Opinion | Features
- The coming wave of media consolidation could push Ten into the arms of News Corp, Seven into bed with Fairfax Media and Nine with WIN, predicts Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes
A long while back, I had lunch with the father of an English Premier League footballer. He confided that his son would be replacing my club's top striker.
None of this had appeared in the transfer-obsessed tabloid sports pages. And nor did it for several months. But the transfer eventually unfolded in exactly the way he told me it would.
It was eye-opening to realise just how far in advance top level deals are stitched up.
I've a hunch that a similar process has been occurring in relation to Australian media ownership. The landscape is about to see some radical change. And I suspect that hands have already been shaken on many of the deals.
It's starting to seem likely that communications minister Malcolm Turnbull will do away with the key rules around media ownership, covering the percentage of the population any individual TV network can reach, and the rule that in any given city, media owners can hold no more than two out of three of newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. Instead, it will be a simpler test from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on whether a deal reduces competition.
The signals from Turnbull and PM Tony Abbott got louder over the weekend.
Several people in this picture of the media bosses' summit tweeted by Turnbull on Friday may well be colleagues before the year is out
So let's speculate on where the consolidation will happen. And yes, this is all speculation.
1. News Corp buys Network Ten. (And maybe Nova)
Why does this makes sense?
First, the people and the history.
Ten's chairman is Lachlan Murdoch, who also owns about 9% of the broadcaster.
He is, as most readers will be aware, the son of News Corp's executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and is himself on the board of News Corp.
Ten's CEO is Hamish McLennan, who moved into the job after the firing of James Warburton. McLennan previously worked directly for Rupert Murdoch in New York in the role of executive vice president of the Office of the Chairman.
Ten is a solid customer of News Corp's sibling 21st Century Fox (the chairman and CEO is Rupert Murdoch, and Lachlan Murdoch is also on the board of this company too.)
Among 21st Century Fox's assets airing on Ten are The Simpsons plus the output of Shine Australia including Masterchef, The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor and So You Think You Can Dance.
Speaking of Shine, a habit begins to emerge when it comes to Rupert Murdoch's children and their businesses.
Back in 1995, Paul Barry reports in his book Breaking News, James Murdoch worked with friends on hip hop record label Rawkus Records. According to Barry, News Corp bought a half share for $20m, bringing James back into the family business.
Then there's Shine, the extremely successful TV production house created by Elisabeth Murdoch. She was brought back into the family business when News Corp bought Shine for a reported $675m in 2011.
So Murdoch conspiracists would certainly be able to point to the purchase of Ten as a means for Rupert Murdoch to bring Lachlan back into the fold - if Lachlan is willing to allow that to happen.
Some sensible heads within News Corp point out that if Lachlan wanted to return then it wouldn't need to be on the back of a complex media deal. More important would be whether he wanted to - he suddenly left the organisation in 2005 over what has since been characterised as losing a power battle with US TV execs. He reportedly told his father that he needed to "be my own man".
So a question could be whether he feels he has achieved that.
And while Ten is currently a ratings mess, the picture is more complex that Lachlan Murdoch's critics draw. His radio company (recently rebranded from DMG to Nova Entertainment) is unquestionably a success. Nova can claim to be the top ratings national commercial network and its second network smoothfm is also doing well. (The only woman in the picture above is Cathy O'Connor, CEO of Nova Entertainment.)
There's more history too. Rupert Murdoch was behind the creation of the Ten Network as it is today. He had to sell in the mid 1980s when he became a US citizen.
Should a deal happen which saw Ten become part of News Corp, it would also help answer a question which has been hanging since last year.
When Kim Williams was axed as CEO of News Corp Australia, his replacement was the previously retired Julian Clarke. It felt like a caretaker appointment. With the exception of Hamish McLennan, or indeed Lachlan Murdoch himself, no obvious successor for Clarke has emerged since.
Other clues come from the News Corp newspapers themselves. You wouldn't, for example, know just how badly Ten has been performing based on the coverage in The Australian and the tabloids (last week was one of its worst for ratings share in its history). They've been supportive of Ten, to say the least.
And just as intriguing has been the treatment of former Murdoch family rival James Packer. The papers have been very positive about his Barangaroo Sydney casino proposals. Packer left the Ten board over Murdoch's poaching from Seven of James Warburton. But he still has a stake of about 9% that he'd need to agree to sell. It's helpful that News Corp have been so good to him recently.
If it does happen - and personally I now think it more likely than not - it will raise a couple more questions.
What of Nova Entertainment? That would depend on the new ownership rules of course. I'm sure News Corp would want it to become part of the stable too. But given the relatively small revenues of radio compared to TV, it might be treated as a battle not worth dying in a ditch for.
And how about News Corp's half share (with Telstra) in Foxtel? You could make an argument that a merged sales operation (as has already been speculated upon) between Foxtel's sales house MCN and ten could actually create more competition in the TV market because it would create a third giant to stand up to Seven and Nine.
But would the ownership of Foxtel change? Telstra's probably not a seller. So would News sell to Telstra at the right price, particularly if it was back in the free-to-air game? That one's a big call given that 21st century Fox has pay TV investments in other parts of the world, even if there is speculation that it could sell down its BSkyB stake in the UK, pssibly to Vodafone.
2. Seven West Media buys Fairfax Media (And Prime)
I'm not the first one to call this. Credit goes to former ACP boss Colin Morrison, who blogged about the possibility earlier this year.
The fit would be a good one. Putting The West Australian (which remains profitable) into the same newspaper family as The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review makes sense. So does sharing news gathering for Fairfax's network of talk radio stations including 3AW in Melbourne and 2UE in Sydney with Seven News. Suddenly Yahoo!7 would have much more of an offering.
"Many Australian media observers expect a change in the ownership of Fairfax. And who better to co-operate with the feisty [Fairfax shareholder] Gina Rinehart than fellow Perth billionaire Kerry Stokes? The possibility gains traction with Seven West’s newest non-executive director who was formerly CEO of PBL and a director of Fairfax. A Seven West-Fairfax combination could become a formidable multimedia player on the domestic and global stage."There's a little more to fuel this. Fairfax boss Greg Hywood has urged changes in the ownership laws. And there was a fascinating paragraph in this weekend's lengthy piece in the AFR on the Fairfax turnaround story. Having clearly spent some time with Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood, the authors James Chessell and Jake Mitchell wrote: "Amid the change brought about by an increasingly digital world, relationships will be critical for traditional media companies. News Corp’s mastheads have strong links with not just Foxtel but Ten Network Holdings, whose chairman is Lachlan Murdoch. Fairfax has made no secret of the fact it would be willing to join forces with the right partner. With much of the hard work done, Hywood, along with other media bosses and Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, is pushing for ownership laws to be relaxed. " As I read it, I couldn't help think that I was seeing Hywood's own thinking leaking through. Then there's Prime, whose regional NSW, Victorian and ACT stations are already Seven affiliates. Once the population reach rules change, it seems an obvious move, given that Seven already has a stake. The only slightly weird thing in recent days has been the sudden exit by Prime shareholder Paul Ramsay. There seems to not have yet been an obvious explanation for why he would exit now, just before the ownership rules change which would inevitably have made his shares more valuable. Again it feels like an unannounced deal might already have been in place. 3. Nine buys WIN In many ways, this is the most obvious of the lot. WIN recently sold its metro stations in Perth and Adelaide to Nine. Already, there are signs that the direct ownership is making the network more competitive with Seven in the two states. There are indications that the networks are beginning to shift from a metro audience sales message to a national one. Increasingly, it would be strategically sensible for the big three networks (or at the very least Seven and Nine) to directly own the regional stations too. Last year, the possibility emerged that Nine could buy or merge with Southern Cross Media Group's TV assets. But this faded when the Labor government fell without changing the ownership laws. In June, Southern Cross re-signed affiliation agreements with Ten for a further three years, which also makes any imminent deal seem less of a goer. All of this is of course speculation. But a handful of people already know what's probably going to happen. Now we've just got to wait for them to tell us. Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella
- As the calls for stricter regulation of alcohol advertising to protect children heat up Mike O'Rourke argues changes to advertising will do nothing without changing behaviour at home. Hi, my name is Mike O’Rourke and I ask my kids to pass me beers. I drink alcoholic beverages at home, and yes, I have also been guilty of asking my kids to go to the fridge for me. And when we have guests I angst about what wine we’ll serve as much what food we’ll eat. And the rhetorical discussions with my son over whether I should get 2 bags of ice or just the one (the answer’s always two). Like most Australian families, alcohol plays a large part in my home life. [caption id="attachment_211982" align="alignright" width="234"] O'Rourke[/caption] The Australian National Preventive Health Agency has urged a crackdown on alcohol advertising in sport and on television, cinemas and billboards in order to reduce the harmful drinking culture in Australia. Following the release of a national report, the ANPHA was tasked with assessing the current system of regulation around alcohol marketing and advertising. The report by the ANPHA argues that alcohol advertising and marketing is fuelling a dangerous and unhealthy culture of drinking that is reaching children and adolescents. In addition, Australia’s current system for protecting them from this advertising is inadequate. As a result, the nation’s health watchdog has called for alcohol advertising on pay TV and in cinemas to be prohibited before 8:30pm. The agency has also floated the idea that billboard advertising of alcohol should be banned within 500m of a school. Carlton United Breweries argues that the biggest influencer for children is not a logo on a football shirt, but the behaviour of their parents and that’s why education is critical. Children’s exposure and attitudes towards alcohol are more likely to be developed in the home by watching their parents rather than through any advertising. I whole-heartedly agree. I need to change my ways, and so do many other Australian families. I’m sure these regulations won’t achieve much more than making a few people feel better about themselves. But I’ve gotta say, I am sick of watching the footy with my kids through a mine-field of drinking and gambling promotions. And if alcohol advertising is to be banned within 500m of schools, how about any product with a high sugar content as well? Personally, that’s what I’m more concerned about. The reality is, legislation will inevitably come and you can’t blame the alcohol companies for fighting every step of the way. If blanket sponsorships and bulk media buys within sporting broadcasts are taken away, every ad agency is just going to devise new and innovative ways of getting their message through to large and targeted audiences. Any ad agency worth their salt will already be in their boardroom with a solution and would have seen these changes coming for a while. Alcohol has been a part of Australian media for as long as advertising has been in this country and brands aren’t going to stop looking for ways to communicate and connect with audiences. Whether it’s new formatting or new messaging, don’t think that you’ve seen the last of these brands on outdoors and on our screens. Mike O'Rourke is the Creative Partner at Sydney creative agency Bloke.
