Nigel Henham, official spokesman for The Age, writes:


I heard Stephen Mayne’s comments about The Age
on 774 ABC Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon and would like to respond.
Stephen, you keep running the line that the internet is gobbling up
classified revenues which might suit your bias toward online sites but
I think you are overstating the case. As with the hype surrounding the
dot com boom in the 1990’s, the hype around the net seems to be taking
over from reality.

Yes, internet revenues are growing – but from
a very low base. What was the total share of the advertising pie in the
last year, according to the latest data? 6%. Newspapers took the lion’s
share at 40% and, in fact, took market share away from TV. Yet you keep
running the “newspapers are dead” line.

According
to recent
research, while the proportion of people searching online sites has
increased the actual proportion of people who read a newspaper or
magazine online is 12% – a figure that has remained static for a few
years now. Less than 1% of the population are pure online readers –
that being, they never read a printed newspaper. 86% of Victorians aged
14 and over read a printed newspaper each day.

Sure, online is becoming more important but what you always fail to mention on the ABC is The Age’s
extraordinary reach online – not only number one in Victoria for news
and information and the third highest visited site nationally but
almost double the number of readers as the Herald Sun. The site had 22% growth in the last 6 months.

And
it’s not as if our online classified sites don’t have a presence (My
Career 738,066 average unique browsers April 2006 to September 2005
(+9% growth), Domain – 936,415 (+9%), and Drive – 534,575 (+4%)).

Market share in print classifieds remains strong. The Age’s business is very healthy yet you keep talking us down.

You
also seem to be stuck in the time warp of circulation being the sole
measure for newspapers as if the number of people actually reading the
paper was irrelevant (our print readership is where it was 10 years ago
– hardly a decline) or that online readership should not be viewed as
part of the total brand reach in this new age of 24/7 information.
Since when did people count the number of TV sets? No, they count the
number of viewers who watch programs. The same applies to newspapers.

The Age’s
influence and reach has never been greater in print and online – and
reaching the demographics that advertisers want to reach. Indeed,
Australia should be following the US lead which looks at combined
readership.

And that’s the point. It is the total reach and
presence in print, online, community newspapers and magazines in what
is a fragmenting media landscape. As with all media, there are
continuing challenges but there needs to be a dose a reality.

I’d appreciate it if you could bear the above in mind when you comment next on The Age.

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