Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of News Corp, has spoken about the problems facing the print sector and called on the industry to promote its strengths telling the Mumbrella360 conference that if the industry won’t lead the debate around the future of print, then the publisher would.
Murdoch also addressed the public debate around editorial interference within News Corp and ongoing rumours that the publisher might seek to buy the Ten Network, in which he is still a major shareholder.
“The industry has got to lead,” said Murdoch in an interview with John Steedman, executive chairman of Group M, acknowledged the major problems facing print both in terms of declining revenue and declining print circulation.
“There is a challenge (in print) absolutely, we are embracing digital absolutely, but newspapers have a long life left in them.”
“What we are saying is that this will be core part of our business for years to come.”
He told the audience at the Hilton Hotel, in Sydney, that the industry should not give up on print as a medium and took aim at “competitors”, who he accused of having “talked down” the product.
“When it comes to print, we can’t give up on print,” he said. “It is a very good business and will be for years to come but the industry hasn’t led in the past.”
“We (have been) supporting the industry and talking up the industry, which it deserves, but some of our competitors were talking it down, actively talking it down in their own products, and that’s just crazy.
“That’s a lack of leadership which is frankly irresponsible and it’s got to stop. We have not done a good enough job in recent years of explaining the strength of our business and that’s what we have to do better.
“We have chosen, if the industry won’t do it, from a News perspective we will stand up and do it ourselves.”
Asked about the public debate over News Corp’s editorial approach, and claims of editorial interference in favour of the Abbott government, Murdoch said he did not believe the word “interference” was correct.
“I think interference is the wrong word,” said Murdoch. “We work in a creative industry, we are interested in the craft of journalism, the craft of design and the craft of designing papers, websites, apps is critical.”
“The choice of what stories editors lead with, or don’t lead with, how strong a headline is or how soft it is and that can be both positive or negative, that drives engagement with our readers and that’s why our newspapers are as successful as they are. They are well crafted.”
“I think it is important that editors, like all creative people, have the ability to design their papers and create something that engages with their readers but I don’t think that media boards need to not have an opinion on the quality of the product, the thinking.
“The quality of the products is how we survive and how we afford the quality of our journalism.”
Murdoch also addressed ongoing debate about media regulation and sought to dampen continuing speculation that News Corp would seek to purchase Network Ten.
“We don’t need people to come and change media regulation around the edges,” said Murdoch. “Changing cross-media rules won’t work by itself. You have to look at a holistic approach that looks forward to the next 20 or 30 years, not to mediums and technologies that are 30 years old.”
“One of the fallacies or misconceptions is that people are willing to spend billions of dollars into a market where you already have a big footprint, where you already have a lot of capital deployed, when there’s opportunities in Europe or in Asia.”
“We do look at the world globally, we look at opportunities around the world… I don’t foresee any immediate change.”
Nic Christensen and Saimi Jeong