- Ashton Bishop and Gary Wilkinson argue how the actions of former BP chief Tony Hayward during the Gulf of Mexico oil crisis should be a wake up call to stressed marketers and those that work with them. In 2010 after over 455 million litres of oil had already poured into the Gulf off the Louisiana coast and millions of litres more continued to escape every day, Tony Hayward, the CEO of oil giant BP, and the public face of the environmental disaster, decided to take part in an exclusive yacht race off the Isle of Wight. There was outrage. Social media, already heavily critical of BP’s poor response to the catastrophe, got worse. Hayward’s behaviour was seen as arrogant, stupid and insulting. This is a man with a PhD who had risen to be CEO of one of the world’s largest corporations. But maybe he was also normal. By this we mean he was doing what the vast majority of people do when under extreme stress – reverting to a “normalcy bias”. Under extreme stress our brain has a tendency to slow down information processing. The suggestion is that this is linked to tonic immobility – a survival instinct of freezing to fool a predator into believing its prey isdead. For the majority of humans in extremely stressful situations this can lead to an abnormal calmness and a pretence that nothing is wrong – even a search for normality rather than appropriate protective behaviour. The highest number of fatalities due to a plane crash (prior to 9/11) occurred when two Boeing 747s collided on the runway at Tenerife Airport in1977. As fire and smoke engulfed one of the planes, passengers who were physically capable of leaving just sat there. They were ‘milling’ – instead of taking action they were looking for reassurance that everything was OK. It cost them their lives. In contrast, one of the passengers, Paul Heck, grabbed his wife’s hand and headed for the exit. He was one of 70 survivors – 328 died on the plane. And don’t think you’re immune. Statistics across multiple crashes suggest the general behavior in a plane crash is 70% suffer normalcy bias, 15% get hysterical and 15% react, like Heck, and survive. And it’s the self-serving bias that makes us think that this won’t happen to us. Over the last 30 years, research has shown that we all think we are more competent than our co-workers, more ethical than our friends, friendlier than the general public, more intelligent than our peers, more attractive than the average person, younger looking than people our same age, better drivers than most people we know, better children than our siblings, and that we'll live longer than the average lifespan. And if as you read that you went, ‘No! I don't think I'm better than everyone’ then you can add, ‘I'm more honest with myself than the average person’. The point is that we are likely to have clients and colleagues who for whatever reason will experience extreme stress in their role during a potentially disastrous situation – perhaps due to a Black Swan event (a rare event that is unforeseen and not planned for) or a cumulative buildup of pressure. So what will a CEO or CMO with a potential disaster looming do? There is a good chance they’ll seek reassurance that all is OK when the truth is it clearly isn’t. As paid advisors or trusted colleagues what can we do to ensure the right action is taken? Being prepared for disasters is one thing – having a plan of action will on occasion lead to the required action. But not always – those on the Tenerife plane who stayed seated had seen the same safety demonstration as Paul Heck. Hayward himself had previously noted after a BP Texas City refinery blast that killed 15 - "We have a leadership style that is too directive and doesn't listen sufficiently well. The top of the organisation doesn't listen sufficiently to what the bottom is saying." He was on his way to become CEO. So information and planning is not always enough to overcome the search for normality. Telling a stressed CEO/CMO that all is not OK may well lead to them seeking reassurance elsewhere and you being cut out of future decisions or the whole relationship. If you say or do nothing then you may simply invoke the ‘bystander effect’. Social psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley showed in 1970 that people are less likely to help others in distress the more witnesses or bystanders there are. So you need to say and do at the same time. But what to do? We believe the answer may well lie in the findings by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University. In a series of experiments they showed that people who do not have the skill set to solve a problem consistently overestimate their ability to do so. They also underestimate the skills of others to solve theproblem. In contrast, those who are skilled tend to underestimate their ownability. The point is, if your client or a colleague is in trouble and you haven’t been through a similar experience or been trained in the area (Dunning and Kruger also found that training led to a more accurate self-assessment of skill level) you probably can’t directly help. Find someone within the organisation or a specialist advisor with experience in handling the issue. Engage them early (‘milling’ delays action) as you don’t want to get to the ‘nothing we can do’ point. Follow their advice and let them be the guide to action – don’t underestimate their skills. If you have been through a similar situation don’t underestimate your own ability to determine the right thing to do. And if you’re the one in trouble quickly find your own version of Paul Heck to take you by the hand and lead you to safety – every second counts. Ashton Bishop is the head of strategy at Step Change Marketing and Gary Wilkinson is a behavioural psychologist and founder of Bliss Point Research.
- Recent pieces on Mumbrella around charity street fundraisers have stirred debate about the pros and cons of the practice. Here Angela Brooks looks at what the statistics show is the best way of fundraising. Following Mumbrella’s recent stories on the pro’s and con’s of ‘chuggers’, I thought it may be of value to reveal what the statistics show is the best fundraising strategy for charities and how to secure more out of the Australian hip pocket. The results will surprise many. [caption id="attachment_211562" align="alignright" width="234"] Brooks[/caption] For over 20 years McNair Ingenuity Research has conducted an annual survey on the awareness and support of major charities. This subscription survey allows charities to understand where they sit in the market, recognise what motivates donors, how to secure the most donations for the investment made and other key strategies. It tells us is that in fact street fundraising or ‘chugging’, while tempting to many charities as an obviously cost effective choice, is not the most successful option. Rather a mix of media awareness, supported by direct targeted approaches, such as door to door or direct mail campaigns, keeps the investment lower and the donor level and contribution high. In this day and age with literally thousands of different charities to support, and the average number of charities that a person donates to 3.3, there is little room to get the marketing mix wrong. Charities, like their commercial counterparts, must continuously look for creative ways to effectively fundraise. Since most people are likely to donate to the charities that they know best, the first and foremost consideration is AWARENESS if you want more donors. The results clearly demonstrate that the number of donors positively correlates with top of mind, unprompted awareness. Generally respondents remember three to five charities when asked and donate to the same number and usually the same charities. To gain awareness charities can use one of two methods: 1. Media and communication tools such as advertising, social media or public relations campaigns 2. Targeted approaches such as face to face in the street or door knocking, direct mail or email campaigns. The first method is expensive and most charities can only afford to run media campaigns once a year at most. Over the years McNair Ingenuity Research has evaluated the effect of a variety of awareness campaigns for charities and the lessons learned are the same – provide a clear strong message and ensure that you have enough media weight to reach your target audience. It is the second method that is more interesting. There is a strong positive correlation between being directly approached and donating. The benefit of targeted approaches is that it builds awareness as well as revenue, achieving two goals for the price of one. However, our data shows that there has been a steady decline in direct approaches, with 66 per cent of people saying they have been approached by a charity in the last year, down from 88 per cent in 2009. Are charities too afraid to ask directly for money? Perhaps they do not know how to ask? The way people are asked to donate is critical and different donation methods will result in different outcomes. The data from our annual survey tells us that the most popular way to give to charities is by donating to collection tins (72 per cent say they are likely to donate this way). On the other hand only 26 per cent of respondents will sign up to make a regular donation when approached on the street by ‘Chuggers’. 53 per cent are likely to give to a door to door appeal. Interestingly, the two charities (Salvation Army and Red Cross) that regularly conduct door to door appeals, have the highest awareness AND the most number of donors, coupled with media campaigns that advertise the door knock appeals. But there is another essential consideration. Those charities that are most successful at getting the most number of donors are also likely to have the lowest average donation amount. The top 5 charities by number of donors are: Red Cross, Salvation Army, Cancer Council, St Vincent de Paul and Heart Foundation. The average donation to each of these charities ranges from $51 - $63, whereas number six on the list, World Vision, gains an average donation of $376 per person. How? They use sponsorship as their major fundraising activity to ensure the highest per capita donations. [caption id="attachment_211560" align="aligncenter" width="468"] Donations by charity - McNair Ingenuity research March 2013[/caption] People who give by the most popular method of donation, collection tins, will average about $194.00 per year in donations. People who give door to door will average $206.40 per year, but people who make regular donations by their credit cards will donate more than twice that amount in year ($444.40). World Vision Australia has a stranglehold on the market, consistently receiving between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of all money donated to development NGO’s. What makes World Vision successful is their high awareness, built by the use of strong media campaigns over many years, and a high-price revenue model. Thus it’s clear that for a charity to successfully fund raise it needs to make a long term investment in media to increase top of mind awareness, supported by direct approaches to keep their donor level high. If the charity is making a direct approach the evidence suggests that the most effective option is either door to door or by direct mail and using a credit card to secure payment. Angela Brooks is a senior consultant, specialising in the not for profit sector at McNair Ingenuity Research
