The bad news for Australian media companies is about to get much worse unless the Government acts

News Corp Australia has announced 60 print titles across its network will be suspended, but executive chairman Michael Miller explains it's going to get a whole lot messier if the Australian Government doesn't take decisive action now.

Audience demand for trusted local news and lifestyle content has never been greater, yet media companies are under unprecedented financial pressure.

Too many examples in recent months show Australian media is passing its tipping point. The announced closure of AAP, the looming loss of local voices such as The Sunraysia Daily and the decision by Nine to suspend key products are ominous signs. And yesterday News Corp Australia announced it was suspending the print editions of 60 community titles across four states from 9 April.

The Manly Daily is one of News Corp’s print products now on pause

The question is obvious, when audience demand has never been higher, why are trusted media companies in such danger?

The simple answer is the loss of revenue triggered by COVID-19 has further tightened the financial stranglehold the international tech giants have over Australia’s creative industries.

We are now at the stage where unless the Federal Government takes decisive action to make 2020 the year digital platforms start paying publishers to use their content, the bad news for media and Australian communities will get much worse.

Time has run out. The trading imbalance between the platforms and Australian media companies cannot continue.

The COVID-19 emergency is powerful evidence that when it really matters, people turn to news from professional, accountable and trusted news organisations.

Total audience numbers for all traditional media have exploded and are now the largest in our industry’s history.

For News Corp Australia total readership is up 81% (1). Consumer subscription sales are up 287% (2). This increase is the most dramatic we have ever seen.

It’s the same story for video – a record 102m views across our network, up 45% year on year (3).

In print, downloads of print replica editions on digital devices are up 34% (4), supermarkets are selling out of papers and home delivery inquiries are surging.

But media companies are trapped by draconian legislation and regulation restraining their ability to grow, merge and compete, while on the privatised internet they are plundered by tech giants with no commitment to local communities, no journalists and no content of their own.

Yet despite this uneven playing field, media companies have innovated; created new products and embraced new forms of delivery as audiences and advertisers moved online

In little over a year, News Corp has launched 16 digital, hyper-local digital mastheads – our fastest growth area for subscriptions – often in communities we’ve not operated previously. More will follow.

We are providing valuable local news for readers and more targeted, integrated marketing solutions for clients.

News is proving that a company built on local journalism combined with platforms and services that help local business thrive can have a vibrant, digital future.

The results tell the story.

The award-winning Australia’s Worst Serial Killer campaign, developed by Newsamp for the Heart Foundation, saw visits to the Heart Foundation website rise 70% and calls to its helpline grow by 130%. It triggered law changes and some 120,000 Australians completed the Heart Age Calculator within two days of the campaign launch.

News Corp’s partnership with The Heart Foundation as it was executed across print

Our data platform, News Connect, draws on more than 2bn consumption signals from millions of Australians to create some 2,000 distinct audience segments. Included in News Connect’s technology suite is powerful geo-targeting technology that identifies thousands of electronic devices in local areas to create bespoke marketing solutions.

This helped Aldi identify grocery shoppers, target them with messages and then measure who visited a store. People who saw the campaign through News Corp visited an Aldi store 1.5 times more than those who didn’t.

These kinds of innovations, together with our strongly growing subscription model, are the building blocks that can fund local journalism that gives Australian communities a voice.

But we need Government to act.

For too long we’ve been handcuffed in a virtual digital dictatorship.

Successive Australian Governments have stood by and watched as our traditional business model has been brought to the brink of failure – they must not stand by and endanger our
future as well.

We don’t know when COVID-19 will end, but we do know where this will all end unless Government addresses the imbalance in bargaining power held by the digital platforms over
media businesses .

Sources: 1. Adobe analytics, pageviews; web, mobile + app, Q2 weekly avg vs prior week. 2. Versus same week last year. 3. Adobe analytics March 2020. 4. Adobe analytics, pageviews; web, mobile digital print editions March 23-29 versus weekly average February 2020.

Michael Miller is the executive chairman of News Corp Australasia 


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.