Media companies must educate clients to win battle against tech giants, says SCA boss Blackley

Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley has urged media companies to engage and educate both clients and agencies, or “lose the fight” to big technology companies.

Blackley also told the audience at the Radio Alive conference all media companies were at the “whim of an advertising based business which is predominantly agency led”.

Blackley said it was media companies’ responsibility to educate clients and agencies

“We pride ourselves on our local content, localism and local client base, however, a disproportionate share comes from agencies. Unless we engage and educate agencies, engage and educate clients on a very direct level, we could also lose the fight, so we might win the battle but lose the fight,” Blackley said.

“We will continue to agitate for the right change, we will continue to protect our interests, but I think it’s incumbent upon the industry to bring it to bear with clients on a very direct level and agencies.

He added: “We know that Facebook plants digital enablers within the businesses of agencies, paid for by Facebook. And guess what their first action is? To buy more Facebook. And we look at that and say is that a level paying field and transparent or not?

“And fundamentally if that’s where 80% of our business is coming from, from what is a multi-billion set of businesses, we have to engage very directly to educate those clients.”

Nine CEO Hugh Marks said while big social companies will start to embrace local publishers, Australian media companies have community standards and obligations, which the “half a trillion dollar based” companies do not.

But he added new technology would allow for more transparency.

“We’ve just got this 9Galaxy technology which we are rolling out, which enables us to compete with more on a certainty of delivery basis with Facebook and YouTube and also a data proposition which will enable us to compete on a data basis with Facebook and YouTube and guess what – we’ll do that in a premium content environment that is absolutely the basis upon which we will thrive.”

Hugh Marks said the currently cannot monetise their video views on Facebook

Earlier in the session, Blackley said what streaming services don’t have over radio was local adaptions of news, sport, traffic, surf reports and entertainment.

“What you have is collated music being put out as playlists in a curated manner with some data behind to serve it in a dynamic fashion,” Blackley explained.

“Nothing wrong with that but as long as we continue to invest as an industry in local live content and we make it available across any and all platforms in a coordinated fashion that is monetisable, we have a good future.”

But Michael Miller, executive chairman for News Corp Australia said the challenge for them has been large technology companies taking their content, monetising it and delivering it in a seamless manner in agreement with other platforms and devices.

Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delany said all Australian media wanted was a “level playing field” but noted it was the time to “batten down the hatches” and support Australian media.

“In terms of competing against them (tech giants), I feel very optimistic as long as Australian media are given a level playing field, so long as the regulation doesn’t encourage us to do things that would make us not match fit.”

He later added: “You have to emphasise this is a hurricane that is going through the local media industry. It’s a global hurricane with trillion dollar companies entering the market.

“It’s not some act that audiences are disappearing or being shifted in other places on free to air TV. It’s not an act that on subscription TV someone is coming in and paying huge amounts of money for sport. These things are really and we are just starting to see the beginning of it.”

“This is quite an extraordinary moment and it happened a while ago but we are just starting to be hit by it. And I don’t know the strength of it’s going to be. It is important – yes we’ll continue to employ, yes we’ll try and put up a good fight but this is the time to really batten down the hatches and support Australian media.”


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