- In response to Adam Ferrier's article on whether advertising spin is actually OK, TV luminary Nick Murray argues it is not. As Adam Ferrier correctly points out in his wonderfully provocative article the ABC's consumer affairs show The Checkout takes aim at brands which charge more for products marketed by preying on desires and fears in nearly every episode. I make TV shows including The Checkout, so I thought I'd give a non marketer's perspective. The Checkout isn't saying advertising is bad, nor that creating demand or triggering aspirational thoughts is sinful - there is nothing inherently dishonest about advertising a more glamorous pack and fragrance so everyone feels better about the product and hence themselves. We are saying it is wrong or at least questionable for corporations to con and frighten their own customers into buying exactly the same product at vastly different prices based simply on different words on the label. This week The Checkout highlights Allergan eye drops which are more than twice the price compared to exactly the same product, simply because one bottle mentions "Contact Lenses". To me, this is calculated corporate fraud, rather than harmless marketing to create demand. It can't be brushed away with the argument that ripping off consumers is good for the economy. A cursory examination of the companies doing the conning, reveals that a large proportion of them are foreign. That in itself isn't terrible either. But if the argument is that paying extra for the same thing stimulates the economy, it would be good if the profits from the rip-off stayed here. [caption id="attachment_211325" align="alignright" width="234"] Murray[/caption] But companies like Johnson & Johnson (Baby Skincare), Allergan (Refresh Eye Drops), Reckitt Benckiser (Nurofen) are foreign operations. So whatever stimulus effect unnecessarily paying extra for their product creates, it evaporates into the offshore operations. In fact, depending on the tax structure of the company, they may not even pay tax on these additional profits in Australia or indeed anywhere. And if stealing money from unwitting consumers can save the planet's finite resources, then this doesn't explain why Allergan can overprice an essential product for contact lens users. The same resources are used in both products. You can buy a bottle of Allergan Refresh "Tears Plus" for $7.30 instead of Allergan Refresh "Contacts" for $15.80 - they are exactly the same product but one costs 216 per cent more than the other. At The Checkout, we don't think this is the fault of advertising, it's plain old profiteering by the manufacturer (or "Brand"). That, in turn, is ripping off customers and leaving them with less to spend on the categories that do spend money on advertising - like beer and pizza. Last year Nick Murray spoke to Encore about making The Checkout. Nick Murray is managing director or production company CJZ and executive producer of The Checkout.
- After starting the year with improved ratings and an air of optimism audience shares have declined severely for Network Ten. Megan Reynolds spoke to industry insiders to find out where it went wrong. Secrets and Lies was one of the most anticipated dramas of the year, which has already been picked up by production companies in the US and UK, launched to 403,000 metro viewers on Channel Ten last night. While those numbers may be disappointing for executives in the Pyrmont offices, they are higher than it has been getting for established reality show The Biggest Loser and the revived So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). In the week after the Winter Olympics Ten's total network audience share dropped from 18.8 per cent, to 14.4 per cent. This included the main channel's worst-ever rating night, where it took just 6.4 per cent of the audience. The strategy [caption id="attachment_211117" align="alignright" width="234"] McLennan talks to Tim Burrowes at 360[/caption] Ratings issues are not new at Ten, and cost CEO James Warburton the top job after just 13-months, following a string of flops with shows including Don’t Tell the Bride, The Shire and Being Lara Bingle. When Hamish McLennan stepped up as CEO last February he set out a clear strategy to chase the older demographic of 25-54s and launch programs that would appeal to that age group by making Ten the home of “event TV”. Live sport would be the backbone of the network, with other live reality shows and Australian drama that would hold and build an audience feeding off that. In executing that strategy, Ten acquired Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League Twenty/20 competition from rivals Nine for a reported $100m. This gave the network live cricket across the uncompetitive summer season in prime time slots, winning over 1m total viewers for key games, and being hailed as an “outstanding success” by McLennan. The Winter Olympics in Sochi were another smart last-minute acquisition for the network, believed to have been cost it around $7m and returning an audience of around 700,000 viewers for the blue-riband events. However, its overall audience was estimated to be just three per cent down on the numbers Nine received for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, despite many events featuring high-profile Australian competitors like Torah Bright and Alex Pullin in friendlier timeslots than those in Canada, Fusion Media Analysis found. Ten was not able to capture the extra eyeballs that came to the channel for this sport, and in the week following the Winter Games, Ten’s total audience share stood at 14.4 per cent, according to OzTam. Why did this happen? While executives across the industry agreed Ten’s coverage of the Big Bash had been “solid” and gave them a foundation to build on, many agreed the network made fundamental mistakes in its scheduling around the Sochi Games. The first problem they pointed to was Ten dividing its audience between its main channel Ten and digital channel One by simulcasting coverage of some key events at the Games. The second was the strategy to launch shows before and during the Games, including The Biggest Loser on January 19 and So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) on February 10. The Sochi opening ceremony took place on February 7, the same day as the final of the Big Bash League. One senior executive at a competitor network told Mumbrella: “The Winter Olympics is there as a platform to bring you new audiences through your channel and as all the new eyeballs come through to sample the Games, that’s an opportunity for you to talk to more consumers. “They should have gone hard with the Winter Olympics, they should not have launched any programs while the Olympics were on. They should have waited for the Games to end and then come out and launched all of their formats in a big explosive week.” They pointed to the examples of Seven and Nine which promote shows during the Australian Open and international cricket season as coming ‘after the tennis’ or ‘after the cricket’. “It’s such a proven strategy that it doesn’t sound bad on your network to be saying after the Olympics, it’s a good sound. The Olympics has got credibility in its own right,” they added. They also pointed to the decision to launch formats like The Biggest Loser and SYTYCD against established formats including My Kitchen Rules (MKR) on Seven and The Block on Nine, which both started out with well over 1m metro viewers on January 27. On launch The Biggest Loser had 753,000 on Sunday January 19, but its audience dropped to 560,000 when both rival shows launched a week later. On its last Sunday outing on February 3, The Biggest Loser had a two hour run split between two shows, and both shows were fourth in their timeslots with 525,000 and 616,000 viewers, according to OzTam. Ten then launched its reworked SYTYCD on February 9, against one of the strongest program line-ups of the year on its rival networks: MKR, Sunday Night and then the INXS miniseries on Seven, and The Block, 60 Minutes and the Schapelle telemovie on Nine. The executive added: “There was never going to be room for Ten to compete effectively by trying to launch a new, moderate show up against us all. “They should have just let us go for it, stuck with the Winter Olympics on the main channel and then come out and launched a network post-Winters, making a big noise in their own right.” 'Ten created a fourth network' Another senior programmer pointed out Ten had effectively created a fourth network competitor by dividing its audiences between the main channel and digital channel during the Games. Fusion Media Analysis suggests while around 70 per cent of viewers started watching the Games on the main channel, by the end more than half of the audience had moved to One. The programmer said: “With the Winter Olympics they effectively created a fourth network with One delivering strong share, but then launched shows against primary channels with Sochi on One. “When So You Think You Can Dance launched they were not only competing against My Kitchen Rules, they were also competing with 5/600,000 watching the Olympics on One. “I think the industry were surprised by that move. They should have gone the way Seven had with the tennis where they focused all their attention on the tennis and then promoted shows as ‘after the tennis’ to launch all their shows." Another senior executive suggested the decision to launch shows during the congested period showed “a real lack of television experience at the top end”, adding it seemed to be “marketing executives making decisions - who don’t know what works and what doesn’t.” They added: “Where the shows are placed is critical, so it’s a matter of looking at one show against another and looking at the competition. Seven and Nine are reacting and making changes, but it appears Ten doesn’t necessarily do that. They lock in the schedule and stick to it. “I think it just goes to show it’s how you leverage these big expensive events not just from a revenue point of view, but for shows. It’s a whole range of features; where you place these shows, seizing opportunities, looking closely at demographics, looking at the competition and forming a strategy.” Scheduling Another criticism levelled at Ten was not maintaining a consistent schedule, moving shows like Modern Family, SYTYCD and The Biggest Loser to different times and different days. The programmer pointed to this as Ten missing an opportunity to carve out an audience for its shows, but added the network’s fundamental failing was not reacting to schedules laid out by its competitors. “They really haven’t seized opportunities in identifying time slots where