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Panpa Bulletin : April 2006
april 2006 PaNPa bUlletiN | 39 it is now a stated fact that young people in today's electronic world are unlikely to consider newspapers as their primary news source. The growth of the Internet and develop- ments such as blogging, 24-hour television and mobile phone technology mean that there are a variety of ways and means to access information. University of Western Sydney Media Policy and Research lec- turer Dr Tim Dwyer said there had been many studies of young people that indicated their media consumption habits were chang- ing fairly rapidly. "Audiences are using media differently and are interacting with a fragmented media landscape, which has consequences for the way media relates to the audience," Dr Dwyer said. He cited the changing adver- tising setting and decline of tra- ditional outlets for the change in the media landscape. "If (media outlets) can't buy outright they enter into alliances, for exam- ple ninemsn and Yahoo7, where broadcast media need the reach of a major online portal as a dis- tributor," he said. Dr Dwyer's comments were backed up by University of Queensland School of Journal- ism and Communication deputy head Professor Michael Bromley, who said newspaper publish- ers had two reasons to buy up digital interests. "The first is the siphoning of the rivers of gold of classified ad- vertising and the other is the ab- ject inability of newspapers to at- tract younger audiences. A recent Morgan poll showed that only four per cent of Australian 14-17 year-olds regarded newspapers as their single primary source of information," Professor Bromley said. The value of digital business is derived in many ways, but Profes- sor Bromley said the latest buzz phrase was "user-generated con- tent (UGC)". "The BBC has about seven UGC projects underway and the Sun-Myspace proposal is about UGC," he said. "What may have tipped this over is the take-up of the software which allows blogging and pod- casting.This has changed the con- figuration of what we call media -- from a system defined by mass to one in which 24 (the average readership of a blog) constitute a viable audience. The tentative conclusion to be reached is that traditional media organisations are losing control incrementally." The Digital Buy-up News Corp bought Intermix Media, owner of Myspace.com, in July 2005 for $770 million. Myspace is a site for dating, mak- ing friends, professional network- ing and sharing interests and in April 2006, Sun Online linked with its new online partner. Users can set up a 'MySun' portal on thesun. co.uk site using a Myspace tem- plate with video and photograph sharing, as well as personalised blogs and web pages. News Corp is also reported to have consid- ered integrating MySpace with Times Online, its other major Brit- ish publishing brand. Fairfax Digital has grown to include more than 30 websites and digital operations, including online newspapers smh.com.au and theage.com.au, the MyCa- reer recruitment site, Drive for motoring, real estate site Domain, online dating with RSVP and ac- commodation site stayz. Its re- cent acquisition of New Zealand online auction business Trade Me for $NZ700 million ($A625 mil- lion), which accounts for more than 60 per cent of New Zea- land's web traffic, and stayz for $A12.7 million shows it has created a firm foothold in the digital arena. What About the Smaller Players? In his report to Rural Press shareholders at last year's annual general meeting, chairman John B Fairfax said the Internet was a very powerful information tool. "At this stage in its development it would be wrong to dismiss any possibility that the Internet may unravel," he said. "Its capacity to search, to re- veal, and to inform at any time is unprecedented. We now have the ability to know almost everything almost immediately. The only time when breaking news will not be available to us will be when we reject it or when we draw the cur- tains, turn off the lights, and try to get some sleep before we wake to the next tsunami, or terror attack, or hurricane or political upheaval," Mr Fairfax said. While Rural Press is a company that concentrates on regional and rural publishing and broadcasting, it also has a digital presence, with many websites spanning news, information, weather, real estate, recruitment and motor vehicles. "Without the editorial in each local market, muchofthis content would not be available," Mr Fairfax said. Far from feeling left behind by bigger rivals, Rural Press manag- ing director and chief executive officer Brian McCarthy said the company had already invested heavily in digital and found it was not what its audience wanted. Mr McCarthy said he wrote off around $25 million in the late 1990s after investing in farmshed. com.au in Australia and directag. com in the US. "It didn't suit our audience. We were a little bit ahead of our time and couldn't grow the rev- enue," Mr McCarthy said. "This is not new and we have already been down that path. These guys are now doing something we did seven or eight years ago. "We have formed a more inter- nal approach in what we're doing. We're developing our own brands and developing a team of people in-house, chartered with the ob- jective of Rural Press producing the best websites in regional and rural Australia." Mr McCarthy said this plan included enhancing Rural Press website content, adding func- tionality to the sites and growing revenue in a more aggressive way and taking on new advertisers in different markets. While there has been a slower take-up of dig- ital technology in regional areas, mainly due to it not being availa- ble, Mr McCarthy said he saw this as a good thing, rather than bad, because it gave the company a The value of digital business is derived in many ways, but the latest buzz phrase is ‘user-generated content (UGC)’. The BBC has about seven UGC projects underway and the Sun-Myspace proposal is about UGC. The great online buying spree newspaper companies are paying megabucks for sites. Johanna Baker-Dowdell investigates the Dot-com boom – Mark 2. Shepparton News, published by McPherson Media, was the frst newspaper to become an Internet service provider more than a decade ago