In 1910, 10% of the UK workforce was employed in hat manufacturing. What’s this got to do with newspapers? Nothing – except it helps illustrate that times and behaviours change. Companies have to go where the audience, and therefore where the money is – writes Scott Guthrie
There’s no point churning out newspapers in printed form if no one is buying them just as there’s no point churning out hats if no one is wearing them. Yesterday’s the Guardian covered a media conference at which two News Corp Australia heavy weights spoke.
Amanda Meade’s article quoted The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, as admitting to a $30m annual loss for his masthead – a hole which runs into hundreds of dollar millions when taking all News Corp Australia into consideration.
The demise of newspaper print is a global phenomenon; not unique to Australia. In the US, newspaper print advertising revenues have dropped 74% since 2000 and now sit at a 63-year low.
Yet at the conference, hosted by Mumbrella, Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of News Corp Australia, is quoted as saying his company “can’t give up on print” commenting “there is a challenge (in print) absolutely, we are embracing digital absolutely, but newspapers have a long life left in them.”
Putting his contrarian take on the longevity of news print aside Lachlan Murdoch’s assertion begs the question: how is News Corp Australia embracing digital?
Reading the Mumbrella article it seems as though Chris Mitchell sees competition only in the guise of rival newspapers – namely Fairfax. But, as Martin Clarke, publisher of Mail Online, the world’s most popular newspaper site by unique browsers told the Financial Times back in march 2013 “online everyone is a competitor” continuing “English-language news becomes a global commodity.
The Guardian, the BBC and Mail Online have already elbowed their way on to the Nielsen Online Ratings survey which ranks top Australian sites by unique audience for news. Other online-only news sites such as BuzzFeed, Crikey, Mashable and Huffington Post will be taking note.
I’ve read that Robert Thomson, the chief executive of News Corp has no wish to either “deify digital” or “be subject to cyber servitude”. But Chris Mitchell might wish to think about ‘shutting up his hat shop’ and embrace something Australians are more eager to consume.
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