SMH’s Lisa Davies commits to print as new readers endure post-COVID

As The Sydney Morning Herald gears up for its 190th anniversary, editor Lisa Davies has committed to print being a significant part of the publication for years to come.

Speaking with Mumbrella for this week’s Mumbrellacast, Davies admitted that the future of print for the Herald, and in Australia more widely, was up in the air a few years ago.

SMH editor Lisa Davies

Now though, she insists that print is, and will remain, one of the Herald’s greatest strengths.

Five years ago there were conversations about whether the print products would still be around in five years. They are, and they are still huge revenue drivers. I think it’s a really encouraging sign,” she says.

“I can’t see a time when there won’t be a print product.

“The weekend papers are still incredibly well-value and well-read – and we just keep churning our great journalism. However people consume it, there’ll still be a love for a printed product for many years to come.”

This month sees the paper celebrate its 190th birthday – something that is a “cause for celebration” – Davies insists that the Herald has plenty more to achieve over the next few years.”

“It’s not ‘okay, 190, time to go home guys’. We’re looking forward to the double century, and our ongoing relevance and importance to this city and the nation,” she adds.

“It’s well worth celebrating. The brand that we have and the masthead we are celebrating is hugely important to people.”

“I don’t feel like we’ve been in a stronger position in the last few years.”

SMH head of subscribers and growth Dave Eisman

The Herald has never been more-read, explains Davies alongside director of subscribers and growth, Dave Eisman, who tells Mumbrella about the positive impact of  COVID-19 on subscribers.

“When the pandemic hit, everyone was struggling to get their heads around what it meant for them. We saw many, many thousands of people that, at a time like that you had to turn to a source of information that you trust – and that showed up in the numbers.

“It was a sustained uplift in subscriber acquisition, particularly during rolling lockdowns.”

That uplift was across both digital and print, even though digital-only saw the largest uplift. And after Australia returned to COVID-normal, most decided to keep their subscriptions.

Asked whether the Herald or other Nine mastheads that currently allow readers access to a set number of free articles per month would consider a traditional paywall in the future, Eisman committed to the current model.

“The notion that you can sample some of the journalism before you pay is definitely the right one for the Herald.”

As for the anniversary, the Herald is ready to deliver a whole suite of content including retrospectives on its history.

Davies understands why marketers sometimes question the worth of anniversary content, but believes “…the brand that we have and the masthead we are celebrating is hugely important to people.

When someone else can claim 190 years of continuous publishing I’d like to celebrate that for them too.”

Stay tuned to Mumbrella this week for our full chat with SMH editor Davies and director of subscribers and growth, Dave Eisman, on the Mumbrellacast.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.