One could be forgiven for thinking, on the abundant international evidence, that newspapers are in something of a pickle. In the past 24 hours we have learned that no less an organ than The New York Times shed nigh on 4% of its circulation in the six months to March. That’s an average sale now of 1,077,256 copies a day. Things are of course entirely different in Australia, where the miracle of ever-escalating sales and robust revenue continues to unfold. We have the word of Fairfax chief David Kirk on that:
Fairfax Media has never been in stronger shape. Our revenues are growing – and our metro brands, with their combined print and online reach, have never been stronger. Our broadsheets are commercially successful and have an enduring future. Across our mastheads, we have the best editors in the country and, in my view and I think the view of our readers and staff generally, we produce first-class newspapers and magazines.
There is clearly much that Fairfax can teach the rest of the publishing world. Pity is that the Australian media are, as a pack, disinclined to host any sort of rigorous self examination, much less share the mystery of how, alone in the publishing universe, we can produce quality newspapers that grow.
Tomorrow in Sydney, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance is hosting a conference unassumingly titled The Future of Journalism … a convocation that could prove something of a turning point in this undernourished conversation. All the major players will be there – including, by way of disclosure, Crikey’s Eric Beecher and Margaret Simons. We’ll be keen to report its findings over the rest of this week, and perhaps unravel the wonder of how Australia can grow while the rest of the print publishing world dribbles into a bucket.