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Panpa Bulletin : November December 2006
12 | PANPA BULLETIN November--December 2006 Tearing away from The incursion of online and mobile platforms leaves traditional media owners struggling to keep up with change. Yet the print arm remains buoyant, writes Jeremy Bass. 2006 was a year of accelerated change across the industry. Changes in shape. Changes in size. And in the case of Fair- fax, one of Australia's two biggest newspaper publishers, a change of name signifying a change in direction. Fairfax Media, as the company now calls itself, now counts its newspaper properties as component players in a much bigger show. They're not alone. Witness News Ltd's purchase of online community property MySpace. With Google hitting US$500 a share and buying online video sharing site YouTube out of its spare change jar, every- one's got to do something. And everyone is. That's why, even amid such flux and un- certainty for newspapers the world over, the outlook seems surprisingly optimistic. New York Times Company VP Michael Golden and Dow Jones chief Rich Zannino forecast bright futures for their companies for as long as they remained diligent in adding value to their online operations. Newspaper sales across Asia, meanwhile, rose with GDP. It was also the year of the citizen journal- ist. Blogs matured into an essential con- stituency of every mainstream newspaper's online operation -- albeit attached to bylines already well established in print. The crucial part with blogs attached to newspapers is the interactivity -- moderated or not, never have the feedback channels been so wide open. And newspapers confer upon their chosen bloggers the priceless halo of cred- ibility and instant hit number -- a major hur- dle for the hordes out there who think there's a quid in peddling their opinions online. There's no doubt the internet is cracking open what was once a tightly closed, highly professionalised shop. The massive sums paid by mainstream media companies for YouTube (bought by Google for US$1.65 bn) and MySpace (bought by News Ltd for US$650m) herald the rise of what PANPA Bulletin Interactive Insider columnist Peter Zollman calls "you publish" journalism (see his column on page 30.) All that said, one would suspect the Christmas break hasn't looked this attractive to media executives in years -- certainly in Australia. But the season has a way of look- ing bigger than it actually is. So for most of them, it's a couple of weeks' breather before suiting up again and galloping back into one of the one of the busiest media frays in years. The causes are twofold. First, in July, came a complete rewrite of the Audit Bureau of Circulation's rules on circulation and reader- ship. With the new regime's first results, released in November, showing substan- tial anomalies and fluctuations in News Ltd readership figures, there are squab- bles aplenty ahead over the validity of Roy Morgan Research's measurement methods. Second, in October, came Communications Minister Senator Helen Coonan's announcement of the Howard gov- ernment's pending relaxation of federal laws restricting cross-media and foreign owner- ship. Plenty of strategic buying and selling ensued in the first week after the announce- ment as the big players, local and offshore, positioned themselves in anticipation of the enactment of the laws. That's likely to be a few months away yet, however, with the in- dustry and its regulators mired in questions of how to administer and lock in Australia's biggest legislative overhaul of the industry in two decades. 2006: the news And what, meanwhile, kept the editorial offices busy in 2006? The Pacific Islands became a sea of khaki with unrest across Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Fiji and Tonga, the latter after the death of its 88 year old monarch. Aside from its involvement in virtually all the above, Australia had a little unrest of its own, dealing with the washup from Sydney's race riots, in which an assort- YEAR IN REVIEW A sea of khaki: New Zealand troops patrol the streets in the Solomon Island capital of Honiara in April "There s no doubt that with the advent of the blogger the internet is cracking open what was once a tightly closed, professional shop. " Source: AAP images