they can particularly grow a show or a night and I think that’s very clear,” they said. "Had Ten launched So You Think You Can Dance or The Biggest Loser on a Thursday night, away from the competition, Ten would have had the opportunity to assess the various time slots and carve out a night where these shows could grow an audience. “You have got to identify a time slot, grow an audience, grow a show, and grow a night. But they are not being reactive enough, and that’s the fundamental problem, that they are not reacting. “When you have got a show with potential like Secrets and Lies, to put it into the firing line up against two big shows with My Kitchen Rules and The Block, it’s really going to be hard to get the traction they need. So it will be interesting to see if Secrets and Lies and Puberty Blues can cut through.” Different demographics Tomorrow night one of Ten’s hits of last year, drama Puberty Blues, returns to the screen. But as former MediaCom chief investment officer Paul Brooks points out, Ten will struggle to build a big audience for the show as it has had no platform to consistently reach over 1m viewers. While Sochi and the Big Bash provided some large audiences, he said the sport was appealing to a different demographic - young men - while So You Think You Can Dance and Puberty Blues are aimed squarely at women. “Unfortunately the type of shows they have this year brings in different viewers, so they get a bit of a sugar rush and a decent performance for those shows but they tend to then go away, so that’s a bit of a problem,” Brooks said. “Viewers are pretty fickle and they need reminding and telling where that content is. It is easier to do when you’ve got shows leveraging between one and two million, but when you haven’t got that it becomes sort of a vicious circle.” Even the popularity of Puberty Blues as a franchise is unlikely to turn the network around, the TV executive said. “You can’t solve their problems by launching a single show. You can’t come out with a Puberty Blues and think that’s going to resurrect a network. You need a big platform of either news and current affairs and or sport to resurrect yourself, because you need something to hang yourself off, and they don’t have anything,” they said. Ten is still relevant However some in the market are optimistic Ten can remain a viable third player in the free-to-air battle. Ian Perrin, CEO of media agency Zenith Optimedia said: “It’s about timing new franchises and they have to find something that will resonate for the Australian public like The Voice, as MasterChef once did. “But they have some good content people and they have a good, secure, smart strategy so it’s just a matter of time.” Despite the poor ratings Brooks said Ten still has a role to play from an advertisers’ perspective, providing competition for the dominant Seven and Nine networks, and in a viewers lives as well. “It’s just going to take time,” he said. “It will need consistency from a leadership perspective, patience and time to be able to build a consistent program strategy. Hopefully at some stage they get a bit of stickiness with a couple of big shows which then gives them something to be able to promote from.” The reaction Ten declined to put up any of its executives to be interviewed for this piece, however a spokesperson for the network defended the decisions, and dismissed suggestions of where Ten could have done better as “sniping” from competitors. “We simulcast some of the Winter Olympics events on both channels to give as many people as possible the opportunity to view. We did not simulcast everything on Ten and One,” he said. They also defended Ten’s choice to schedule shows against My Kitchen Rules and The Block. He said: “The simple fact is we have to compete. We cannot shy away from key ratings nights.” He added: “Our schedule has been consistent. We did promote shows as coming after the Olympics, and we have launched new shows or brought back existing shows in the two weeks after the Olympics and they are still coming, with Puberty Blues 2 coming tomorrow night.”
- In his regular column Adam Ferrier poses a question to the industry. Today he asks is advertising spin as bad as it is made out to be? Advertising is bad right? We coerce people into buying stuff they don’t need. Further, as TV show The Checkout points out (most weeks) we sometimes just put a descriptive word like ‘Baby’, or ‘Premium’ on a certain product, and then charge more for exactly the same thing. For example, all shampoos are basically made of the same stuff – so why are some priced at $3.00 a bottle whilst ‘Premium Salon Quality’ alternatives (at product parity) cost $30 (or more)? Advertising creates perceived value, as Jef Richards said "Advertising is the ‘wonder’ in Wonder Bread", and consumers are more than happy to pay for this image. We will pay significantly more for exactly the same product if it’s wrapped in a layer of aspirational imagery tapping into our desires or fears. So here’s the thing. Advertising is good because it creates demand, and consumers buying stuff represents around 65 per cent of our GDP. Yet we all know: a) consumers don’t need to consume as much as we’d like them to in most categories; b) the world appears to have finite recourses. So perhaps we are better off getting consumers to buy image, rather than stuff. Image doesn’t make you fat. Image doesn’t require fossil fuels to make, or rainforests to be chopped down. Therefore, if we can get people happily paying a higher price for the same product – that’s a good thing. The consumer is happy (placebo’s work), and the corporation gets to have a better profit margin. And the Earth is better off too as people are paying for image – and image uses no fossil fuels to make. Imagine two shampoos both cost $1.50 to make. The first costs $3 to buy, the second, with lots of advertising spin cost $30 to buy. The second one will contribute more to a company's profits, consumers will feel better about its functionality (look up the price placebo) and $30 is contributed to the economy. Take this even further – can we encourage people to just by image with absolutely no related product whatsoever? The economy would be good and the earth safe. So my question is simply. Is the advertising spin, such as that pointed out by The Checkout, not in fact bad, but actually needed? PS for more on perceived value watch this. Adam Ferrier is a consumer psychologist and CSO at independent creative media agency CumminsRoss. @adamferrier
- The industry is once again being asked to get involved in this year's Mumbrella360. Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes explains how This is the fourth time we've done this. It's the moment to fire the starting pistol on Mumbrella360. In the next few days we'll be announcing at least one big new thing for Mumbrella360. But the most important thing remains the same - once again we're inviting the industry to join us in curating the conference. You're reading that invitation right now. Back in 2011, I had a hunch that if we invited the industry to help us create the content of Mumbrella360, we might be able to tap into just a little of the creativity and cleverness that flows within the media and marketing world. The idea was that we'd organise most of the content ourselves (of course) but we'd also hand over 10 or so sessions to volunteers from the industry to share their own visions on the issues and debates we face. We were overwhelmed. A couple of hundred session proposals came in, and hundreds of readers voted on the ones they wanted to hear. We ended up doubling the number of industry-curated sessions to around 20. Many of the best, most memorable sessions over the last three Mumbrella360 conferences have come in that way. From PR crisis simulations, to the Mumbrella Media Manifesto, to the Cock Up Confessional, to the story of the Virgin Airlines rebrand... and plenty more I'm not doing justice to by failing to mention. Thanks in large part to these industry contributions, the conference has since been named conference of the year at the Australian Event Awards. Last year our audited visitor attendance number rose to 1,108. And once again, I'd like to invite you to get involved. The deal is this. Have you got something interesting to say about media and marketing? Then we'd love to hear it. There are at least three ways of getting involved. First, have you got an interesting idea for a whole session and how to stage it? (While four speakers on a panel can sometimes be compelling we love ideas that break away from that.) Who would you be able to involve by reaching out through your own network of contacts or within your own organisation? We love being able to give Mumbrella360 delegates access to the thinking of people they wouldn't get to hear at other events - perhaps because they're based overseas, or don't often speak. Or maybe you've carried out a piece of research that would be relevant to share with our audience. Second, Ten Minute Talks - a new innovation last year - will return. Got a simple point you can make well in less than 10 minutes? We'd love to hear it. Or third, perhaps you believe you can make a contribution to one of the panels we're putting together ourselves. If so, we'd love to add your expertise to our database of potential speakers. This year, we're finally getting organised in how we gather these contributions (you may notice I've been resisting the temptation to use the buzzphrase of crowdsourcing). Simply follow this link, and fill out the form to share your ideas and expertise. We'll keep the callout live for the next four weeks, until March 31. Oh, and why not get Mumbrella360 into your diary now? We're back at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney, this time on June 3, 4 and 5. Did I mention it will now run for three days? More news on what we'll be doing with the extra day will follow soon... Thanks for your support. Tim Burrowes is the content director of Mumbrella
- A new campaign by DrinkWise aimed at encouraging people to drink responsibly actually does the opposite, argues Joel Egan. Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's new campaign, ‘Drinking - do it properly’, is stylish, cool and well executed which ticks all the boxes for them. But I can’t help thinking that DrinkWise could be left picking up the pieces. I enjoyed the video up until exactly 27 seconds when it shifted into a very grey area by talking about a phase when drinking called ‘The realm of drinking excellence’ this is where you feel ‘very, very attractive for a time’ however it can quickly spiral when a drinker then becomes very unattractive. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBnoXi4-8WY So exactly how many drinks does it take to reach this attractive state? The video provides no answers so I guess I should round up the fellas go to a bar and start experimenting to find ‘The realm of drinking excellence’; should be a fun night! What the video does highlight is that video has a direct and powerful way of influencing behaviour and communicating messages. Which is why we will continue to see more organisations like DrinkWise and other community organisations (think Metro Trains’ Dumb Ways to Die) use video to gain the attention of consumers. DrinkWise CEO John Scott told Mumbrella the campaign challenges young adults to stop and self- reflect about how they are drinking saying: “Importantly, it acknowledges that most young adults will drink, but that it’s time to think about drinking properly to stay classy, be in control and use alcohol responsibly. [caption id="attachment_210888" align="alignright" width="187"] Egan[/caption] Let’s not kid ourselves, this video will do nothing to change behaviour, and if that is the purpose of the campaign then it’s a massive fail. However, it is cool and if DrinkWise want to tick the ‘cool’ box then job well done. If they want awareness, job well done. I just can’t help but think the egos of both the agency and client might be stroked but change will be ineffective. Joel Egan is digital director at Edge
