[LINK] News, paper-based and digital
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Mar 26 03:10:04 EST 2012
In Australia the Audit Bureau is now allowing online newspaper views
to count in circulation figures. This could be the tipping point for
a paper-to-digital transition of traditional print news in Australia?
Fairfax's retreat may be a gain for News
by: Darren Davidson From: The Australian March 26, 2012 12:00AM
FAIRFAX Media is stepping up its retreat from traditional print
circulation, using a new measurement system from the Audit Bureau of
Circulations to try to offset what could become a problematic message for
advertisers as it tries to cut costs and quit low-yielding sales and high-
cost regional distribution of its metropolitan mastheads.
In what could be seen as a tipping point in competition between the two
newspaper rivals Fairfax Media and News Limited (publisher of The
Australian), Fairfax is fast-tracking the use of the Audit Bureau data to
buttress an aggressive digital strategy, but one News executives hope
will hand News's metro titles a new competitive advantage, particularly
in regional areas.
The move comes as Audit Bureau members voted in a major change to its
system of measurement last week, allowing publishers for the first time
to add unduplicated sales for digital to traditional print sales to
provide a total masthead circulation.
The adoption of the audit changes comes as Fairfax Media looks to boost
digital subscriptions of its titles, including The Sydney Morning Herald,
while allowing its print circulation to decline. And the relaunched
Sydney Sun-Herald yesterday provided evidence of this new targeted
approach, making a virtue of its quality AB audience.
"We're actively managing down unprofitable circulation, and where
appropriate we're substituting with digital subscriptions," Jack
Matthews, chief executive of Fairfax's Metro Media, said.
But critics of the strategy say Fairfax is attempting to put a gloss on
its rapid circulation declines on titles such as the SMH.
"We're managing circulation decline, so there's no argument in
artificially propping up print decline," Mr Matthews said. "There is no
masking here. We're a news-centric business model."
Media has learnt that Fairfax began offering the SMH and Sun-Herald's
education subscribers the opportunity to swap their print subscription
for a digital edition last October, when it was expected a vote by Audit
Bureau members on digital circulation would take place in November.
But a change in leadership at the top of News, when Kim Williams became
chief executive, pushed the vote back to last week.
The managing director of Nationwide News, Michael Miller, questioned
whether Fairfax's strategy would have any merit with advertisers.
"They're exploring new digital sales channels such as education, and it
will be interesting to see how the advertising market responds to a large
number of education digital sales," he said.
Two of Australia's largest media buying agencies agreed the two
publishers were diverging in their strategy. "How publishers deal with
those changes is important," said Henry Tajer, executive chairman of
"Most of the ad dollars being ploughed into print are being subjected to
a greater level of transparency. You can bag Fairfax for trying to mask
print circulation or you can applaud them for making the digital journey."
Nick Keenan, MediaCom's department head, Melbourne, implementation
planning and investment, said Fairfax was engaged in a strategy of trying
to convince the market its future was predominantly digital-based.
"Structurally, they're only just starting to sell the total masthead.
What you're seeing is Fairfax shoring up all of the fences so the market
stops focusing on the print, and instead on collective eyeballs across
all platforms. They're saying, 'Stop buying us as print'," Mr Keenan said.
But media buyer Simon Davies, head of print at OMD, said digital
subscribers could be worth less than print subscribers.
"Digital subscribers have a different value to print subscribers and
we're still negotiating rates around the different digital platforms
versus the print side.
"The pricing for digital is generally lower but it depends on the
product. For example, some apps are replicas of newspapers with the same
ads and level of exposure," Mr Davies said.
Mr Matthews defended the decision to push its education subscribers from
print to digital. "In a fragmented market, advertisers look for targeted
opportunities. It still makes sense for some advertisers. But it's kind
of irrelevant because they still get eyeballs on a digital platform and
the education market offers more valued-added opportunities than a print
product can offer in terms of interactivity and depth of content," he
In the most recent ABC figures The Sydney Morning Herald was down 12 per
cent year on year for its Monday to Friday editions and 7.5 per cent on
Saturday, while the Sun-Herald was down 8.2 per cent to 406,000 copies.
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