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Panpa Bulletin : August September 2007
PANPA Bulletin August-September 2007 45 keynote address mand, cost more to recruit and retain -- but they will deliver more value. In all of this we can't forget the power of print. It still accounts for the majority of our revenues and profits and this will still be the case years from now. At News, the bulk of our investment con- tinues to be in print, even though we have spent significant sums on developing our digital operations. We continue to launch new magazines and newspaper inserts, we have acquired the Federal Publishing Company and have and are in the processes of building presses and editorial operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and in Tasmania. We are very confident about the future of print. But we can't ignore the fact that some categories of classified advertising is mov- ing online at a rapid rate and some display advertising is shifting to search, highly traf- ficked and niche sites. One of our greatest strengths as a newspaper company has been the fact that we operate locally -- we basically deliver very strong and deep coverage from a local perspective, under decentralised control by local management. And this has enabled us to develop strong relationships with our local communities. Communities of common interest are no longer only defined by city or state bounda- ries or our traditional circulation areas. Our audiences will use whatever format is available to them to get what they want. Broadband penetration is simply going to give them more choices and make them even harder to reach, en masse or in spe- cialised niche verticals. On television and radio, advertising is an interruption, often a nuisance, to the content people really want. In newspapers and magazines ads are valued as part of the content. Online, the best advertising is crea- tive and entrepreneurial. The advertising is often so closely aligned to the editorial content to appear as a seam- less complete package of information. In many ways, the web is asking us to redraw the lines between journalism and commerce -- something our advertisers might want but which makes journalists very uncomfortable. The challenge is to find the right balance. Perhaps we need to accept that the relationship between editorial and advertis- ing is going to be very different online to the ways it's been possible in print. Meanwhile there are some subtle changes underway in editorial coverage. Once newspapers were the primary source of information; now they are the primary source of what that information means and why it's important. Part of this trend involves more emphasis on crusading and campaigning journalism in our newspapers. Part investigator and part advocate, newspapers see themselves as making a contribution by having an ac- tive role. It is a very effective way to engage with readers. Rather than stand back on the side- lines reporting on an event, we now take a position and champion issues that matter to our readers. Our readers don't want us to remain dispassionate fence sitters all the time. They want us to use our power for good and they want to be part of that debate. Both climate change and freedom of speech are issues that demonstrate the role of the media -- and newspapers in particu- lar -- to be both a mirror of the people we serve and an agenda setter for public debate and, hopefully, to bring about meaningful change. Companies around the globe are looking for new ways to engage with their readers and adapt to the fragmenting advertising market. These initiatives include free newspa- pers, audience specific newspapers such as commuter titles, heavily discounted prod- ucts and a return in some cases to multiple print editions each day, as well as regularly updated electronic editions provided as PDF files. In 1972, 65 per cent of 15-24 year olds read newspapers and now it is only 20 per cent. Around the world, one answer to get- ting to the younger audience has been free papers. The free sheets aim to appeal to the modern busy reader that is rarely going to take the time to read a 1000 word piece. They're designed with lots of colour photos and graphics, to be read in a short period of time during an average commute. They have shorter tabloid style stories and the paper itself is easily read on transport. In Europe free sheets now make up 30 per cent of the market and such is their suc- cess there is now testing of home delivery. But even at an estimated global circula- tion of 25 million a day they have a long way to go to make a dent on the paid for daily circulation of 450 million. At News, mX in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane has been a resounding success with young professionals and commuters. So, we are back to producing afternoon newspapers. And, the 24/7 nature of online journalism means we are reviving and rein- venting the skills that were more common place on newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mirror where the axiom was "get it first, get it right and get it out" four or more times a day. So it is with online journalism - the first mover advantage on a story like the death of Steve Irwin - or Peter Brock a few days later - was the difference between owning that story online for up to a week. The PDF paper is taking off. In Spain, where free papers make up more than 50 per cent of all circulation, one publisher offers a constantly updated PDF. In England, the Guardian rolled out an 8-12 page printable paper updated every 15 minutes and the Telegraph and Times fol- lowed soon after. If many young people are not reading print newspapers how do we find them and engage with them? As an industry, we haven't yet success- fully adapted our product to today's internet practices -- the interactive habits of the Web 2.0 generation. It's difficult to find examples anywhere in the world where there has been overwhelming success. As seen by the approximate 150 journal- ists' blogs in Australia with an estimated 30,000 reader comments contributed each day, it is evident, we recognise our readers want to have a conversation. This relatively new relationship brings its own difficulties. We can't have an unchecked two-way conversation. We have to deal with the practical nightmare of checking and moderating our reader's contributions online. Should the material fit our editorial standards and how can we effectively filter out the large amounts of dross we receive? In the longer term we need to make decisions about whether all user generated material should sit under our existing mast- heads or whether we should spin off new brands to carry it. The online world is changing our busi- nesses at an ever increasing rate. We need to embrace the entrepreneurial nature of online businesses. We need to adapt ourselves from our traditional print habits to a more flexible and fluid world.