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Panpa Bulletin : September 2006
18 | PANPA BULLETIN September 2006 NEWS The PANPA Conference s plenary session took a very upbeat view of the future but warned that luddite newspapers will su er, writes Jack Beverley Good newspapers know their business and will prosper. That was the headline over an editorial in The Australian that rejected the widely quoted doom and gloom cover story run by The Economist identifying newspa- pers as "an endangered species" due to the advent of the internet. The editorial was a much- needed public declaration of in- dustry faith and, coincidentally, its headline neatly summarised the thrust of the wake-up mes- sages, delivered with evangelistic fervour by the keynote speakers at PANPA's 37th annual confer- ence on the Gold Coast. In essence, what emerged from the conference, which had the theme "the new business of the news business", was this general agreement: Yes, good newspapers know their business and they will continue to prosper -- but only if they respond fully to the chal- lenge of the digital era and adopt multi-platform strategies that meld the old business of print on paper with the new businesses of online, podcasts, video, audio and mobile texting. PANPA president Robert Whitehead, whose opening state of the industry address is reported fully on pages 29 to 32 set the con- fident tone that, somewhat para- doxically given the views of some of the keynote speakers, pervaded all of the well-attended sessions. What Whitehead made clear, and what is supported by the range of stories, including the an- nual reports of the big publish- ing groups featured in this issue of the PANPA Bulletin, is that the major newspapers in Australia, New Zealand and throughout the region are continuing to perform well, despite some softening of the advertising market. And the print media is reacting positively to the digital challenge. In the financial year which end- ed on 30 June, three of Australia's 'Big Five' newspaper publishing groups -- Fairfax, West Australian Newspapers, Rural Press and Australian Press & Media -- report- ed increased profits. The economic downturn in NSW was largely responsible for the four per cent decline felt by Fairfax, which reported an under- lying profit of $228 million. All four companies stressed not only how heavily they were invest- ing in their websites, but were also able to point to significant growth in their online revenues. "After too much talk about the tunnel at the end of the light, a clear picture of our profitable, reinvigorated future is forming," said Whitehead. "The future for newspapers is only bleak if we fail to respond. Never before have we faced as many challenges." Media was diversifying at an enormous rate and advertising spends were fragmenting. But never before had there been so many great opportunities. "Our newspapers are emerg- ing as the core of a more dynamic publishing model, dubbed news- paper media," said Whitehead. "It is the daily paper, the community paper, the commuter paper, the youth paper," he said. "It is the newspaper online, a range of websites, the electronic edition, the breaking news head- lines on mobile phones, and other devices, and it is in the podcasts of news updates or opinion. "It is through the exploitation of our 'newspaper media' that our audience reach is actually grow- ing and our story to advertisers about our effectiveness is actually improving. "This year has seen a sea- change in how many in the news- paper game see ourselves in a business sense. We no longer fear the future." Chief executive of John Fairfax Holdings, David Kirk, used his ad- dress to announce the rebranding of his group as "Fairfax Media". It was a move which, he said, re- flected the company's "aspiration of being a genuinely integrated digital media company". "The emergence of Fairfax Media is a result of our organic and strategic growth, both in print and especially online, and what these mean in a world of convergence which is driven principally by the internet and digital technologies. "Our challenge in managing a changing environment is to adapt our publications to it. We are do- ing so by adapting to consumer preferences as technology and lifestyle drives those changing preferences." In its editorial debunking The Economist's view that news- papers face bleak prospects, The Australian said media, as an industry, had a sorry history of pro-cyclical panics, accelerating trends that then become self- fulfilling prophecies. "The challenge facing news- papers is to respond properly to doomsday thinking, relying on their traditional strengths and re- ject research that tells editors the future lies in infotainment. "Newspapers that allow them- selves to be seduced away from the bedrock of good journalism do so at their peril. Content is king when it comes to media, and newspapers are the genuine driv- ers of news breaking, largely be- cause most metropolitan news- papers have more journalists than a whole national television network. "At their best, newspapers hold governments and companies ac- count, trying them in the court of public opinion. They set the news agenda on which other me- dia outlets -- radio, television and internet sites -- feed. "We say without ambigu- ity that newspapers confident enough to recognize and build on their existing strengths have a good future." Overall, then, it appears that the new business of the news business in this part of the world, as well as its traditional business, appears to be in safe and caring hands. Good newspapers know their business and will prosper Congratulations to Greg Smythe from Riverina Media Group for winning the Kodak V530 digital camera promotion I o C S a 22 www.g a c .ko ak.com a d r g r b h draw w a EASYSHARE V530 Zoom D g a Cam a Draw cl Fr day 8 S p b r 2006 K dak ANZ Mark g: 1800 895 747 PANPA President Robert Whitehead
November December 2006