Australian media are down (under) but not out

Harbour bridge sydneyIn their recent global entertainment and media outlook report, PwC paints a fairly rosy picture for television, radio and cinema, but the canvas looks bleak for newspapers and magazines.  It forecasts that advertising income for radio will rise by 9% by 2017, which would put it almost neck and neck with print newspapers.

As a transient observer and listener working in Sydney for a few months, I have had plenty of opportunity to consume Australian media (as well as their beer!).  Most of the TV channels broadcast UK imports or versions thereof, such as Who Do You Think You Are?, The Voice Australia and Celebrity Apprentice.  There is also the usual fare of cookery and property programmes to keep the poms happy.  This is not surprising given that one in six migrants living in Australia were born in the UK.

Commercial radio has been through a tough time here of late.  First we had Sydney’s 2Day FM and their prank call to the hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated for morning sickness, which resulted in a nurse’s suicide.  There was a backlash, most fiercely from the UK media, the presenters went into hiding and now they have resurfaced with one of them winning a ‘Next Top Jock’ award by their employer.  Then there was a presenter on Perth’s 6PR interviewing the soon-to-be-ousted Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and saying her hairdresser boyfriend must be gay.  That did not go down too well either and the presenter was promptly sacked.

And what of print newspapers and magazines?  With the forecast drop of 43% in advertising revenue for newspapers and 13% for magazines – a fall broken in part when online is added in – publishers have to get smarter and more careful about the data they collect and use.  Some of the larger circulating titles, such as The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald, have moved to a paywall model for their website and app.

The forthcoming new readership metric for Australia, emma, will hopefully restore publisher and agency belief in the health of newspaper and magazine brands and indeed in audience research.  The announcement last week that the emma readership data will be fused with Nielsen Online Ratings’ web figures will add significant value to the new currency.  With cross-platform readership information available, including the fast-growing tablet and smartphone, Australian publishers are hoping it will take newspapers and magazines to a new level when competing against other media.  It will be interesting to see if all those forecasts come true.

John Carroll is a Senior Director in Ipsos MediaCT  (@MediaCarroll)

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