- On Friday night Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched Morry Schwartz's The Saturday Paper at a function in Sydney. This is an abridged version of his speech. Just a few years ago in 2008 the president of France Nicholas Sarkosy said: "democracy can not function with a press permanently on the edge of an economic precipice." When the US congressional commerce committee held a hearing into the future of journalism in 2009, its chairman, John Kerry, paraphrased Joseph Pulitzer’s line that “our Republic and its press will rise or fall together”, and added, “Well, certainly the quality of the dialogue in the Republic will.” This anxiety is not misplaced, for surely the work journalists do is as essential to our democracy as the work of legislators, judges and ministers. It is also true that for many years the most important foundations of journalism have been the great metropolitan newspapers. With their lock on classified advertising, “the rivers of gold” as Rupert Murdoch once described them, nobody else had the resources to employ so many reporters, or to dedicate so much space so comprehensively cover the events of the day. As we all know those foundations have been changed. The internet has smashed the business model of those papers by providing a more cost effective platform for advertising. The hyper platform of the internet, of course, challenges all other media – print, radio, free-to-air and subscription television included. But as the launch of The Saturday Paper shows, the rumours of the death of newspapers, even printed ones, appear to be exaggerated. Of course, Pulitzer’s warning about the Republic and the press rising and falling together was not entirely altruistic. He was not only a congressman for a short time, but also one of America’s most famous, and now revered, newspaper proprietors. Not least because of the journalism school he founded at Columbia and the Pulitzer prizes that it established. And, who knows, perhaps Morry Schwartz will do the same as Pulitzer, and run for Parliament? They have so much in common. Both radicals, both idealists, both born in Hungary, both Jewish, and above all, both with ink in their veins. To mangle another line from Apocalypse Now this week: "They love the smell of newsprint in the morning." In Gay Talese’s famous book on The New York Times The Kingdom and the Power he gives a sense of the immense cost of publishing a daily newspaper. That company in 1966 had 5600 employees and devoured an estimated five million trees a year. In Talese’s world newspapers were very near a natural monopoly. The strategy was simple – lower the face value of the newspaper, go for circulation and rely on the high entry costs of the business to keep out competitors. Many American newspapers earned as much as 80 per cent of their revenue from advertising. The share in Australia for newspapers like the Herald and the Age was not quite so high but nonetheless that is what drove them and circulation was a less important figure. Newsrooms could be aloof from the grubbiness of commerce, enjoying the proceeds of the classified rivers of gold with the aloof independence of a duke receiving the rents of his tenant farmers. These days, few newsrooms have the luxury of ignoring where their funding comes from. In large part, the industry is yet to settle on a single model, or even a strategy, that guarantees viability. I’ve often said that within the digital age perhaps the scarcest commodity is attention span. As Mark Thompson CEO of the New York Times said last year: “Every media company faces the same challenge. Imagine their total market by graphing every reader who accesses their product every month on an X axis, on the Y axis is the amount of time they spend reading the news. The total area below that slope represents what can potentially be monetised by media companies.” We are in such a state of flux that it is no longer smart for those companies to have a single approach for all consumers. Those high up on the slope are willing to pay a large amount of money to get a physical copy of the newspaper. That’s why I have always encouraged Michael Stutchbury, who can I say my estimation of Michael Stutchbury has dramatically diminished ever since I read the persistent editorialising in The Australian about of how he never kept his desk clean -- his deficiencies. It's extraordinary. That's the great thing about The Australian -- there is nothing too small... That’s why I have always encouraged Michael Stutchbury, to increase the price of the Financial Review. I tweeted an article on that very good online site Monday Note arguing that newspapers should increase the cover price of their physical papers, to capture as much value from readers who still value physical reading as possible. Chris Mitchell this week noted that although The Australian has 65,000 paying digital subscribers print still accounts for 90 per cent of its revenue. Across the Australian industry, digital revenue still only accounts for nine per cent of all income -- advertising still accounts for 61 per cent and physical circulation accounts for 29 per cent. So it is too early to assume that digital revenue will step into the breach in the ongoing fall in print advertising revenues. Now there are all sort of models for media organisations to survive. Some can be subsidised by great men, like The Australian for example, some can be subsidised by a trust such as The Guardian, some can be subsidised by the taxpayer like the ABC. It is interesting that in the United States philanthropists such as Jeff Bezos are increasingly investing in media companies for the same reasons they might have invested in universities or think tanks – to contribute to the civic life of their communities and without wanting to join the conga line of hagiographers that naturally attend events where people launch newspapers, Morry, it is worth reflecting on this. The contribution you have made to the intellectual life of Australia -- the public debate in Australia -- establishing, supporting and bringing to economic viability The Monthly, The Quarterly Essay and Black Inc alone is an extraordinary one. That’s a remarkable thing to do. You have made an enormous impact. Many people have spent a lot more money a lot less effectively than you. The combination of vision, passions, truths -- you have added immeasurably to the intellectual life of Australia. As a government the one thing we have to focus on is that we are doing everything we can to promote diversity and innovation in the media sector. One of the great ironies of the previous government’s so-called media reforms was that they proposed to counteract media consolidation in an era when the main trend is leading towards diversity. Julia Gillard said at one point we’ve got two newspaper companies who deliver their services online and on the page they take 86 per cent of the Australian market and so there is a degree of concentration. You can only make comments like that if you focus on a subset of news production which covers the physical printing of papers. On the consumption side the story is incredibly different. Over the decade to 2013 the proportion of Australians over the age of 14 reading print only newspapers fell from around 61 per cent to 49 per cent for News Corp title and 25 per cent to 18 per cent for all Fairfax titles. But that doesn't mean people weren't interested in the news. Newspaperworks Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA) shows that newspaper readership is actually up overall due to a seven per cent boost in digital readership. The appetite for journalism is unabated – journalists have more readers than ever, their digital presence amplified by the social media. What is less obvious is how to get paid for it. The boom in digital and digital platforms has rapidly reset the economics of the industry. The truth is if you start, albeit with a print position, you might be able to shed the legacy costs of the old incumbents. It is not small cause for optimism that one of the newest local entrants The Guardian has reportedly exceeded its revenue forecasts by 300 per cent. The bias in the digital age is to competition. News.com.au and the SMH.com.au still retain top places among Australian new sites but compared with the rising class of the Mail Online it has more unique online readers than the Courier Mail. The BBC is the tenth most read news website in Australia while The Guardian and Buzzfeed sit at more than one million readers each month. I think this is a time for enormous optimism and Morry you have given everyone enormous optimism not because you are a rich guy - as Deng Xiaoping it is glorious to be rich - but you not only start these publishing venture but you have actually made them profitable. You are not some demented plutocrat pouring more and more money into a loss making venture that is just going to peddle your opinions. Now I just say to conclude, the truth is to capture the imagination of a reader – to inform, to explain, to amuse and amaze – is still, by and large, an art more than it is a science. It is in this art that I have reason to have an optimistic outlook on newspapers and journalism in Australia. Sharing stories is the most human thing we can do and the long form of journalism you have supported throughout your long publishing career - whether it is in books, essays, The Monthly or now with The Saturday Paper is one of the most pure and most enduring examples of that. On that note, I want to firstly thank you. I mean there is actually nothing more reckless than being a politician launching a newspaper that you have not seen. You worry the headline will be something like: “Turnbull must go”, or “Abbott in disgrace”, I mean you seem to be writing about Manus Island but it seems to be Kevin Rudd who is getting the worst serve. And Kevin, as you know, has a very thick skin… Anyway on note I want to wish you Erik as editor, Morry as proprietor, and all the journalists on The Saturday Paper the best of luck in your endeavours.
