Could this be media’s end of days?

The last 12 months have seen some of the greatest upheaval in the history of the Australian media industry and the business will never be the same again says Tim Burrowes in a piece that first appeared in Encore.

When you write about media change, it’s hard to avoid cliches as you try to get across just what dramatic times we are currently witnessing.

And yet, we’ve seen most of our media behemoths go through the biggest upheaval in their history.

Next week, we’ll watch Fairfax Media make the last throw of the dice as far as its newspapers are concerned when it takes the SMH and Age tabloid. This is on the back of a year that saw hundreds of redundancies and wrenching change for the company. The damage wrought by young Warwick Fairfax is nothing compared to the dramas we’ve just witnessed as it tries to move to a digital life raft before the print boat sinks.

Then there’s APN News & Media. The last bloody days saw the CEO, chairman and half the board spilled as it searches for a strategy.

Then think of News Corp. Arguably the worst year in the company’s history came in 2011 with the closure of the News Of The World over phone hacking. Locally, News Limited went through the first mass layoffs in its history last year.

We saw the entire magazine industry watch circulations fall through the floor. The tough conditions made it inevitable that ACP Magazines would be sold, which it duly was, to Bauer.

And the last week saw Ten’s misery come into focus. Horrible ratings and awful revenues – driven by changing viewing habits more than flawed strategy – saw CEO James Warburton fired and replaced by Hamish McLennan. It’s hard to see at this point how the network will pull out of its dive.

Partly for other reasons – the suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha – Southern Cross Austereo has just been through what boss Rhys Holleran this month described as “one of the most difficult 12 months in our history”. Declining radio markets and poor regional TV revenue doesn’t help either.

That’s six of Australia’s major media companies right there, who have all just had the worst year of their existence.

At this stage, it’s impossible to say how these companies will look when they come out the other side.

But remember these days. However long any of us are in the media industry, we may never witness so much drama in such a short time again.


Encore issue 5

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.


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