How do you see the media industry progressing in the future?
Overall, I am optimistic about the future of journalism. We have a large number of skilled journalists and managers at News Limited, so we are extremely well placed to continue to provide a great service to Australia. I honestly think the future will be better than the predications by the industry’s doomsayers.
Though having said that I think the pool of journalists will become smaller, which is not ideal for our profession. But I believe this will be mitigated to a certain extent by the fact that there will more highly skilled journalists breaking stories, rather than a high number of journalists writing the same stories, or rewriting press releases which still happens to some extent in this industry.
The future currently hinges on the ability of newspapers to adapt to the changing demands of consumers, and the willingness of consumers to pay for digital content. But most importantly will be finding a way of increasing online advertising revenues because the key medium to long -term problem facing journalism is not as much declining readership as it is the switch to online where advertisers simply aren’t willing to pay as much for space. I think this will gradually change as the amount of free content available online is curtailed and more of a premium for quality content is established.
How has social media impacted the industry?
Twitter is great for quickly sharing bite-sized pieces of information, but when it comes to breaking substantial stories or providing insight the traditional quality journalism will always prevail. For this reason news organisations will always have a role to play, and it is vital that we continue to deliver in-depth insights and analysis.
The need for quality journalism is especially true in the field of reporting government and business activities. The industry needs to continue to champion strong journalism and quality journalism, holding government and industry to account, to ensure the interests of Australia are being served.
How will digital subscriptions impact the media industry?
Digital subscriptions and online content are having a substantial impact on the industry, for newspapers one of the biggest changes is the immediacy of the news, news organisations can clearly no longer publish the news just once each morning. But another consequence is it is helping media organisations to better understand the content Australians want to consume. With digital subscriptions the business will be able to assess the content of most interest based on what people click on, comment on and ultimately what they are most interested in purchasing.
I believe digital subscriptions will work in Australia, however if they did falter then we would see further reductions in the size of newsrooms, and there would be a very real risk that the quality of journalism in Australia would suffer. Some suggest that the Government should invest in media organisations in order to keep content 100% free, but this then raises obvious questions around an outlet’s independence.
What are you most concerned about when considering the future of journalism?
I am concerned that if newsrooms are forced to shrink further then governments and businesses will not be held to account. The number of PR professions on the public payroll alone dwarfs by many times the number of journalists. For example recent freedom of information disclosures revealed the federal department of defence employs 40 “media” staffers, and that’s just one department of the federal Government. There are another 19 departments and about 200 other federal Government commissions, all with their own teams of PR’s, and all paid by the tax payer, to in many cases, pervert the flow of information and to protect the government from scrutiny. The numbers of PR’s rises exponentially when you start looking at state governments, local councils and of course the private sector.
So in an environment where literally tens of thousands of people are paid to suppress controversial information, or information that may be in the public interest but not in the interest of the government or business to disclose, then the role of media organisations to find and report the truth is more important than ever.