The millennials are important – but what about the millions?

GeorgeWhile most media brands are laser focussed on connecting with millennials most are forgetting about the millions living in regional Australia, argues Susannah George.

Let’s face it, that year of media fragmentation we all talk about has been bubbling away for the best part of a decade. As the tectonic plates of Australia’s legacy media industry continue to shift, there were always going to be big winners, and unfortunately some ill prepared or simply unfortunate losers.

The rise of digital media and extra pipes and channels has always been sold as an exercise in consumer choice. Freed from the shackles of three FTA TV networks and two major publishing houses, we as the consumer could vote with our feet and run free in the pastures of unlimited content.

But while media giants bang fists over the latest billion to switch hands in advertising spend, are we actually missing what really matters – the consumer?

Unfortunately, away from the spotlight of our country’s urban powerhouses, slowly (and despite the brave efforts of a few), regional consumer choice is being squeezed. As more and more publishers focus on life in the city, those at the fringe are being sacrificed for the metro whim.

The truth is that nearly half of Australia’s population, a massive 47%, lives outside of our capital cities, so why do the urban markets get all the focus?

Contrary to common misconceptions, we are not dealing with a homogenous mass of country bumpkins. Despite being pigeonholed as less than sophisticated in media consumption habits, the truth is that these 11 million Australians are just as likely to appreciate diversity of media selection, and sophistication of content source.

Despite the valiant efforts of John Hartigan and others, the shift to online is very close to wiping out our once hugely successful and diverse regional FTA TV stations. And with Austar swallowed up by Foxtel, there’s no longer a regional pay option either.

And in print, it seems only APN are investing in regional publications and journalists, as both News and Fairfax focus on their digital offerings at the expense of a once vibrant local newspaper network.

Of course I can understand the economics of these business models, and I am the first to encourage media producers to adapt to survive. However, the truth remains that a huge section of our population is under-represented in the media channels that once were a vital part of our country’s cultural scape.

As the Internet continues to mature as a medium, perhaps the answer will come from we Davids rather than the Goliaths, with  nimble, independent digital media companies emerging to fill the void. Just as the new digital economy companies like Uber, AirBnB, Spotify and Netflix have cornered the mainstream market, flexible and agile players have the chance take our regional markets by storm.

In a bid to reverse the tidal wave of regional media recession, The Urban List will launch a new brand of Australian lifestyle content next month – Metropolist – a digital network of aspirational, accessible content catering to the 11 million Australians living outside of our capital cities.

Those regional Australians – 47% of the population – are also avid consumers and just as likely to buy cars, groceries and banking services as those in the metro markets. And, judging by my own rather crippling metro mortgage, I’d guess they’re actually more likely to have disposable income to spend!

Metropolist offers the opportunity to connect and cut through with this lucrative new base; a clean slate away from the saturation of metro marketing.

Unencumbered by hefty legacy business, we are hoping that the young and fun Metropolist will help develop a newfound sense of pride and community connection from local residents. At the same time inspiring an increase in domestic tourism by proving to us city folk that there’s a lot more to our country than the metro hubs.

We don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do feel it’s time for the new wave media companies to rise up to create platforms that deliver true value to regional Australians. And for brands to reap rewards by recognising it’s time to reconnect.

  • Susannah George is founder and director of The Urban List

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