dispatches for the Sydney media world … this week saw The Australian on, yes, bullish form at it's inaugural Media breakfast series. many of Sydney's media agency kids gathered at The Four Seasons to hear Geoff Elliott chair a panel of Nick Leeder (Deputy CEO, The Australian), Malcolm Turnbull (Federal Member for Wentworth and former Leader of the Opposition), Andrew Murrell (GM Channel Market, Commonwealth bank of Australia) and Richard Eary (Head of Media and Telecommunications Research, UBS Equities) discuss convergence, iPads and a lot in between.
but it was Richard Freudenstein, CEO of The Australian and NDM who kicked things off. describing the context of the "rise of aggressive technological companies" that may prove "potentially quite disruptive to professional media companies". I'll let you digest the 'potentially', 'quite' and 'professional' bits of that quote on your own time…
Freudenstein kicked off the bullish tone in fine form… declaring that the organisation is "aiming for an increase in print circulation" and that it is "our intention to be the pre-eminent source of news at all times across all platforms" … "NewsCorp fully intends to be across all [emerging] platforms … it's cheap, current and constantly up to date"
but it was the Admiral himself who continued NewsCorp's bullish tone. Rupert Murdoch addressed the room via a recorded video, and in comments reported this week in The Guardian, heaped praise on Steve Jobs and his iPad, of which Murdoch is so fond… but the Admiral's battle charge began with comments aimed at recent adversary Google. he noted that he had "ruffled some feathers" but that "the debate needed to be had" … and, in a delightfully provocative comment that "The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free" … lovely stuff
Murdoch described how "we are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet" … "people are willing to pay for high quality content, as long as we deliver it how and where they want it" (Murdoch missed out the last bit of that sentence: …and as long as that content is not available for free elsewhere)
and then to the panel debate, where NewsCorp's bullish tone continued unopposed by the rest of the panel. it started OK, when Elliott asked Eary if newspapers were dead? Eary replied that "its a good question" … cue nervous laughter from the NewsCorp crowd. but it didn't last long – Eary went on to say that "there is some degree of optimism" and that "even if paywalls are put up there's a big audience to monetise" … "if you look at digital CPMs vs Press CPMs there's a big divide" – his point… that better targeting (behind paywalls) generate higher CPMs. all very on message.
and how the message continued… "You don't want to bet against yourself – we're not seeing circulation decline" … "we need to grow in both directions" … "be careful you don't import [from the US and UK] the narrative" … "the beauty of an app is that the technology goes away [the iPad is introducing] serendipity back into the browsing experience"
you were hard-pressed to find anything off what was clearly a very well constructed message to Sydney's media community. that NewsCorp and The Australian are growing and on top of emerging platforms and technologies. the only descension came from what I had considered to be the most unlikely of places… Malcolm Turnbull seemed to be the only challenge on the platform, the only voice of question.
Turnbull pointed out the "devastating loss of value" that the internet had brought about in media organisations, and raised valid and critical questions about the rise of video and the effect of new technologies on news organsations. his questions and concerns were simply brushed away, with Nick Leeder, deputy CEO of The Australian commenting that "people have to sift through the nonsense they see on Twitter" and that "YouTube is great for dogs with skate boards.
which all-in-all was a shame. being bullish is good for business, it's good for shareholders and its good for negotiations and for bravado. but it's not good for the important debate that needs to be had about the future of media and communications. it's restrictive, limiting and adds nothing to the knowledge bank of media planners and clients picking their way through an evolving communications landscape.
NewsCorp can talk all they like about Twitter's "nonsense" and YouTube's "dogs with skateboards", the revolution is coming, whether they like it or not. being Bullish will only get you so far.