How do you see the media industry progressing in the future?
I’m very optimistic for the future of the media industry. There is a lot of great journalism being created around the world and it’s an exciting time because we are able to tailor-make content for a range of new platforms such as tablets, smartphones and increasingly sophisticated internet sites.
Having said that, it is important to acknowledge that the mainstream media has at times been slow to adapt to some of the major new media innovations. Now it feels as though these innovations are being embraced. It’s like turning a battle ship; it takes a long time to change direction, but when the change happens it’s fundamental.
In my opinion newspapers will continue to be popular for a long time; people won’t stop reading them overnight. But there are many people who are migrating to digital news sources. The challenge for traditional media organisations is that we must continue to adapt, we must think of ourselves as news providers that aren’t embedded in one particular medium – it is imperative that we provide high quality content across all platforms. If you access The Australian on an iPad or smartphone you need to be reassured that you will have the same great experience as if you picked up the print newspaper. It’s like Darwin said: it is not the strongest nor smartest that survives, it’s the most adaptable – we need to be able to respond quickly to changes in consumption habits and listen very carefully to what the audience wants.
We are lucky as we have a loyal audience that appreciates the quality journalism offered by The Australian. But we realise that even our loyal readers’ lives are changing, meaning that they will demand quality content across a variety of platforms and devices. We need to be ready to supply the news and analysis required when they want it and where they want it.
How has the media industry changed?
My career has seen a dramatic change thanks to technology. I was a print reporter for 15 years until I moved into my current role, which is embedded in the digital sphere.
People within the media industry have had to learn new skills and knowledge in order to meet the changing consumer demand. The progression of the industry has also given us the chance to employ people that never would have dreamt of working for a newspaper, such as web developers, multimedia designers and video producers. It’s exciting to bring fresh skills and expertise into the organisation, with the ability to challenge the status quo.
How has social media impacted the industry?
Twitter is a great asset to The Australian. We have a healthy following on Twitter and we are able to generate a lot of discussions on the platform. A lot of our journalists tweet and it is a great way for them to share their points of view and connect directly with their readers.
The concern I have about Twitter is that people don’t necessarily differentiate the quality of their news sources. Twitter is often where news is broken, but it’s also the world’s greatest rumour mill. It’s often only in hindsight that people say they read something on Twitter first, and only then once a rumour has been confirmed.
There’s also a lot of unsubstantiated rubbish that also gets aired on Twitter and is never confirmed. I think it’s important that Australians understand the
value of the source of a tweet and that people turn to trusted media outlets for confirmation of the facts. Even if only a couple of tweets from independent sources promoted inaccurate information, it is enough to erode the trust in the news shared on Twitter. When an organisation such as The Australian shares news on Twitter, the assumption people should have is that it has been verified and checked.
How will digital subscriptions impact the media industry?
Charging for premium digital content is a very positive move for the industry. We know that the work we do is valuable to Australians, and it is important that people understand that paying for this content will ensure the future of in-depth news and analysis from the leading news organisations. We would love it if everyone wanted to subscribe, but we appreciate that there will be some people who will not. These people can still consume a lot of great content on The Australian website thanks to the ‘freemium’ model we are employing.
Millions of people buy newspapers every day, so it is not a stretch to believe that they will pay for great written and video content online, but it is up to each news outlet to convince them to do so.
What are you most concerned about when considering the future of journalism?
The industry needs to continue to evolve while staying true to the core principals of good journalism. We need to maintain the level of quality expected and cater to the rapidly changing needs of our audience. My seven-year-old daughter will grow up consuming media in a very different way to me – once she has grown up, if we are still trying to deliver her the news in exactly the same way that we are today then we will have failed to evolve. It is a challenging industry, but we are in a position of strength and I am excited by what the future holds.