Sunday, December 26, 2004

Paper wars

In The Oz this weekend Robert Gottliebsen gives a tough assesment of the challenges facing Australian metro daily newspapers in the face of new competition from Sensis:

[...] the outcome of the ferocious war over the Sydney residential property market will play a huge role in determining the future of newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age in Melbourne, the Brisbane Courier Mail, the Adelaide Advertiser, The West Australian and, in time, similar titles in Tasmania.

[...] Is Akhurst right that papers such as The Australian, the SMH and The Age have had their day? In my view there is little doubt that high-margin, large-volume conventional non-display classified advertisements now have a limited lifespan.

The great strength of the traditional newspapers is that they are capturing high-spending consumers better than any other medium, and if they can retain them with attractive editorial they will gain substantial advertising revenue.
At CJR Phillip Meyer offers his own advice on how to weather the storm:

We need to keep genuine journalism alive long enough for the successful media entrepreneurs of the future to find a way to capture and sell the influence that traditional media are abandoning through their cost-cutting strategies. Those who understand the influence model and apply it to the new, more specialized marketplaces could start to look very much like journalism's philosopher-kings of the twentieth century.
Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader has a different approach:
What the newspapers of tomorrow need to tap is the full potential of alternate reality. Facts alone get us nowhere. True insight demands a healthy dose of make-believe.
The single biggest question, though, revolves around the type of journalism that readers are attracted to. How can newspapers be better in all possible ways - producing better reported, better edited and better designed papers?

Gottliebsen hints at the answer:

To continue to prosper, the papers will need to swing hard to other types of classifieds and display advertising, where there is a rapidly growing market, and perhaps rely more on the attraction of their journalism.
Meyer's solution follows a similar, quality-driven path. Is it just wishful thinking?

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