By Laura Parr
Four of Australia’s top media chief executives joined together in a rare opportunity to offer their views on the future of newspapers the Future Forum in Sydney last week..
The Q&A style panel included Greg Hywood (Fairfax Media), Michael Miller (APN News & Media), Chris Wharton (Seven West Media), and the newly appointed CEO of News Corp Australia, Julian Clarke.
Mr Clarke told the audience that while it was a challenging time for newspapers, it was no different to what it had been in previous decades.
“It’s tough. But if you read the history of newspapers, it’s always been tough. You try working in the newspaper industry when television came in,” he said.
A key theme throughout the panel’s discussion surrounded the opportunities that digital platforms offered newspaper publishers – despite presenting many challenges initially.
Mr Clarke said: “My central proposition is that as much as the internet has intervened in a negative way, it has also released us. Now, 24/7, we’re capable of video, we’re capable of transactions being done on our platforms.
“It’s a whole new exciting world to be in and it’s a matter of articulating that.”
Mr Hywood agreed, saying that while the industry was undergoing enormous structural change, the fundamentals of journalism remained the same.
“Once you confront that it’s structural, that means you absolutely have to change your business, you’re on a journey where print becomes less and digital becomes more,” he said.
“Our companies have to figure out whether they’re in the newspaper business or the journalism business. We’re in the journalism business.”
One new product in particular is expected to assist publishers throughout the change, particularly with media buyers – emma, or Enhanced Media Metrics Australia. emma is the new cross-platform audience measurement survey developed by independent research company Ipsos MediaCT for The Readership Works.
Mr Hywood praised emma as a tool that, if used well, is “really quite revolutionary.”
“What emma does, for the first time, is provide a real metric across the industry and completely changes the leverage we have in that conversation with media buyers. It’s up to us to use that,” he said.
Mr Miller said that emma would be to newspapers what OzTAM was to television.
“It puts us on the same level as the other media…We’re going to be looked at a lot more by our key clients than what they have in the past decade,” he said.
Mr Wharton was happy to see a new metric that gave him an alternative to Morgan readership survey.
Other topics discussed included future recruitment, the importance of leadership by CEOs, the noticeable resilience of regional and community newspapers, and whether there were enough women in the higher ranks of media management.
While many have already pronounced the death of newspapers, the CEO panel made clear that those willing to adapt to the structural changes would survive and flourish.
“The fundamentals of journalism don’t change. It’s the technology and distribution mechanisms that change,” Mr Hywood said.
“[In the future], they may be more self-publishing rather than just journalists, but the fundamentals are still essentially the same.”
Laura Parr is a third year journalism student at the University of Technology, Sydney.