- With many struggling to provide insights from Big Data Bryan Melmed puts his money where his mouth is by using it to predict the winner of the Best Picture Oscar. Can big data insights predict the winner of Best Picture at Sunday’s Oscars? We think it can and we are betting the farm on 12 Years a Slave. And this is how we figured it out. [caption id="attachment_210391" align="alignright" width="164"] Melmed[/caption] Firstly, we know that the winners are chosen by less than 6,000 votes, cast by a group the Los Angeles Times discovered are older (86 per cent are over 50), white (94 per cent), and male (77 per cent). By virtue of our data about people who work in the entertainment industry and fit this wealthier, LA based demographic, we know they have a love of sports cars, high-end clothing and exotic destinations. Using this as a starting point, we created lookalike models using 15,290 of the topics on our data platform and, based on their online behaviour, compared the interests of users with a persistent and lasting interest in the movies nominated for Best Picture and those of the Academy panel demographic. Of course this also involves a degree of human supposition and extrapolation. But that is the essence of data; ‘Big’ or small. Regardless of the volume, granularity and quality of available data, you need people who can apply accumulated expert knowledge to unlock the insights that data, even highly contextualised data, suggests. Without this human element the promise of Big Data will never be realised. Four Non-Contenders We were quickly able to scrub Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena, and Nebraska from the race. Captain Phillips is the least popular title searched for in the Hollywood area. The previous film choices of Captain Phillips fans also make it a dud. Its fans also liked Warm Bodies (a romantic zombie comedy), Identity Thief (a crime comedy), and The Last Stand (an action film with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Johnny Knoxville) making it too accessible to be considered. Digital marketers dream date-movie Her, is also a non-starter with a fan base that is far more into science fiction and technology themes (almost 20 times more likely) than the average quinquagenarian of the Academy. They are also just too rich to vote for Philomena. Its fans are the least affluent of the nominees, being 2.8 times more likely to earn less than $50,000 a year. Nebraska sits in a different corner as the true art house favourite, with a young urban audience that is decidedly aspirational – in fact, we see that roughly half are spending well more than they earn. Two Near-Misses Both The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club are serious contenders, but won’t be making it to the final round for Best Picture. You could say that one is too selfish and the other not selfish enough. The Wolf of Wall Street has been criticised for glorifying greed and even exploiting women. Hollywood doesn’t necessarily avoid controversy, but fans of Wall Street play to stereotype, which will likely make it distasteful to the Academy. It’s not just that they are incredibly wealthy -- 9.6 times more likely to earn more than $250,000 a year, 6.8 times more likely to be investment bankers, and 4.6 times more likely to buy an imported Italian suit. It’s also that many seem stuck in a pre-recession mindset. We see high interest in “established” celebrities like Heidi Klum (10.7 times), Megan Fox (8.4 times), and Britney Spears (8.3 times). These fans wear Abercrombie and Fitch (8.2 times) or Lacoste (4.2 times), drive a Hummer (3.3 times), and a few are still using Blackberry phones (2.5 times). In other words, the problem isn’t that the film condones excess, but that there’s something quite unfashionable about it. At the other extreme, the Dallas Buyers Club fans are undeniably a caring bunch. They are the most likely to be expecting a child (11 times), to be dog owners (8.3 times), to be vegetarian (7.3 times), to be elementary school teachers (6.5 times), and even to watch “Dr. Phil” (4.8 times) in Portland (4.1 times). (They’re also twice as likely to buy Volvos and air purifiers.) Possibly perpetuating the stereotype of a heartless, rapacious Hollywood, but you’d be unlikely to find this audience less than 350 miles north of LA. There’s a psychological element here as well. In general, people prefer movies they can feel good about watching (such as 12 Years A Slave) to watching a movie about people doing good. Three Challengers Removing the outliers is easy. What about the three remaining contenders? American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave enjoy broad appeal, with none of the baggage of the other films. A simplistic demographic approach would suggest a win by American Hustle. As viewers get older or wealthier, they increasingly prefer the film. Caucasians are most likely to be fans as well. Dig just a little deeper, and a different pattern emerges. Consider geography. Not only are denizens of Los Angeles more likely to be fans of 12 Years, but so are moviegoers in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Washington D.C., and Seattle. American Hustle fans are found in cities on a different cultural axis (if you will), including Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, and Kansas City. The only metro area preferring Gravity is Austin (a city whose unofficial slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” so often plays against type). Or we can explore with the film category itself. The most highly correlated movie titles are in the table below. Which set is most likely to be in an Academy member’s library? Still, this is only scratching the surface. With any one approach, we leave behind everything else we know. Let’s finally consider the interaction of all the variables we’ve identified: older white men living in Los Angeles who (broadly speaking) has a love of sports cars, high-end clothing, and exotic travel destinations. We can also guess they are socially well-established, with urban and coastal cultural preferences. What of the users on our network who fit that profile? As you can see, our prediction is that 12 Years a Slave takes the Academy Award for Best Picture. And if it doesn’t, we’ll be back with a better model next year. Bryan Melmed is director of insights at Exponential Interactive base din New York and will be speaking at ad:Tech in Sydney.
- A new co-produced children's TV show between the ABC and Chinese state TV may show where the future of co-production lies.
Filmed over six months across freezing winter and the heat of summer on a set the size of a football field, located outside the city of Zhou Zhou two hours south of Beijing Hoopla Doopla posed a number of challenges for the Australian and Chinese production teams working on it, not least the language barrier.
Australian director Mark Barnard worked alongside Chinese director Liang Tong with three Chinese and three Australian cast and just one translator for the first half of production, before a second joined the crew.
"We did have lots of confusing communications, like a week spent trying to communicate the difference between a first assistant director and the director's assistant. Luckily the Chinese have a similar sense of humour and we got through with lots of laughs," said creator and executive producer Melinda Wearne.
Wearne spent ten days in China through the six month production while the cast and crew lived on the remote set throughout the freezing temperatures of winter to the extreme heat of summer, escaping to Beijing only on weekends.
"No one spoke English. We all lived on site and rode bikes from the living quarters to the studio. Each day we’d pass a shepherd and her sheep," she said.
Summing up the production as an "adventure", Wearne said the circus-inspired set designed around the layout of an Italian villa, with a central courtyard, secret garden and five houses surrounding it was "amazing".
"We could never have pulled that off without the Chinese co-production," she said. "It needed to be strong enough to have characters jump on it, slide down poles, climb houses. The floor alone took several months to figure out the exact design so that acrobats could summersault and tumble across the floor safely, unicycles could ride across it, circus sliding tables could be secured and all without making the camera bounce."
Simon Hopkinson, head of commissioning and development of children's content for ABC TV, said the show would have been "prohibitively expensive" without the Chinese investment.
However the co-production also builds on a relationship with CCTV the ABC has been developing since 1997 when the public broadcaster co-produced the pre-school series Magic Mountain with Southern Star producer Ron Saunders. Saunders again produced Quest, a 12 part factual entertainment series while with Beyond Productions 12 years later, and is also an EP on Hoopla Doopla.
Hopkinson said: "ABC TV, and particularly children's TV, has actively pursued opportunities for closer collaboration with our Asian neighbours in recent years, such as Serangoon Road, and the Asian Animation Summit," Hopkinson said.
And following Hoopla Doopla he said both sides are keen to further develop the relationship.
"It's a question of finding the right project which will meet the needs of both broadcasters," he said.
He said the ABC's budget for the series was in line with other live action series, but would have been prohibitively expensive without the Chinese contribution.
"There are always challenges in any international co-production," he said. "Obviously language is a major one, but there were also differences in production methodologies.
"Perhaps surprisingly we found few differences in the kind of stories we wanted to tell and the way in which we wanted to tell them.
"Of course this was helped by the Chinese sense of humour being remarkably similar to our own.
"Probably the greatest challenge was for the Australian cast and crew who spent over six months away from home. The main thing learned from the experience is that the differences between us and our Chinese colleagues are far fewer than the things we share in common."
Wearne said the adventure was well worth the effort.
"The look of the show is fantastic, the cast are incredibly talented performers and the stories are warm and funny. I'm very pleased," she said.
The show airs on ABC 4 Kids at 10.10am seven days a week and Hopkinson said he expects it to be a regular feature of the children's TV run depending on audience response.
- Jango - Daniel Gorski
- Mimi - Kate Wright
- Zap - Simon Wright
- Bop - Zie Ning
- Squidgie - Liu Wanting
- Ziggy - Zhang Haoran
- Created by & Producer: Melinda Wearne
- Executive Producers: Ron Saunders and Simon Hopkinson (ABC)
- Australian Director: Mark Barnard
- Chinese Director: Liang Tong
- Circus Directors: Debra Batton
- Series Script Editor: John Armstrong
- The Conversation Troy McEwan looks at what motivates bad online behaviour, and the best ways to handle it.
The recent death of television personality Charlotte Dawson and the possible role that online abuse played in her struggles with depression shows how damaging this behaviour can be.
[caption id="attachment_209564" align="alignright" width="234"] McEwan[/caption]
The former model had told of her battles with depression and the abuse and harassment she suffered from users of social media website Twitter.
Since Dawson’s death on the weekend, experts have pointed out that existing stalking laws could be used to respond to those who abuse people online.
Despite their legal similarities, new research is shedding light on the personality differences between online “trolls” and stalkers.
Trolls and stalkers
It seems like online abuse is now so common that any offensive or potentially harmful comment posted on social media is called “trolling”.
The problem is, online abuse can range from one-off racist, sexist or otherwise distasteful comments to threats of rape and violence and sustained campaigns of harassment that cause significant psychological harm.
Lumping trolling in with cyberstalking obscures the very different reasons that people have for behaving badly online, and the different responses that might be needed.
How to best respond to a hateful or threatening comment probably depends on who is sending it to you and what they are trying to get out of it.
The terms trolling and cyberstalking do overlap as both involve repeated, online and harmful actions.
In academic literature, trolling is acting in deceptive, disruptive and destructive ways in internet social settings with no apparent purpose. Cyberstalking is using the internet to repeatedly target a specific person in a way that causes them distress or fear (reflecting descriptions of offline stalking).
Using these definitions, some trolls could be considered cyberstalkers, and vice versa. But new evidence on trolling suggests that the actions of a troll might meet different psychological needs to those of a cyberstalker.
