In his address this month, John Hartigan chairman and chief executive of News Limited spoke on the Future of Journalism at the National Press Club in Canberra and stated up front that, "We are in the midst of the most traumatic and uncertain transformation in our history but I see some strong and encouraging trends for the future. Newspapers can adjust to the digital age, adapt their business models and continue to reach mass audiences."
He went on to say that, "What it will take is a complete re-think of the very essence of what is news. We have never been challenged as we are now, to justify why someone should pay for our content."
And why would they pay for content? "I believe people will pay for content if it is: Original, Exclusive, Has the authority and is relevant to our audiences. Journalism that doesn't help people live their lives is going to be a low value commodity. Media companies and journalists willing to embrace these challenges will thrive."
He continued, "Newspapers in the US are disappearing left, right and centre. Fewer papers are being sold and in my view it's because many of them are largely boring and irrelevant to their readership. Their content is ubiquitous rather than unique."
Whilst "Across the Atlantic, British newspapers also face significant challenges. In the UK last year, almost 400,000 people stopped buying a national daily. Circulation of the national dailies is down 13 per cent in 5 years - that's a loss of 1.6 million copies a day." He added.
Hartigan highlighted the launch of Taste.com.au as an example of content value being integrated and monetised online. "In April we launched Taste.com.au, a new food liftout in our metro dailies, to complement the successful website. The Taste site already had 150,000 members. Traffic went up almost 20 per cent in the first month after the newspaper launch. In May, almost 600,000 recipes were printed by readers. Since January, 6 million recipes have been printed from the site. Incredibly, this tells us what Australia has for dinner, on what nights of the week. This is an incredibly powerful proposition to take to an advertiser."
He attacked the new preoccupation with blogs by saying that the "blogosphere is all eyeballs and no insight." He quoted Robert Thomsen of the Wall Street Journal who said, "The blogs and comment sites are basically editorial echo chambers rather than centres of creation and their cynicism about so-called traditional media is only matched by their opportunism in exploiting it."
Hartigan went on to say. "Most online news and comment sites don't generate enough revenue to pay for good journalism. Good journalism is expensive."
Hartigan concluded with his thoughts on "great journalism" by stating it will, "tell the reader something they didn't know, tell them something they need to know, listen to the reader and answer their questions, inspire and entertain them, give them what they need to make decisions and equip them to act on those decisions."
Some of the comments in Hartigan's speech have hit a raw nerve with online media portals, notably mUmBRELLA who was singled out in Hartigan's speech. Click here to read Tim Burrowes response to the criticism as well as the feedback from online readers.
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