Print efficiencies needed for digital growth: Johns

The majority of Australian Regional Media’s audience now comes through digital means despite the APN-owned division introducing digital subscriptions only five months ago.

In October last year, ARM became the first regional publisher to introduce digital subscriptions, rolling out a metered-model across its 12 titles, which include Toowoomba Chronicle, Sunshine Coast Daily and Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin.

The APN-owned network has secured an 87 per cent retention rate for subscribers coming off the trial period and now has thousands of people paying for online content.

APN editorial director, Bryce Johns, says while there is less of a divide between ARM’s print and digital assets, it is now essential to instil in newsrooms that its majority digital audience is “worthy of at least the same amount of time as print does in terms of production”.

“There’s much more of an understanding that you have to do things in print as efficiently as possible to allow you to do more online,” he said.

Mr Bryce identified a number of areas where ARM was improving its print processes to facilitate a greater focus on its rising digital audience.

ARM has encouraged its journalists to write their own captions and headlines, introduced a new computer system to make the print production and design process more efficient and is working on how it builds its newspaper books full of advertising.

“You’ve got to be smart about bunch of things from ‘paddock-to-plate’, if you like, to really crunch up the process,” Mr Johns said.

“If you do it that way and link every step of the way together, the result for the end reader doesn’t have to be negative.”

In February, APN announced it would sell the ARM network despite its significant cost reduction effort and strong digital audience growth. APN chief executive Ciaran Davis said ARM’s growth strategy would require further investment and APN would pursue higher value on behalf of its shareholders through radio and outdoor.

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