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Lack of diversity in Australian media is leading to missed Asian opportunity warns PwC report author

A lack of diversity in the Australian media, marketing and entertainment sector is limiting our ability to take advantage of the growth opportunities in Asia, a new report claims.

pwc logoThe PwC Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook 2016 highlights how in the entertainment and media sector Australia’s growth is projected to be at 4.1% over five years, well below the rest of the region.

Outlook editor Megan Brownlow said the local industry was not doing enough to open themselves up to the high growth opportunities in Asian countries like India (projected media sector growth of 10.4%), China (8.8%) and Indonesia (13.2%).

Brownlow:

Brownlow: “We are missing opportunities in Asia.”

“We did some analysis of media deals in the space,” said Brownlow. “All of these Asian markets are fast growing in media and entertainment, while in Australia growth is ok but not extraordinary – typical of a mature market.

“In the last few years, 50 deals have been done in the media/telco space and what characterises that activity is media businesses buying other media businesses or mergers and around a third of those deals are Australian businesses being sold to overseas businesses.

“We are not actively going out and buying businesses/joint venturing – we are taking the cash.”

PwC cites the likes of Seek, Telstra and iSentia as case studies of media and telecommunications business that have actively opened themselves up to the growth opportunities in Asia.

“It is mostly the bigger players who are doing this well,” said Brownlow. “Seek are now in 19 markets, many of them in Asia – they built a model and they got good at it and then they took it overseas.

“You need the right formula – learn to do something really well, develop you technology and then bring that to a new market.”

Brownlow also cited the likes of Brand New Media as an example of business that had run into some trouble in Australia but was powering ahead in the region.

“It is ironic that Brand New Media has gone into administration here and yet Brand New Media Asia is doing very well,” she said.

“That decision that was made several years ago to take that leap and be in Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and have sights on Indonesia and elsewhere.”

PwC argues part of the challenge is the Australian media sector’s “monoculture” which limits our ability to reach diverse audiences both locally and overseas.

The report analyses the make up and geolocation of employees in the sector and claims the average media worker is a 27-year-old caucasian male living in Sydney’s Bondi or Newtown and that he is attempting to speak to the average Australian who today is a woman, 37-years-old, Catholic – most likely with some sort of ethnic background – and works in retail.

The Bondi Hipsters: PwC warns the make up of the industry in fact does reflect the stereotype.

The Bondi Hipsters: PwC warns the make up of the industry in fact does reflect the stereotype.

“Everyone knows that our industry is a monoculture and when we are thinking about how we grow it seems like an obvious point to look at,” said Brownlow.

“If you think about the task that we have, it is to help represent the Australia that we are and understand that deeply.”

Brownlow also noted that part of the problem is that there is a lack of diversity among decision makers who run companies across the board.

She said: “The current average boss is a man, he is 45, he is less likely to be bilingual than the rest of the population.

“The research shows the lack of diversity is largely caused by two key factors: similarly attraction and unconscious bias. We are attracted to people who are like us. Why wouldn’t we be?

“Lots of media companies haven’t been very sophisticated in their HR and recruitment practices. Too often it’s who do you know/call on your friends etc.”

PwC conceded that it had yet to model the precise economic cost of the lack of diversity but said it was already clear the GDP disparity and lack of media companies with footprints outside Australia were signs of a missed opportunity.

“This is more that if you are being strategic you would be saying we need to be there,” Brownlow said. “We need to somehow expose ourselves to these markets and I know some media agencies have been burnt because they haven’t done it the right way.

“They sit in Sydney or Melbourne and they fly in once a month and they spend a day and go to a Western style restaurant and you have to spend time on the ground.”

The PwC research also highlights the dominance of Sydney in the media sector, with the top ten suburbs inhabited by media sector employees nationally all in Sydney, led by Bondi, Newtown, Leichhardt, Surry Hills and Potts Point.

 

Geography outlook

Click to enlarge.

 

“It’s amazing Melbourne doesn’t even make it,” she said. ““It turns out the Van Vuuren Brothers’ Bondi Hipster characters are alive and well in media. 

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

“And the implication is a little bit terrifying. You think about how marketing is changing and you think about how the average Australian is changing… they are speaking to a woman, who is Catholic, which implies some ethnic diversity and she’s 37 and she works in retail.

“Are we really telling her story and talking to her?”

PwC argues media companies need a “diversity mindset” and cites the likes of multicultural public broadcaster SBS as a case study.

“SBS for them is not just multicultural content and presenters,” she said. “They take the mantra across their way of thinking.

“Michael Ebeid is quoted in the report and says when he is working with a recruiter and they send him a shortlist and all the people on the shortlist look like each other then he asks questions. He has a diversity mindset and then brings that to everything they do.”

Brownlow noted there were a number of practical things companies could look at to help diversify their workforce and ensure they are open to the opportunities in Asia.

“Start off by doing a diversity audit of your workforce – at all grades,” she said. “Sometimes businesses do this but stop it at gender – they need to ask do we have people of different ethnic backgrounds, experience backgrounds, different suburbs?

“Businesses also need to review their recruitment practices. Are they informal which leans itself to similarity attraction and instead look at are they applying a diversity lens to the process.”

She also argue that media businesses should look to counter the Sydneycentricity challenge by looking at whether they could take on remote workers and looking at their language skills base as well.

“Why not have someone working part time in Brisbane if there is a market there? You do need to be sensible but the new type of working is not 9-5 jobs nor 5 day a week jobs.

“In terms of geography, businesses need to raise their risk tolerance and look at developing a bilingual workforce,” she added. “It will help you with market penetration and then your workforce looks like your market.

“These are things that media businesses need to think about if they want to survive and grow.”

PwC will be presenting the full findings of this year’s PwC Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook at this week’s Mumbrella360 conference. Final tickets are available by clicking the banner below.

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