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Other states could copy Victoria’s ban on government ads in print, costing publishers millions

Victoria’s ban on government ads being placed in metropolitan newspapers could spark a domino effect in other states, an advertising expert has warned, which would cost publishers tens of millions of dollars.

Robert Crawford, professor of advertising and communication at RMIT University, said newspaper proprietors would be worried about the unprecedented move by Daniel Andrews this week.

Across the country, governments spent $40 million on advertising in metropolitan newspapers, according to the Standard Media Index.

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“As one state government starts doing it and makes a bit of a saving, others will doubtlessly be encouraged to look and to consider whether such expenses are worthwhile,” Crawford said.

Should that occur, the loss of millions of dollars in revenue would be “significant hit”, he said.

Mumbrella asked the Queensland Government if it was considering reducing or creasing newspaper advertising and got a vague response.

“The Queensland Government will continue to seek the best value of money in all paid communications entered into,” a spokesperson for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

Meanwhile, multiple requests for comment from the New South Wales Government were ignored.

A Department of Customer Service spokesperson did tell The Sydney Morning Herald that it had “no plans to cease advertising in metropolitan print newspapers”.

The NSW Government spent $135.46 million on advertising in 2021-22, while Queensland spent $25.6 million on campaign advertising placement alone in the same period.

While their respective reporting on advertising does not detail how much went to each medium, it is likely to be similar to Victoria’s 10% spend on press placements.

In announcing the end of metro print advertising, Andrews said public service initiatives will continue to be promoted via broadcast and digital.

News Corp Australia managing director Michael Miller slammed the decision, describing it as “an act of spite”.

Michael Stephenson, Nine’s chief sales officer, said the company is “minimally exposed” to the change because “what advertising was devoted to print will flow through to our publishing digital platforms”.

Crawford is not so sure about that.

“There’s a lack of control [from publishers] as to whether the money would go into their digital mastheads,” he said.

“While there might be an increased spend on digital – I would probably doubt it – I think they’d be looking elsewhere to better reach those that they had been reaching through the hard copies, and trying to funnel some of that funding to a more effective way.”

The Victorian Government’s print advertising ban will not include non-metro press, including those that facilitate regional and multicultural messaging. However, the Victorian opposition expressed concerns about the decision earlier this week on the ground of public safety.

Tim Bull, the Coalition’s spokesman for disability, ageing and carers, said seniors will “suffer” as a result of vital information being stripped from their main sources of news.

“The reality is we have a number of seniors who do not own smart phones or a computer, and as they have done for decades, rely on the daily papers for their information.”

Ending newspaper advertising “discriminates against older people”, he said.

Catch more about the topic in this week’s Mumbrellacast. 

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