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Panpa Bulletin : August September 2007
24 PANPA Bulletin August-September 2007 Digital Growth This is one of the most exciting times ever for newspapers and we're working in one of the best regions on earth for newspaper publishers' dominance in the multimedia revolution. As a sign of collective industry optimism one needs look no further than the internet ratings figures out last week. In a combined attack, the two major newspaper publishers succeeded in pushing Ninemsn out of the top spot for most popu- lar news and information internet portal in Australia for the first time ever. There was a surge in popularity of a range of sites run by News Ltd and a jump in the number of unique browsers at smh.com.au run by Fairfax Media pushed that site into the number one spot. The two largest newspaper publishers are now clearly the top one and two news and information publishers on the internet, and they own all but two of the top ten news websites in the country. It's been a great year for our digital exten- sion -- a year where our print and digital products have become increasingly differen- tiated from each other, as they need to, rec- ognising the unique role of each for different consumers at different times of the day. They are no longer substitutes but complementary although very different offerings. It's been the year where breaking news morphed into the more relevant "instant news" and a year where newspaper publish- ers started to set their sights on eating the TV broadcasters' lunch as well. Let me explain. Lunchtime is the new prime time, not just for online stories but also for our video news. Part of the surging popularity of the newspaper websites in 2007 has been the surge in demand for video as fast broad- band revolutionises our offerings to more consumers. News Ltd and Fairfax Media make up a big slice of the news video downloads in Australia -- estimated at the moment to be around 22 to 25 million in total a month. The previous print heavyweights are fighting well beyond their weight in the video war against Ninemsn and Yahoo7!, which with well established television newsrooms and experience should have left us in their dust. That they're not is part of our success story as newspaper publishers. Our push to create around-the-clock multimedia newsrooms means many of us have already uncoupled the constraints of the morning print edition from the need to publish instantly the main facts of a story as each happens. Television broadcasters are yet to adapt and are finding it increasingly hard to do so. Their best work is held back for the main evening newscast. Otherwise, they'd have little to offer their 6pm viewers. This also holds back the main domestic pay TV news service which relies on the commercial broadcasters for most of their footage. It has opened up a huge opportunity for the more flexible, more aggressive, better resourced former print newsrooms. Smart companies are learning to thrive in this digital environment. Online users are watching video through- out the day at work, more or less in lockstep with their viewing of online stories although slightly later in each day part. The biggest recent change is that the number of video downloads is no longer steeply dropping off after people leave work to head home. "Newspaper publishers have emerged with a pivotal role in being able to deliver con- tent to new media platforms. A practical challenge before us is how to re-skill the most powerful newsrooms in the land into true multi-media leaders while maintaining their lead in quality." As more and more of the main stories of the day are viewed as individual pieces of video, tailored to a user's interest, the attrac- tiveness to millions of the nightly one-size- fits-all TV news drops off. Described at the time as "thought-provoking and challenging"by PANPA CEO Michael Richards, the State of the Industry Address was delivered by Robert Whitehead, President of PANPA, on the opening morning of PANPA's annual conference. PANPA delegates heard about an industry that has its grip tightly on the reigns in an era of extreme change. But rather than holding on for dear life, newspapers in our region are now steering in the direction of new opportunities with fresh challenges. Following are extended excerpts from Mr Whitehead's speech. PANPA President, Robert Whitehead state of the industry address