February 17, 2014

Horse 1622 - The Death of Print (I think 2016)

Indeed, some believe the globalisation of Australian news will drive the locals out of business and leave us with franchises of international media brands. We hope that’s too pessimistic. 
- ABC Media Watch, 17th Feb 2014

Considering that News Corporation has reported that it sucked $882m from the Australian taxpayer and funneled it back to the parent company, I think it's a safe bet to say that the entire of News Corp Australia is merely a franchise of an international media brand. Certainly Rupert threw away his Australian passport as soon as it was convenient; so I think that it's time to stop the pretense.
Indeed, if the print versions of the dailies in Australia are only being kept alive as Rupert's playthings, what is the bet that they'll last more than a year after he dies?

Somewhere in all of this, the fact that newspapers are businesses is often clouded midst the posturing and pouting which is done. As The News Of The World in the UK showed, if a newspaper ceases to be profitable, then it makes business sense to shut it down.

At some point, a line is crossed where on-line revenues outstrip those from the sale of dead-tree hard copy and according to eMarketer, that line was crossed in the United States in 2012¹.

- Stolen from eMarketer

What I fine interesting about this, isn't so much the drop off in advertising revenues from print, though Media Watch reports that in Australia it's far more drastic than this, but rather that the total advertising spend across all media continues to rise.
Print then it seems, is going the same way as the CD. People are still buying music and I haven't really heard anything to suggest that sales of music are declining but just like the sale of physical product of music, print almost looks like it has run its course.
Fairfax I think was being a little stubborn by not accepting Gina Rinehart's offer to buy a place on the board. I think that Ms Rinehart might have been the benefactor which ultimately might have saved the business and unless it finds an international suitor, I honestly don't see there being a daily Fairfax newspaper reporting on the next Federal election in 2016.

The Telegraph in the UK (so very very much a biased view against News UK) very loudly trumpted that Rupert "could end up shutting down the entire British newspaper operation to help preserve the rest of his empire". That was back in August last year and still in the wake of The Leveson Inquiry but it still does raise the question.
Rupert Murdoch is not quite 83 years old and 16 years older than his when father, Sir Keith died, leaving him the family company. What I want to know is, would Lachlan Murdoch necessarily want to continue to print newspapers when as a thing, print is increasingly unprofitable? If so, is something like The Australian, only being kept alive because it is Rupert's baby?

That still remains the question for me. Assuming that Fairfax ends up collapsing and after Rupert dies, News Corp Australia decides that print simply isn't worth the effort any more, then where does that leave the media in Australia?
You can blame the rise of the internet for this but a lot of the blame also has to be laid at the people who make the decisions to even decide the sort of mix that goes into the make up of the newspaper.
I'm willing to say that when the Daily Telegraph cost 80c, the quality of the stories in there was better. Back when the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian cost $1.50, the quality of the stories in there was better than today.

Moreover, doesn't it mean that the ABC especially becomes an even more important source of credible news? If click bait produces an endless stream of cats and "news" items like the Daily Mail's sidebar of sleeze and television ceases to bother to produce proper journalism (which increasingly it isn't doing), then it means that the only serious outlets of news are the ABC and SBS.
As for me, my most commonly visited news websites are the BBC, ABC, DW and Xinhua. Curiously, all are state run organisations and more importantly, all of them actually deliver proper news.

That last comment is I think really important. Half the problem with falling revenues from print, means that both the quality and quantity of long-form journalism in Australia has fallen massively off the cliff.
If good quality journalism is to survive, in print or otherwise and the ABC and SBS are privatised or gutted, then thanks to the paywalls which are being erected, we will have in effect created an information class system where only the wealthy and intelligent are served proper journalism.
If that happens, then I will get my news, not from franchises of international media brands but international media brands themselves.

Unlike Media Watch, I don't think that that is pessimistic but the future we actually face. Which will be the last thing to roll off the production line, an Australian built car or an Australian daily newspaper? Time will tell.


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