When the first Australian television broadcast was launched in September 1956, it revolutionised the way people accessed news and entertainment. Suddenly newspapers and radio had a competitor. The three branches of media settled into a relatively comfortable co-existence and weathered many ups and downs, but perhaps the greatest challenge is happening now with the explosion of on-line content.
The online shift has forced media organisations to change their business model, with the print media being hardest-hit.
The latest newspaper circulation figures released early July revealed print sales were down 7.1% year-on-year. As a contrast, newspapers are seeing increases in their on-line readers, even for content behind their paywalls. The Australian’s digital subscribers rose by 27% on the last quarter while 150,000 people use The Age and Sydney Morning Herald iPad apps each day. *
The challenge for the Fairfax organisation is to move a large slice of the 2.8 million people who access the Sydney Morning Herald’s website each month across to a pay model.* The success of The Australian indicates people are willing to read their daily news on-line and pay for the privilege.
The move to on-line content has also opened up the opportunity for overseas-based newspapers to break-into the Australian market. The Guardian launched its Australian digital edition in May with the most recent figures showing the UK newspaper had 1.1 million Aussie readers.** It will be a test of the commitment of the financial backers of the Australian version, as they seek to convert those free-access readers to paying customers.
As newspaper circulations continue to decline, media organisations have been forced to consolidate their newsrooms. The Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance estimates more than 2,000 journalists have left the media since 2008. In the U.S approximately 40 per cent of journalists have left the industry over the past 10 years***. Staff cuts have hit all branches of the media, including television. In recent months, Channel 10 made up to 100 redundancies and the Nine Network and Fox Sport have followed.****
Journalists are now under increasing pressure to cover more stories for a greater number of on-line channels. And there are also time pressures as deadlines are by the minute, not by the end of the day.
News organisations are also competing with the plethora of blogs, websites, and social channels such as Facebook and Twitter which provide an even greater source of “citizen-journalism” news and information.
The good news for ‘traditional media’ is that established media organisations are still seen as one of the most trusted sources of information. Latest research suggests 57% of people trust newspapers and online news sites for political information*****.
Even if a story breaks on Twitter, it’s the major news sites, owned by newspapers, radio and television stations, where people seek to verify if the information is correct. And perhaps this is the future for Australian media – to become a valued and trusted source for information on-line. A valuable service we are all willing to pay for.
*The Audit Bureau of Circulations July 2013
** Nielsen July 2013
***The Australian, July 15 2013
**** Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
***** Essential Research July 2013