Numbers game has new rules

Fairfax Media has created history today. Its Metro Media Audience report will change the way the newspaper industry positions itself – to readers, advertisers and staff.

Those employed in our industry should now reconsider how they, too, think of their industry and about their career opportunities as digital demand escalates.

It’s thrilling stuff.

Business transformation is real – and at last one publisher has stepped forward with the collective evidence and meaningful narrative.

Newspaper publishers are no longer solely newspaper companies.

But it has not been that way for at least three years.

Industry discussion has been intense about how publishers can best show their progress in embracing the opportunities of new technologies, consumer devices and audience fragmentation. For too long, we have been a punching bag for the gallery of digital zealots who, for their own potential gain or vanity, repeatedly try to convince the world that digital means death to newspaper publishers.

Fairfax Media has now produced a set of metrics for its flagship newspapers – The Age and Sydney Morning Herald – that dispels such rants. It does more.

It illustrates the incredible audiences it is generating on various platforms – numbers that are at the start of the growth curve.

As the commercial dynamics of advertising mature – and they have a fair way to go in this part of the world – the ad dollars will flow to these new audiences.

Such is the lifecycle of business transformation. . .

The continuing downward trend in print circulation results, headlined by the SMH’s 11.9-point fall, is certainly a concern. Print is the bedrock of our business and we need to ensure it continues to meet demand and society expectations.

The print results will no doubt add some angst today among Fairfax executives about the reaction to their new report.

But the most obvious questions is not for them, it is for everyone else: Where’s your report?

Ideally, the big publishers would have made their move together.

But the fact Fairfax has struck first should not be seen as a split or disagreement about the principles of this new audience report.

The Audit Bureau is within striking distance of what its chief executive, Paul Dovas, calls the organisation’s most significant rule changes since its inception in 1932.

Everyone else, in their own way and time, will come to this party.

Fairfax’s report also illustrates the enormous amount of work to be done. Launching new products is the easy bit, to be honest. Finding digital audiences is great, but . . . Creating profitable growth is key, just as it always has been for every product.

This requires education campaigns targeted at media buyers and major advertisers. We must teach them to value these new audiences in the same way as they have traditionally valued print readers.

Further, we need to continually train colleagues to not only create cutting-edge content that exploits technology and enhances readers’ experience and enjoyment, but to commercially maximise these opportunities.

Most of all, we need to start exploiting our reader data to drive engagement and reward loyalty.

This industry’s business transformation requires absolute focus on the customer – the reader, the user, the subscriber. . . call them what you must.

They’re people. They’re our lifeline in business.

I am blown away with Fairfax’s new report. It’s fantastic to see the work in the digital domain of the last decade coming together for the company.

Yet, the transformation – for Fairfax and everyone else – has barely begun.

Leave a comment