there is so much information available online. Whilst the BBC does plan to curtail the scope of its website, the Times and Sunday Times will still face competition from them, as well as the Guardian, the Independent, Reuters, etc., all of whom currently do not charge for online access. However, if you value journalism, then surely it’s right that a price should be charged to read it. Only time will tell how successful a strategy this is likely to be and whether we can expect other online news sites to follow their example.

Times and Sunday Times websites to charge from June (including video) BBC News (26/3/10)
Murdoch to launch UK web paywall in June Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw (26/3/10)
Times and Sunday Times websites to start charging from June Guardian, Mercedes Bunz (26/3/09)
News Corp to charge for UK Times Online from June Reuters (26/3/10)
Murdoch-owned newspaper charges for content BBC News (14/1/10)

Questions

  1. Why have newspaper sales declined?
  2. How might estimates of elasticity have been used to make the decision to charge to view online articles?
  3. ’If people value journalism, they should pay for it.’ What key economic concepts are being considered within that statement?
  4. Why is charging for access to the Times Online viewed as a high-risk strategy?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy? To what extent do you think it is likely that other newspapers will soon follow suit?
  6. Which consumers do you think will be most affected by this strategy?
  7. In what ways might non-pay sites gain from theTimes’ charging policy?
  8. Would you continue to read articles from the Times linked from this site if you had to pay to access them? If so, why? If not, why not? (We want to know!!)
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Disney is ‘Marvel’lous

It’s probably one of the most recognisable names in the world – Disney. Well, as if the company wasn’t already established enough, it’s just got a bit bigger, with a $4bn deal with Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Characters such as Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Donald Duck have now been joined by some more masculine characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Much of Disney’s recent success has come from films appealing to girls, but in-house Disney franchises appealing to boys are fewer and further between. “We would love to attract more boys, and Marvel skews more in the boys’ direction, although there is universal appeal to many of its characters” said Bob Iger, Disney chief executive. “Marvel’s is a treasure trove of characters and stories, and this gives us an opportunity to mine characters that are well known and characters that are not well known.”

This new deal is likely to have major repercussions for Warner Bros and all of the major Hollywood studios, as well as those with a vested interest in Marvel. It is also hoped that this deal will restore some of Disney’s profits, which have been reduced through the current economic downturn. The following articles consider this deal and the likely results.

Weaker sales dent Disney profits BBC News (30/7/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal BBC News (31/8/09)
Walt Disney buys Marvel Entertainment in £2.5billion deal Mirror News (1/9/09)
Disney take-over of Marvel Telegraph, Paul Gent (2/9/09)
Disney’s Marvel Deal Forces DC’s Hand Defamer, Andrew Belonskey (10/9/09)
Disney deal puts Marvel online slots at risk for Cryptologic Online Gambling News (9/9/09)
Disney’s picl-up of Marvel not so super: Citi FP, Trading Desk (4/9/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal (video) BBC News (1/9/09)
Of mouse and X-men Economist (3/9/09)
Disney buys Marvel, Now in Business with every studio in Hollywood Defamer, Brian Moylan (31/8/09)

For Disney’s announcement of the take-over, see:
Disney to acquire Marvel Entertainment Disney Corporate News Release

Questions

  1. Discuss the pros and cons for consumers of the take-over of Marvel Entertainment by Disney.
  2. Which factors will have had a significant impact on Disney’s profits in the current recession? Explain why.
  3. What do you think will be the likely impact of the take-over on Marvel’s shareholders?
  4. Discuss the main ways in which a business can grow and consider their advantages and disadvantages.
  5. How will Disney’s Marvel deal affect its competitors and those with whom it does business? Is Disney going to be able to control prices and other aspects of business deals?
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