OK so let’s start 2013 as I mean to go on – having a good clear out.
First up on my pile of junk is the fact that the Hibu plc/Yell Ltd advertising directory, masquerading as a “community” magazine for Hebden Bridge, doesn’t pay its writers and photographers. The Hibu magazine content submission agreement specifies that:
‘You (the “Author”) hereby irrevocably grant to Yell Limited, its affiliates, and Magazine (collectively the “Publisher”) the unrestricted, perpetual, worldwide right to use the Content freely in whole or in part in any manner or medium now known or hereinafter devised for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without compensation.’
Top 50 digital media company has “no budget” to pay local writers and photographers
The free “Hebden Bridge Matters” magazine, hand-delivered to Hebden Bridge households, is published by a major international advertising/digital media business called Hibu (apparently pronounced Hi Boo), formerly known as the Yell Group and rebranded in the summer of 2012.
Yell originated in Yellow Pages – first started in 1966 by the UK General Post Office and then privatised as part of the BT sell-off organised by the Thatcher government.
In 2012 Yell Group was number 49 in the world’s top digital media companies, with an annual digital revenue in 2011 of a cool $722.84million. You’d think that this would enable Hibu to pay writers and photographers who contribute to the Hibu Hebden Bridge advertising magazine. But it doesn’t.
In the time-honoured fashion of big corporations who’ve screwed up, it seems that Hibu is keen to make other people (ie writers and photographers working for free) pay for its mistakes – by using their unpaid stories and images to pull in advertising to the magazine.
Yell/ Hibu is in dire financial straits, having overextended itself with £2.2bn debt – on the basis of a market capitalisation which had fallen to £9.3m by December 2012. And so far the Hibu rebranding hasn’t paid off, with Hibu’s 6 month revenues declining by 15 per cent in the six month period to the end of September 2012.
But in that time the so-called “community magazine initiative”, which was piloted in the USA and has since had a trial run in Bingley, Skipton and Hebden Bridge, delivered “new orders in excess of £500k per week and rising”.
The magazines aim to operate in a smaller area than the Yellow Pages, with the goal of reaching 5,000- 10,000 of the “most affluent households in the area,” . These advertising magazines are an alternative to Yellow Pages, which is no longer much of a money earner for Yell/Hibu.
Hibu reports that the West Yorkshire pilot has been successful and the company is now increasing the number of publications in the UK.
Hibu plans to produce the magazine in 30 more areas in the UK in 2013 and eventually to cover around 400 areas.
All on the basis of unpaid content from writers and photographers. Another example of a race to the bottom.
In May 2012, Moody’s credit rating agency warned that Yell Group’s lenders could have to write off up to half their investment, as the company is likely to have to restructure and write down around 50% of its debt. Moody’s cut its rating for Yell to Caa3, two levels above its lowest-quality investment class, “C”. It described Yell as “poor quality and very high credit risk”. Most of Yell’s debt will mature in 2014, when it may have to make a debt-for-equity swap if it is to continue as a going concern. In Dec 2012 management confirmed that its shares could become worthlessas a result of the capital restructuring needed to deal with its debts.
I have asked the Hibu Hebden Bridge advertising magazine editor, Haigh Simpson, to comment on why the company doesn’t pay writers and photographers, but haven’t yet received a reply.
Demand that Hibu pay NUJ rates to writers and photographers
Hibu’s so-called “community” magazines solicit advertising from local businesses by saying the magazine is “ a great way to connect with local customers” because it effectively targets local people by providing “useful local information”, “including articles and submissions from the local community” so it is “likely to be kept handy, helping your ad be seen over and over again.”
On the back of these unpaid local articles and submissions, the Hibu so-called community magazines rake in £470 excl VAT for a 210mm x 297mm ad on the back cover, £380 for same-sized ad inside front/back cover, down to £70 for a 1/8th inside page ad.
The magazine isn’t actually free, it’s paid for by the writers and photographers who have been “tempted”, as editor Haigh Simpson put it in his email (below), to donate their labour to the 49th biggest digital media corporation in the world.
I suggest that everyone emails email@example.com and Haigh.Simpson@hibu.com to demand that the magazine pay its contributors National Union of Journalism rates for their work. And that advertisers refuse to advertise in the magazine until it does this. Otherwise basically all that the magazine’s doing is leaching money out of local advertisers without putting anything back into the area. All the guff about the magazine being “by the community for the community” is a way of concealing the fact that the magazine is by unpaid Hebden Bridge folk, and Hebden Bridge advertisers, for the shareholders of Hibu/Yell Ltd.
The word community is often a slippery euphemism for whatever the user wants the word to disguise – all too often, their own self-interest and profit.
When I moved to San Francisco in 1978, kindly local folk took pity on my culture-shocked daze and warned me that the word “community” was the parlance of scoundrels and to steer clear of anything that described itself thus. Sound advice, then and now.
This is what Confucius said about using the right words:
“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
Editor solicits unpaid news and features
The Hibu Hebden Bridge advertising magazine editor sent this email to a local writer:
“From: “Simpson, Haigh (UK)” <Haigh.Simpson@hibu.com>
Date: xxx September 2012
Subject: New Magazine – Writing Oppertunity [sic]
I am the editor of three, free, monthly community magazines which will be launching in Skipton, Bingley and Hebden Bridge this November. The publications will reflect the community’s [sic] residents with news and feature stories on local sport, art, music, schools, churches, youth groups, community and neighbourhood organisations.
We hope local people will feel they can contribute features, reviews, recipes and news items, as well as sharing local achievements.
I understand that a writer of your calibre would expect payment and so I would fully understand if you chose to decline this offer. I would be incredibly grateful if you would be so kind as to send me details of anybody else you know in the area who might be tempted to contribute in some way.
I hope to hear from you soon,
The information contained in this email, including any attachments, is intended solely for use by the individual or entity named above and may be confidential. If you have received this email in error please delete it and notify the sender immediately; you should not retain the message or disclose its contents to anyone. Thank you. Yell Limited, One Reading Central, Forbury Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 3YL. Registered in England No. 4205228 Yellow Pages Sales Limited, One Reading Central, Forbury Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 3YL. Registered in England No. 1403041″