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Panpa Bulletin : March 2011
IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE LUCKY Do you know someone who is vision impaired, has a disability, or can speak,but not necessarily read English - their second language; With 17 RPH stations around the country, there is a Radio Reading Service near you - or them - that will keep them in touch with the printed news and allow them to still enjoy a good book. Go to www.rph.org.au to find out which station is nearest and start a new chapter in their life. www.panpa.org.au 22 | MARCH 2011 | The PANPA Bulletin A lost art THE big question for the newspaper publishing industry in 2011 is: Have we lost the art of reading? It’s the same question that confronted the industry at the beginning of last year. Since then, despite a lot of soul searching and strategic planning, the threat has not gone away. The rapid acceleration in the shape of things to come was clearly evident to me, at a large family Christmas Day gathering with the dominance of whizz bang electronic mobile communications devices among the festive presents. My image of the future was reinforced the next day when I found my two and a half year old grandson, with state of the art headphones clamped over his ears to lock out any intrusion from the outside (real) world watching a Spiderman movie on his iPad. This, I thought, said it all. Getting kids to show an interest in the age old art of reading is like trying to get them to opt for healthy and nutritious food when they are standing in front of a lolly shop. But then I came across a Wall Street Journal article published in The Australian’s Christmas Eve edition that gave me renewed hope. It pointed out that with the iPad there had been a strong focus on children’s books, including Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. The article went on to say that this trend was continuing with the release of new e-readers. And sure enough my grandson’s parents assured me that he loved looking at the iPad version of these children’s books and had not deserted the traditional hard copy versions. We will have to wait to see what the future holds on this front. In fact the WSJ article was holding out hope for parents worried about their children’s literacy levels with e-books taking up the slack in a world of declining print. It was not holding out hope for the future of print itself. And it is reasonable to assume that as these children grow up in an environment of rapidly changing communications devices they will regard hard copy reading as a distant memory at best. It is not just the younger generation who are turning to e-reading alternatives. One of my fellow travellers on a recent trip through Vietnam, a 72-year old American doctor, explained that the convenience of his ever-present Kindle had reinvigorated his thirst for reading. This is all very well. But where does it leave the traditional print versions of newspapers? The answer is clear: in trouble. The attempt to build a walled garden to put a price on editorial online content may have come too late for readers who have become very comfortable bypassing paying for newspapers by accessing their free electronic versions. Added to the print publishers’ woes is the fact that many of today’s young and not so young people are content to get the information they need from Twitter and social networking sources such a Facebook. The global financial crisis thinned out the newspaper market particularly in the United States while in our region major newspapers were able to ride out the economic storm. But in Australia alone, billions of dollars have been invested in press capacity across the country which is largely underwritten by advertising support. This has been propped up in the past few months by a price-cutting war among retailers which can only end in tears. This, in turn, will add to pressures to find a way to strengthen the on-line media operations more than likely at the expense of their print alternatives. It wasn’t so long ago that people in the industry were scratching their heads wondering what shape online “newspapers” would take. I think we have a pretty good idea now about the path this is going to go down. I am one of those who doesn’t believe that print is dead. Nor is the desire to read. But the pressing question may well be: If the printed newspaper is to survive can it do so in its current form? Where do the changing reading habits of young people leave the newspaper industry? Opinion Malcolm Colless Malcolm Colless is a former senior executive at News Ltd and writes a column for The Australian’s media section THE Newspaper Works in Australia has launched its new research on the car market to enhance print advertising sales. Snakes & Ladders identifies where and how newspaper advertising can play an expanded role for manufacturers The research involved in-depth in- terviews, qualitative focus groups with buyers, an online quantitative study and 700+ interviews. The Newspaper Works is meeting key manufacturers and their agencies in the coming weeks to present research find- ings specific to their brands. For more information, visit www. thenewspaperworks.com.au. Print in the driving seat AL JAZEERA boosted audience numbers through its coverage of the Egyptian pro- tests via ‘promoted tweets’ on Twitter. The TV station bought ‘promoted tweets’ which will show up at the top of search results. Traffic to its website had increased by 2,500 percent since January 25, and Twitter was one of the top sources of this traffic. Al Jazeera pays for top tweets