Australia’s news media industry is thriving. Readership is on the rise with Total News boasting a huge audience of 20.5 million Australians over the age of 14 as Australian news brands continue to lead the national agenda.
Yet a narrative about the decline of the news persists. Sam Weir, editor of the Herald Sun in Melbourne, believes it is a hangover from years past.
Speaking at ThinkNewsBrands’ Meet the Editors event, he said: “If you had asked me five or six years ago, I probably would have been a little worried about the future of the media industry. But I am not now. Our numbers are all going up, whether it’s subscription numbers or digital subscriptions. As a company, we are on the verge of reaching one million digital subscribers. Think about it. How many years ago the prevailing thought was that no one would ever pay for information online.
That time has well and truly passed, as noted by Michael Stutchbury, editor of The Australian Financial Review, at Sydney’s Meet the Editors event. He said: “There was a time when they said it was all about research. People just searched and there was no “brand”. It was one of the mantras of the time. This information wanted to be free and no one would pay for it.
“Of course, people now pay their subscriptions. It was real change that happened with fake news. People are running out of time. They want reliable information. They want credible information and they are willing to pay for it. If you can offer them that, then you can build an audience.
Similarly, Michelle Gunn, editor of The Australian, was keen to “pierce this narrative about people who are not willing to pay for news. They absolutely are. And there’s never been a more important time to have premium information products. »
Part of the problem, according to West Australian Newspapers editor Anthony De Ceglie, is that newspapers are too busy sharing the news to share their own news. De Ceglie said: “Traditionally, newspapers have failed to sell. We haven’t talked enough about how disruptive the newspaper industry is.
De Ceglie cites the example of Australian Hedley Thomas who won journalism’s most prestigious award, a Gold Walkley, for his podcast The Teacher’s Pet which investigated the disappearance of Lynette Dawson in the 1970s and saw the case reopened decades later. The idea of a newspaper winning an award for a podcast takes a moment to process, but it’s a hallmark of how these companies are evolving to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s audiences.
The focus is now on tomorrow’s audiences to ensure they can interact with the news in a way that suits their lifestyle.
Readership data shows that nine out of 10 people under the age of 40 read the news each month. Of this number, 97% of 25 to 39 year olds read the news and 91% of 14 to 24 year olds consult the news monthly.
Of the 20.5 million Australians who read the news every month, 41% of that audience is under 40 and every week the news engages more Australians under 40 than any other channel, including Facebook . While print news consumption is on the rise for this cohort, with dwell time dropping from 62 minutes in 2020 to 88 minutes in 2022.
Tory Maguire, editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, recognizes the potential of tapping into this audience. She said: “It’s a huge challenge for us – to engage this audience who get a lot of their news and opinions on TikTok and Instagram. We’ve invested a huge amount of resources in engaging this audience.
For Nine, that means finding ways to repackage the journalism brands are already producing.
Maguire said: “So don’t do special youth journalism, but make sure we get every drop of value out of every story we do, across all platforms and formats for all audiences. The idea is to form habits among this cohort.
This sees The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald breaking news into smaller chunks for social platforms and investing in off-platform expansions of these big mastheads.
News Corp took a different approach with the launch of The Oz. The publication describes itself as “a news environment for young Australians who assesses all angles, has difficult conversations and stays curious, while sharing the fearless values of Australian journalism and news reporting”.
Aiming to “provide a platform for the voices of society that go unheard”, The Oz was launched in April, led by Elyse Popplewell, who previously oversaw The Australian’s presence on TikTok, Instagram and LinkedIn. .
In the west, The West Australian is future-proofing with strong adoption of live streaming which has attracted massive audiences for the platform during Covid. From streaming press conferences to collaborating with partners to live streaming cultural events, these innovations are proof that Australian news media have gone far beyond the print newspaper.
De Ceglie says: “It’s a disruption service that we’ve created out of this beautiful thing called thewest.com.au that we can do anything with.
The future looks bright for news and new audiences discovering the brands older Australians have trusted for years. The Herald Sun’s Weir certainly thinks so, noting: “All the numbers are rolling. It’s a success. »
For more on how young audiences interact with the news, check out The Youth Chapter here.