Jun 25, 2012

Essential: broadsheets best placed to survive online

Broadsheet readers are more willing to pay for newspaper content, today's Essential Report finds. And voters have some peculiar ideas about the impact of the carbon price.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Broadsheet readers are more willing to pay for online subscriptions than tabloid readers, this week's Essential Report shows, with the Sydney Morning Herald best placed to lure readers behind a paywall. As the fallout continues from an historic period of turmoil in the Australian newspaper industry and after Fairfax announced it would be joining News Ltd in moving its premium content behind paywalls, only 13% of all voters said they'd be willing to pay a subscription to access news sites. However, that's up from 9% in November, and the crucial sub-group of voters who read newspapers (either online or paper versions) are much more likely to do so. Sydney Morning Herald readers are the most likely: 28% say they would pay a subscription, with 69% saying they wouldn't. 25% of Australian readers say they would, and 22% of Age readers. The tabloids fare more poorly though: only 18% of Telegraph and Courier-Mail readers would pay, and only 10% of Herald-Sun readers. As last November's results showed, younger people are significantly more likely to pay a subscription than older people, which is problematic for newspapers since few younger people read them, and particularly problematic for a paper like The Australian which is mainly aimed at older demographics and retirees. The extent of voter misinformation about the carbon price has also been revealed in a remarkable set of answers on questions about the carbon price. Support for the carbon price has fallen since November, with 35% of voters supporting it, down 3 points since November, and opposition up 1 point to 54%, the highest level of net opposition since the scheme was announced. 45% of voters believe it will increase the cost of living "a lot", despite the CPI impact estimated to be 0.7%. 67% believe it will increase energy prices "a lot"; 53% expect it will increase fuel prices a lot (in fact it will have no impact on petrol prices for motorists); 41% say it will increase grocery prices a lot; and 31% even believe it will increase unemployment a lot (32% believe unemployment will remain about the same), while 22% believe it will increase interest rates (38% believe interest rates will remain much the same). However, partisanship plays a key role in perceptions of the impact of the carbon price - Liberal voters are far more likely to believe the carbon price will have a large impact, with 62% of Liberal voters thinking it will cause costs to increase a lot. Voters, however, are more evenly divided on whether Tony Abbott will repeal the carbon price once elected, as he was sworn a "blood oath" to do. 44% believe he is likely to repeal but 40% do not; Labor and Liberal voters are polarised on the issue but Greens voters are almost perfectly split, 42-41%. The results could (generously) be interpeted as a positive for Labor, with voters plainly expecting dramatic changes after 1 July, and therefore likely to be pleasantly surprised once the introduction of the carbon price comes and goes without drama. They may also account for why voters are relatively cautious in their consumer spending currently. On voting intention, there was no change from last week: Coalition 49%, Labor 33% and Greens 10%, for a 2PP outcome of 56-44%. The sample size was 1,000 respondents.

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2 thoughts on “Essential: broadsheets best placed to survive online

  1. Scott

    Most people are comparing the carbon tax with the GST. Hence why they believe the prices of goods will go up (especially in regards to electricity and food), which they will, at least in the short run.
    0.7% additional increase in CPI might not sound like much, but that isn’t an extra 0.7% of the CPI (i.e CPI*1.007), but 0.7%+CPI. When the CPI is running at 1.6% at the moment, that’s almost a 43% increase, not a 0.7% increase. It will have an effect on prices, any way you look at it.
    The logical progression from this is that the increased inflation will result in the Reserve lifting interest rates to slow it down (which the RBA did as a response to the introduction of the GST). This would definitely be the case if inflation was at norm (3-4%), but may not necessarily be the case with inflation pretty low at the moment and a weakness in the global economy.
    As for unemployment and fuel prices…well the laws of unintended consequences might apply here. If oil refinery companies are paying the carbon tax, they may pass it on through increased wholesale prices and petrol retailers may also increase prices at the bowser to compensate.
    Unemployment is harder to judge, but all depends if the carbon tax affects economic growth. If it does, and I believe it will in the short run, it will increase unemployment (in the first 1-2 years). In the medium to long run, Treasury believes that growth will not be that affected, so employment should come back.
    So the responses are not that surprising in my opinion. I’m pretty bearish myself about the carbon tax. Might have been a different story if it went straight to a ETS (as it would come in at a lower price), but at $23 a tonne, it is going to hurt a bit.

  2. Arty

    The laws of unintended consequences are always a worry when a completely new and expansive system is introduced. It appears that it has been “locked up” with the effect that desirable fine-tuning might be difficult.

    I appears to me that two parties like it. The Greens because it will enable them to capture more of the traditional Labor vote. The Coalition because it is so complex that it is a vote gift to them.

    I am still concerned with the nasty effects of the carbon price on Black Caviar.

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