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News Corp and ABC bosses: Digital landscape is driving fundamental changes

Two of Australia’s most senior media executives, News Corp Australia CEO Kim Williams and ABC managing director Mark Scott, have both given insight into the digital challenges facing media companies in Australia.

Speaking at the Wesley College Business Foundation breakfast in Melbourne this morning, Williams spoke about the impact of the digital revolution on media businesses. Meanwhile Scott has pointed to a way that the ABC may be able to help commercial media outlets.

“We are experiencing a period of fundamental business and consumer change. The evidence is everywhere,” said Williams.

“We see it in the historically unprecedented transfer of power from producers to consumers. The significance of this shift is difficult to exaggerate.”

Williams then went on to outline how this shift was breaking down traditional paradigms and the importance of data to understanding trends in the media landscape.

His speech came just a day the ABC’s Mark Scott also spoke about the challenges of the digital landscape and announced  a new pilot program similar to the BBC’s Newstracker that will allow the public broadcaster to help channel website traffic to commercial peers.

At a speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Sydney yesterday Scott told the audience:

“Readers and audiences never directly footed the bill for quality journalism.

“It’s always been subsidised, either through government via the public broadcasters, by advertisers in terms of commercial media or by another more successful branch of a media company. Commercial companies are working hard to establish new business models.

“But the reality is it will be become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to finance the newsrooms and the editorial costs of past generations.”

Scott then outlined his for a desire “thriving media ecology” and citing the success of the BBC’s News tracker, a service called provides links to other news services alongside their own stories, and said would trial a similar program.

“We have a stake in a strong media and news environment in Australia,” Scott told the lunch. “We want to be part of a thriving media ecology. We want to attract audiences to our websites yet we understand that audiences go elsewhere as well.

“The online world is different. Audiences used to read a single newspaper or watch a news bulletin, but online, audiences graze widely—national and international sites created by big publishers
and broadcasters, small bloggers and niche players…

“I think there’s great merit in developing such a service for ABC websites and we will be undertaking a pilot project like this later this year. It’s an initiative that may raise eyebrows and trigger debate, but the idea that media consumption is a zero-sum game is an anachronism, a legacy of the old print and broadcasting mindset.”

Williams, in contrast, took a more combative tone in the latter half of his speech, this morning, focusing on the Government, regulatory issues and what he called “a policy muddle”.

“I fear we are living in parrallel universes…,” he said in reference to Canberra.

“I don’t want to be melodramatic about it, but things have reached a serious divide driven by different experiences, difference views on the world and different ideas about  how to solve problems, different views on efficiency and effectiveness with different incentives. It all too often creates a policy muddle…”

“It is overdue that Governments and regulators need to better understand and trust in the new world, the inventiveness of Australian business and the good sense of highly empowered consumers rather than to have consistent recourse to the old world of regulatory expansion and overkill driven from suspicion of and hostility toward business and the notion that consumers are ignorant and powerless.”

“Government should — I humbly suggest — “embrace this new world in the same way forward looking businesses are.”

Nic Christensen  

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