There’s no doubt that the Australian media landscape is changing and it is changing fast.
And for marketers, advertisers, PR professionals and everyone who deals with newspapers and the print media in general, the shifting media environment has massive implications.
For marketers and advertisers, the biggest challenge is the fact that readers are abandoning the print media in droves.
Instead of leafing through pages of ink-smelling newsprint, people are now reading newspapers online – either on their mobile phones, tablets or laptops.
According to Roy Morgan Research, which tracks the reading habits of Australians, while newspaper circulation figures have been steadily falling over the past few years, it’s not due to fewer people reading newspapers.
It’s just that nowadays, people are reading news online instead of the physical printed format.
In fact, the latest cross-platform readership data showed that most of the major newspapers now have more digital/online readers than print readers.
For example, the Sydney Morning Herald’s digital/online readership is three times more than its print readership. The Australian had 1.756 million digital readers while its print edition only attracted 931,000 readers. The Australian Financial Review was read online by more than 1,048 million readers, but only about 415,000 people were reading its print edition.
In a recent interview, Megan Brownlow from PricewaterhouseCoopers, was quoted as saying that the problem being faced by newspapers is not about losing readers. It is about losing paying readers.
She noted that readers have stopped paying for newspapers and magazines when content went digital.
This is because, with the coming of Internet and digital technology platforms, readers can get access to a lot of free materials – news, information and entertainment – and this means bad news for newspapers and other traditional media companies.
And while this trend – dwindling print run, decreasing number of people reading print newspapers, less number of journalists – has been happening for the past 5-10 years, the phase of change has gone faster the past two years.
The massive change in people’s reading habits has had a catastrophic impact on newspapers and other traditional media companies who used to generate a majority of their income and profit from print advertising.
Some of the headlines paint the painful and slow demise of printed newspapers:
- “Fairfax exempts execs but still cuts 100 journalists”
- “The Future of Print: Newspapers Struggle to Survive in the Age of Technology”
- “Newspaper death spiral gathers pace”
And as readers abandon print for online/digital media, marketers and advertisers who used to spend millions of dollars in promoting their products in the print media, also jumped ship.
You don’t have to look far to see the changes unfold. Consider some of these facts:
- Newspaper advertising market in Australia is now worth $2.4 billion, a fall of nearly 40 percent in just five years.
- Industry forecasters predict another 22 percent drop by 2020
- Fairfax Media Group redundancies have cost the company $70m over two years
- NewsCorp to save $40 million in cost cutting – ie. Staff redundancies
Interestingly, recent industry figures also show the other side of the picture:
- Online advertising market has grown from nothing to $6 billion and it is growing at 25 per cent a year (over the past few years)
- Digital search engines such as Google and Bing, are now pulling $2.8 billion a year, which is $400 million more than the entire newspaper market.
- Digital display advertising, which includes Facebook, is at $2.1 billion.
But the ongoing transformation of the Australian media landscape is not an isolated case.
A similar trend is also unfolding in the US. According to recent data from the Pew Research Center, newspaper circulation in America has also been falling. Here are some statistics from the fact tank:
- Newspaper weekday circulation fell 7 percent
- Sunday newspaper circulation down by 4 per cent
- Newspaper advertising revenue dropped by 8 percent in 2014-2015
But like other industries that have been through colossal changes and massive disruptions, the media industry is entering another stage and paving the way for new players.
If you look closely, while Australian newspapers have gradually been dwindling and scaling back (fewer pages and smaller print size) over the past few years, online media companies are proliferating and have expanded their presence in Australia.
In less than five years, three international media companies have set up shop in Australia through partnerships with existing media operators. They are:
The Guardian – launched its Australian operation in May 2013 which is now part of the online presence of the global online publication and the British newspaper, The Guardian. The Australian site came after The Guardian US was published in 2011.
According to The Guardian website, the expansion to Australia made sense given the fact that the British site was already popular with Australian audiences. It also reported that Australia ranks as The Guardian’s 4th largest market with an estimated 1.3 million users per month.
Business Insider – an American-owned business news site, launched Business Insider Australia in April 2013. Aside from Australia, Business Insider has also expanded in other markets including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, Italy, and the UK.
Business Insider started as a blog site and became a news aggregator site, which means it mostly carries news and other items from other news sources.
The rise of aggregator sites is one of the offshoots of the internet. The idea behind these sites is to summarise and provide a synopsis of major news items on one site.
So instead of going to individual sites of the likes of Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal – what news aggregators do is offer the major news items and headlines from other major sources and repackage them in easy to read and summarised form.
Huffington Post – one of the most successful and profitable new media companies, Huffington Post signed a partnership deal with Fairfax Media Group in February 2015. Executives from both companies said the joint venture is in a good position to dominate the online media space in competition with The Guardian.
In her blog post announcing the launch of HuffPost Australia, founder Arianna Huffington said: “HuffPost Australia will be dedicated to producing great original reporting about the critical issues that Australians face, and to telling stories that focus on helping Australians live more fulfilling lives, while opening up our blogging platform to voices from all across the country to start a conversation on the topics that matter to Australians most.”
Given Huffington Post’s global presence and popularity, Huffington Post Australia aims to break into the top 10 websites (in Australia) once it begins offering specific local Australian content combined with its existing global news and opinion content.
In an article about how newspapers are trying to cope with the onslaught of the internet, The Economist magazine wrote that: “The internet may kill newspapers; but it is not clear if that matters. For society, what matters is that people should have access to news, not that it should be delivered through any particular medium; and, for the consumer, the faster it travels, the better.”
The same article noted that there are no signs of falling demand for news. And the good thing is technology has cut the cost of collecting and distributing news.
In fact, you don’t even need newspapers to read the news these days.
Nowadays, news, information, entertainment can be found almost everywhere. From blogs to forums and social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – almost everything online has some component of news. No wonder readers and audiences are deserting print publications.
Another pulling factor that works for online and digital channels is the richness and variety of formats that they can offer. While newspapers are limited to text, photos and some illustrations at times, online media channels can offer video, sound, animations and other interactive elements that are more engaging to readers.
For marketers and advertisers, the growing popularity of these new media channels may provide the answer to their search for their now dispersed target audiences.
There’s no doubt these new media companies are optimising digital technology and capitalising on the still increasing popularity of social media as they vie for audience support.
One of the offshoots of digital technology is the arrival of programmatic advertising/media buying, which helps advertisers automate and optimise their media spend.
Unlike in the days of print media buying when advertisers had to commit to long-running campaigns that were not readily measurable, programmatic advertising gives marketers and advertisers more control and the flexibility to adjust their campaigns almost on a real-time basis.
According to Gil Snir, Chief Marketing Officer at Benchmarketing, programmatic advertising offers an automated solution to what used to be a tedious and manual process.
And for advertisers, this means savings in both time and money. It also means much more flexibility in reaching audiences and serving them up with the most appropriate and targeted messages and information.
Marketers and advertisers are not the only ones affected by the changing media landscape.
PR professionals who deal with journalists on a daily basis, also have to contend with the massive changes affecting the industry.
With most newspapers operating with less editorial staff, it is getting more difficult and competitive to get media coverage. At the same time, with journalists pressured to write more articles on tighter deadlines, coverage of some issues and topics can get sacrificed.
For PR professionals, the switch to digital and online media also means cultivating and establishing new channels and contacts. It also means adjusting and repackaging their messages and information to fit the new media channels.
We will be keen to discuss and find out how we can help you reach your goals and objectives in this competitive marketplace.
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