The slow crushing of the newspaper business model can be observed in real time at the moment, courtesy of the number of ads in our national newspapers.
Much of the The Weekend Australian was given over to ranting at the internet (and uppity women) from old white blokes. Then again, The Oz is a paper by, for and of old white blokes, one that is steadily growing even more unprofitable as advertising migrates to the internet. The Australian Financial Review, another paper with a strong skew to old white blokes (albeit ones still working rather than the Sunshine Coast retirees who form the core of The Oz readership), is in the same predicament.
The recent Weekend Fin had just 14 ads in 64 pages. That was better than a week earlier when it had six. But this weekend’s edition saw five ads related to the paper (either house ads or contra for functions or events where the paper is a media partner). There were just three full page ads, one of which was a house ad.
The ad ratio was just under 9%, including the house ads. Strip those out and it was closer to 5%, better than the 3% of a week earlier, but still a disaster.
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And this morning’s edition of The Australian was also better than a week ago. The paper had the usual 36 pages: there were eight display ads, plus 13 ads from various banks advertising their new interest rates after the recent rate cut from the Reserve Bank. Some of those bank rate ads were crowded into a full page of general classifieds. There was a further collection of general classifieds on another page (around 20% of the full page). But the paper contained seven house ads, which is always a bad sign. The Oz had just one ad for its media section this morning.
A week ago the Monday edition of The Oz had 14 display ads (no jobs) with four of those related to paper itself or News Limited, plus around a quarter of a page of general notices on page 34 and around half a page of interest rate changes from the National Australia Bank and BankWest after rate cuts Friday before last.
This morning’s AFR didn’t have a house ad. It had 11 ads (some full page), eight property ads and eight interest rate ads. The paper was its usual 48 pages (bigger than the Friday paper, excluding the Review and Lifestyle liftouts).
So, thanks to the interest rate ads from the banks, both papers looked a little healthier this morning. The Oz might write about the perfidious banks slowing rate cuts and other “rorts”, but the rate ads, especially at the moment, are manna from the heavens for Mr Murdoch!
But based on what we saw this morning and on Friday and at the weekend, both papers are bleeding cash with the federal government’s job ads switched to online. The situation can’t continue for much longer without more pressure on jobs.
Watch to see if Tony Abbott or someone senior in the opposition pops up between now and the next election and promises to reverse the decision to switch federal job ads to online sites and to resume advertising in the national papers. It’d be tough to explain given the Coalition, like every opposition since the birth of parliamentary democracy, is supposedly all about ending waste and mismanagement. But they could try running the “letting the managers manage” line — something like “the Coalition believes public service managers in line agencies are best placed to determine the most effective way to recruit staff, rather than a politically-motivated government edict about where and how to advertise”.
Oh, except there’s one problem: the opposition is committed to cutting 12,000 bureaucrats through a hiring freeze. Although, of course, if you believe the Coalition will have an actual hiring freeze once it gets into government and starts demanding public servants implement its agenda, here’s a bridge over Lake Burley Griffin we’d like to sell you.
Still, the hard times at the national mastheads are likely to continue.