The personality of a troll
Researchers from Winnipeg conducted a study earlier this month on the personality characteristics of internet trolls. In particular, they explored whether trolls reported the personality traits of:
- Machiavellianism – willingness to manipulate and deceive others
- narcissism – grandiosity and entitlement
- psychopathy – lacking remorse and empathy
- sadism – taking pleasure in the suffering of others
- unlike trolling, there is a high degree of overlap between online and offline stalking, with 70% to 80% of cyberstalkers using both behaviours
- there is no evidence to suggest that cyberstalkers are motivated by sadism, though personality disorders involving poor emotional control and antisocial attitudes are reasonably common in this population.
- In this interview with Mumbrella Asia editor Robin Hicks, Melbourne-born journalist Jessica Mudditt talks about the challenges of reporting on a country that is – in fits and starts – loosening its grip on press freedom after decades of oppression. What’s the hardest thing about reporting on Myanmar?For me, it’s the lack of data available. Previous military regimes appear to have had zero interest in obtaining information about the people of Myanmar (other than for intelligence purposes!). A census hasn’t been conducted in more than 30 years, so even something as straightforward as the total population of Myanmar is merely an estimate, and the estimates vary quite a lot from organisation to organisation. And because Myanmar was a closed country for so long, the research that would normally have been amassed by civil society groups such as INGOs simply didn’t exist until recently. This makes it difficult to identify trends and changes in society, which is what makes an article or an angle robust. For example, when I wrote about women working in the “grey area” of the commercial sex industry, such as at massage parlours and karaoke lounges, there simply wasn’t any data available about the number of women engaged in such work. [caption id="attachment_209148" align="alignright" width="198"] Mudditt[/caption] So it’s often quite time consuming just to gather enough anecdotal material to find an angle worth pitching to an editor. Another problem is that although government ministries are now actively collecting data and are usually very glad to share it with journalists, very little of it is available online. There are journalists from all over the world piling into Myanmar now that restrictions on international journalists have relaxed (and it’s a hot story). How do you feel the foreign media reports on Myanmar compare to local press?There are certainly far more foreign journalists coming to Myanmar than ever before – since establishing the Myanmar Foreign Correspondents’ Club just over a year ago, we now have more than 220 members.But perhaps we shouldn’t speak too soon about the relaxing of restrictions on foreign journalists – last week it was reported that the Ministry of Information has cut the length of journalist visas (which only came into existence last year – prior to that there was only business and tourist visas available) to 28 days instead of up to six months. This will make it extremely difficult for foreign journalists to base themselves here full-time, as the ministry also said it will no longer allow journalists to renew their visa from inside Myanmar. It’s still unclear whether the ministry is only targeting those who work at formerly exiled media groups, such as DVB and Irrawaddy – whom the government invited to set up bureaus in Yangon last year – or whether it will be a blanket restriction on all foreign journalists. However some say it may only be temporary – we’ll have to wait and see. The greatest polarity I see between local and foreign media reports is the way that the sectarian violence between Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State is covered. As a Burmese friend said to me recently, “Local media supports the [Buddhist] majority, while foreign media supports the minorities.” In Burmese language newspapers and a couple of English ones, the Rohingya are referred to as “Bengalis”, because the official line (and also sadly the populist one) is that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It’s an extremely sensitive issue. By contrast, foreign media agencies have published justifiably damning reports about what’s happening to the Rohingya people, who are officially stateless and live in IDP camps. Many believe that the ministry restricted visas as a knee-jerk reaction to reports by AP and Irrawaddy about the massacre of 48 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State by Buddhist extremists in January. The Ministry of Information summoned AP staff in for a rebuking, saying its report was false – and the visa announcement came shortly afterwards. I’d also say that the adoration for Aung San Suu Kyi is widespread in local media, whereas foreign media has become quite critical of late – perhaps to the point of over-simplifying her situation as a politician in the “new” Myanmar. Another difference is that as my Burmese colleagues have told me, Burmese papers sometimes present rumour and gossip as an established fact. This is a problem because it can have a terrible impact on the people it misrepresents, but it’s a symptom of the fact that journalism in Myanmar was of the state-run variety for decades, and there are no training schools for journalists as yet. However the Interim Myanmar Press Council is pushing to introduce a new media law that would make journalists accountable to a code of ethics, which may come into effect this year.What would you say it the biggest story in Myanmar at the moment? The call to change the constitution (that would give Aung San Suu Kyi a path to power) or ethnic conflict?[caption id="attachment_209149" align="alignright" width="234"] Opening up: The proliferation of media in the new "open" Myanmar[/caption] Constitutional reform, ethnic conflicts and land confiscations have been the big stories for many months now. But in the past couple of weeks or so, it’s been the restrictions on press freedom that have dominated headlines. Four journalists and the CEO of the Burmese language weekly newspaper, Unity Journal, were arrested and charged under the State Secrets Act for a report about an alleged chemical weapons factory in central Myanmar. In December, a journalist called Ma Khine from Eleven Media became the first journalist to be imprisoned in Myanmar since the end of military rule – her beat was corruption. It’s very worrying. The upcoming census is another hot story. The government officially recognises 135 “national races” (which obviously excludes the Rohingya), but many ethnic minority groups dispute that figure. Some say it’s been inflated as part of a “divide and rule” tactic, and that sub-tribes were “recognised” purely on the basis of geographic location or dialect. There’s also some in-fighting over terminology among the ethnic groups themselves, and some are calling for the census to be delayed, including the Burma Campaign UK.Which newspaper would you say is doing the best job of reflecting the modern, contemporary Myanmar in its reporting?I admire the depth of coverage in Irrawaddy’s reports and the many fascinating stories it picks up on. While Eleven Media is right-wing in its opinions, it breaks news faster than any other media outlet. I work two shifts a week at Myanma Freedom Daily, which is the only daily English language newspaper, other than the state-run New Light of Myanmar. It’s a small team, but everyone works really hard to get the paper out each day and many of our reports are exclusives. Our editor-in-chief, Thiha Saw, is a former political prisoner who is passionate about exposing injustice and making the government accountable. Myanma Freedom also gives generous coverage to the issues affecting ethnic minorities, which tend to go unheard in other local (Burmese language) dailies. Former exile media groups DVB and Mizzima are also highly recommended because of their relentless pursuit of the truth; a reputation they’ve cultivated over many years. A lot of the modern Myanmar is about business, trade and investment – the best source for obtaining such information is the bilingual weekly newspaper, Myanmar Business Today (full disclosure – my husband is MBT’s editor-in-chief, but with a circulation of around 66,000, its influence can’t be denied).I hear that local journalists are harder and more critical of the government in their reporting than foreign reporters. Would you agree?No I wouldn’t, though of course it depends on the individual and the publication in question. Due to decades of oppression under a military regime, a culture of asking tough questions to people in positions of power hasn’t developed. In fact, a Burmese journalist once told me that there is a set format of questions and answers that journalists pose to ministers – and that the questions and answers are always the same and very general in nature, regardless of who is being interviewed and what the interview is meant to be about. That said, there are some extremely courageous Burmese reporters and I think it’s the editors at various newspapers that set the tone for how critical a reporter can be. I know of some that are steadfast in their unwillingness to rock the boat… Journalism in the West, on the other hand, can be quite a blood sport, in part because journalists have no fear of being sent to prison for writing a report deemed critical of so and so. Freelancers who come to Myanmar with a gung-ho attitude may find that they need to adopt a more subtle approach to keep themselves out of hot water (or just to get their questions answered!). However foreign reporters who are based in Myanmar may feel wary of jeopardising their visa situation by being overly critical of the government. I can’t say this hasn’t ever crossed my own mind.I’ve also heard that there’s a lot of self-censorship in the reportage, because not long ago journalists were not as free as they are now and old habits die hard. Would you agree?Certainly. Pre-publication censorship was only lifted in 2012, so it will take time – and further assurances from the government – that self-censorship is unnecessary. As recent events show, Myanmar still lacks a free press. My former co-editor at The Myanmar Times was once brought in for an interrogation session with the censorship board because instead of writing “chess competition” he’d written “chest competition.” Though amusing to look back on, it goes to show how severe the restrictions and consequences were. Even topics such as poverty were off-limits. The military government simply denied that it existed.Do you think that Myanmar’s lowly position on the Reporters without Borders index is justified at the moment? Come next year, will it have risen or fallen, in your view?As you know, just last week the 2014 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders ranked Myanmar ahead of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, which is an impressive achievement considering how recently Myanmar’s democratic reforms began. Myanmar is now ranked 145thout of 180, whereas last year it was deservedly ranked 151st. However the 2014 index was compiled before the journalists from Unity Journal were imprisoned – it would be interesting to know how that would have affected Myanmar’s ranking. I think the general election of 2015 will be a pivotal moment for press freedom in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is still immensely popular and most assume it will win (yet again). Regardless of whether Aung San Suu Kyi were to lead the party as president – though I hope she will – I believe the NLD would introduce greater press freedoms and under their leadership, Myanmar could even become Southeast Asia’s beacon of democracy. However when I say this to other journalists, I’m often told I’m being far too optimistic!How do you see journalism developing in Myanmar over the next few years, the way things are going?It’s hard to say. If the Interim Press Council’s media bill is passed, as opposed to the far more restrictive bill drafted by the Ministry of Information, there could be a real blossoming of free and fair reportage. However there are still some powerful hardliners who would prefer to return to the days of the past, and who strongly resent being criticised by the media. As unelected military representatives are allocated 25 percent of parliamentary seats, there is still a real risk of backsliding in terms of press freedoms unless constitutional reform is made. However journalists’ salaries, which can be as low as US$150 a month, need to be increased in order to attract talented young people into the profession. Many are still opting to work abroad or embark on a career in business for purely financial reasons, and this is a real shame. Jessica Mudditt is sub-editor of privately owned Burmese national paper Myanma Freedom Daily, and a freelance journalist who writes about Myanmar for The Bangkok Post, IRIN News, DVB and Mizzima. She also runs her own blog, jessicamudditt.com.
