Aussie Papers Desperate To Show Web, Print Can Co-Exist

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Australia’s newspapers must be pretty desperate if this is the best they can do.

Their industry body, The Newspaper Works, has issued results of a consumer survey on reader attitudes to newspapers and their websites, seemingly in an attempt to arrest the decline in advertising to the former.

Its main conclusion is to “correct the myth that newspaper websites are cannibalising printed newspapers”. The survey…

… (1) Says people use the different media for different reasons (in fact, those reasons are actually pretty equal for each)…

… (2) Shows the different contexts in which people use the two (but these were already self-evident, weren’t they?)

… (3) And wheels out data to show how newspaper websites are “not cannibalising” their print counterparts (so, why do the lines for print readership and web traffic running in opposite directions?)

The problem with the research is that it’s a conundrum of the obvious and the distorted…

— Most people say they read newspapers for “up-to-date” coverage – but a website is more up-to-date than a newspaper.

— More people said they find unexpectedly interesting items online than in print – conventional wisdom would have said a newspaper (push) is more serendipitous than a website (pull).

— One logical conclusion of regarding websites and newspapers differently would be to refocus newspapers on opinion, and not breaking news – but only marginally more print readers than web users said they use their preferred medium to read comment; that’s not enough to draw a big distinction between each.

Maybe The Newspaper Works’ annoying voiceover man can enlighten us…

2 Comments

Stone Sub

Jonathon, you take this survey far too seriously. It’s a “motherhood” exercise from start to finish. Ask anyone if they follow current affairs, read newspaper and appreciate insight and commentary and, well, guess what? The biggest dill in town is going to respond with answers that make him him seem like a bright, reasonable, well-informed fellow.

While your observations are interesting and valid to one degree or another, the only survey that matters is the one conducted every morning at newsagent counters across the country.

Dead Tree sales are down, and if the US experience is any guide, then the ongoing decline in ink-and-paper sales plots Oz papers’ slide at about half way down the initial, and gentle, scree slope. US papers passed this point about three years ago, and I fully expect our local rags to replicate that transition to precipitous free fall very, very soon.

Here in Melbourne we have seen the Herald Sun, the market leader, increasingly turning to giveaways and desperation tactics to keep the numbers above 500,000. The paper is even printing in Tasmania, where its sales are cannibalizing The Hobart Mercury, its News Ltd. stablemate, and where few Melbourne advertiser have any interest in making their pitch. Some years ago, its rival, The Age, squandered vast sums “boosting” circulation by shipping copies to Adelaide. Sales were minimal and the expense horrific, but such was the paper’s panic that it seemed a worthwhile investment at the time.

One thing that really does need to be noted about the Oz newspaper/Web matrix is this: the online numbers cannot be believed.

Auto refresh rates, which are unregulated, account for a huge — and bogus — element in the numbers the industry has the gall to trumpet. When News Ltd did some revamping of its sites in 2008, some twit neglected to turn on the auto-refresh feature and alleged page views dropped 40%.

Rupert Murdoch appears to believe that if he puts up his paywall, online readers will be driven back to his Dead Tree products.

Good luck with that, Rupert. Trouble is, the amount of traffic available to be sent back to your papers isn’t anywhere near as large as you and paid dissemblers at The Newspaper Works have been telling each other.

jonathon

hmmm … not sure your’e reading this the same way I am.
“—Most people say they read newspapers for “up-to-date” coverage – but a website is more up-to-date than a newspaper.”
True. But looking at the results more people nominated up-to-date coverage as a motivator for online (78%) than print (64%), so I don’t see the issue???

“—More people said they find unexpectedly interesting items online than in print – conventional wisdom would have said a newspaper (push) is more serendipitous than a website (pull).”
Not sure I’d agree … the prevalence of clickable links in newspaper websites makes new content
discovery pretty likely, I’d have thought???

“but only marginally more print readers than web users said they use their preferred medium to read comment; that’s not enough to draw a big distinction between each.”
36% vs 24% is, I would think, quite a significant difference. especially since it’s almost exactly the same thing, but one’s printed on paper and one’s on a computer.

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