- death of Charlotte Dawson says a bit about the media spotlight but more about the realities of mental illness, argues Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes. It was a strange, sickening feeling this afternoon watching Charlotte Dawson on video. I hadn't seen it since we published the interview just over a year ago. But oddly, I thought about her this morning. I was contemplating another person (who I'm not going to mention here) with a high media profile who has suffered with mental illness, to the recent detriment of his career. And I recalled the media trooper who walked into Mumbrella House to promote her (co-written with Jo Thornley) autobiography. I had mixed feelings ahead of doing the interview. Dawson - best known to Australian TV audiences for her long-running role on Foxtel's Australia's Next Top Model - had recently been embroiled in messy Twitter battles with trolls. And reading her book ahead of our chat, although it was intentionally written in an upbeat way, to anyone who read between the lines, it was clear that she was not okay. I felt far more nervous ahead of the interview than I usually would because I wasn't sure how to approach it. It didn't seem entirely fair to focus on her illness, as this shouldn't be what defines a person. Yet the book itself was defined by two themes - her illness, and her difficult relationship with the Australasian media. And in the end, that's mainly what we did talk about. I pulled my punches a little. I didn't labour the point that I felt that she was making a mistake in some of her Twitter battles. Without excusing out-and-out trolls, ordinary TV viewers sometimes feel entitled to talk about a personality off the telly as if they are a character, not a real person who may read their tweets. To a point, that's the high price of celebrity. And for somebody who suffers from mental illness that is a high price indeed, leading to the harmful incident she talked about. And we did talk about whether she was a dark person, "the bad things", the psychology of trolls, and her relationship with the media. In our interview she pointed her finger particularly at The Sunday Herald in New Zealand, and also The Daily Telegraph's Annette Sharp and The Herald Sun. But she also made clear that she didn't bear grudges. She told me: "Some of my best friends are journalists, and they're the journalists that do things which have affected me in my life." And I have to confess, some of the questions I asked that day were because it felt like today might come. They are the sort of questions you otherwise do not ask. On a couple of occasions, I've been on the periphery of somebody having taken their life, and seen the devastation it causes their friends and family. But worse is the hindsight-driven sense those left behind feel that it was both foreseeable but inevitable. And that's the sense I'm left with with Charlotte Dawson, somebody I knew no better than having interviewed her for an hour-or-so and read her book. The difference between the end of her life, and hundreds of others that end in a similar tragic way is that her media career made public what was going on for her. Yet I'm not sure that her media career actually had anything directly to do with her death. If you're ill, you're ill. Inevitably the mundanity of coping with mental illness is distorted by the media prism. Only the dramas get reported. Her Twitter battles and ups-and-downs with the media will end up being linked in the public's mind to her depression. Which will be an over-simplification. Just as sad though is that she may not now be defined by her successful career, but by her illness. Tim Burrowes is Mumbrella's content director
- The coming wave of media consolidation could push Ten into the arms of News Corp, Seven into bed with Fairfax Media and Nine with WIN, predicts Mumbrella's Tim Burrowes A long while back, I had lunch with the father of an English Premier League footballer. He confided that his son would be replacing my club's top striker. None of this had appeared in the transfer-obsessed tabloid sports pages. And nor did it for several months. But the transfer eventually unfolded in exactly the way he told me it would. It was eye-opening to realise just how far in advance top level deals are stitched up. I've a hunch that a similar process has been occurring in relation to Australian media ownership. The landscape is about to see some radical change. And I suspect that hands have already been shaken on many of the deals. It's starting to seem likely that communications minister Malcolm Turnbull will do away with the key rules around media ownership, covering the percentage of the population any individual TV network can reach, and the rule that in any given city, media owners can hold no more than two out of three of newspapers, TV stations and radio stations. Instead, it will be a simpler test from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on whether a deal reduces competition. The signals from Turnbull and PM Tony Abbott got louder over the weekend. Several people in this picture of the media bosses' summit tweeted by Turnbull on Friday may well be colleagues before the year is out So let's speculate on where the consolidation will happen. And yes, this is all speculation. 1. News Corp buys Network Ten. (And maybe Nova) Why does this makes sense? First, the people and the history. Ten's chairman is Lachlan Murdoch, who also owns about 9% of the broadcaster. He is, as most readers will be aware, the son of News Corp's executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and is himself on the board of News Corp. Ten's CEO is Hamish McLennan, who moved into the job after the firing of James Warburton. McLennan previously worked directly for Rupert Murdoch in New York in the role of executive vice president of the Office of the Chairman. Ten is a solid customer of News Corp's sibling 21st Century Fox (the chairman and CEO is Rupert Murdoch, and Lachlan Murdoch is also on the board of this company too.) Among 21st Century Fox's assets airing on Ten are The Simpsons plus the output of Shine Australia including Masterchef, The Biggest Loser, The Bachelor and So You Think You Can Dance. Speaking of Shine, a habit begins to emerge when it comes to Rupert Murdoch's children and their businesses. Back in 1995, Paul Barry reports in his book Breaking News, James Murdoch worked with friends on hip hop record label Rawkus Records. According to Barry, News Corp bought a half share for $20m, bringing James back into the family business. Then there's Shine, the extremely successful TV production house created by Elisabeth Murdoch. She was brought back into the family business when News Corp bought Shine for a reported $675m in 2011. So Murdoch conspiracists would certainly be able to point to the purchase of Ten as a means for Rupert Murdoch to bring Lachlan back into the fold - if Lachlan is willing to allow that to happen. Some sensible heads within News Corp point out that if Lachlan wanted to return then it wouldn't need to be on the back of a complex media deal. More important would be whether he wanted to - he suddenly left the organisation in 2005 over what has since been characterised as losing a power battle with US TV execs. He reportedly told his father that he needed to "be my own man". So a question could be whether he feels he has achieved that. And while Ten is currently a ratings mess, the picture is more complex that Lachlan Murdoch's critics draw. His radio company (recently rebranded from DMG to Nova Entertainment) is unquestionably a success. Nova can claim to be the top ratings national commercial network and its second network smoothfm is also doing well. (The only woman in the picture above is Cathy O'Connor, CEO of Nova Entertainment.) There's more history too. Rupert Murdoch was behind the creation of the Ten Network as it is today. He had to sell in the mid 1980s when he became a US citizen. Should a deal happen which saw Ten become part of News Corp, it would also help answer a question which has been hanging since last year. When Kim Williams was axed as CEO of News Corp Australia, his replacement was the previously retired Julian Clarke. It felt like a caretaker appointment. With the exception of Hamish McLennan, or indeed Lachlan Murdoch himself, no obvious successor for Clarke has emerged since. Other clues come from the News Corp newspapers themselves. You wouldn't, for example, know just how badly Ten has been performing based on the coverage in The Australian and the tabloids (last week was one of its worst for ratings share in its history). They've been supportive of Ten, to say the least. And just as intriguing has been the treatment of former Murdoch family rival James Packer. The papers have been very positive about his Barangaroo Sydney casino proposals. Packer left the Ten board over Murdoch's poaching from Seven of James Warburton. But he still has a stake of about 9% that he'd need to agree to sell. It's helpful that News Corp have been so good to him recently. If it does happen - and personally I now think it more likely than not - it will raise a couple more questions. What of Nova Entertainment? That would depend on the new ownership rules of course. I'm sure News Corp would want it to become part of the stable too. But given the relatively small revenues of radio compared to TV, it might be treated as a battle not worth dying in a ditch for. And how about News Corp's half share (with Telstra) in Foxtel? You could make an argument that a merged sales operation (as has already been speculated upon) between Foxtel's sales house MCN and ten could actually create more competition in the TV market because it would create a third giant to stand up to Seven and Nine. But would the ownership of Foxtel change? Telstra's probably not a seller. So would News sell to Telstra at the right price, particularly if it was back in the free-to-air game? That one's a big call given that 21st century Fox has pay TV investments in other parts of the world, even if there is speculation that it could sell down its BSkyB stake in the UK, pssibly to Vodafone. 2. Seven West Media buys Fairfax Media (And Prime) I'm not the first one to call this. Credit goes to former ACP boss Colin Morrison, who blogged about the possibility earlier this year. The fit would be a good one. Putting The West Australian (which remains profitable) into the same newspaper family as The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review makes sense. So does sharing news gathering for Fairfax's network of talk radio stations including 3AW in Melbourne and 2UE in Sydney with Seven News. Suddenly Yahoo!7 would have much more of an offering. Morrison argues:
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