May 26, 2014

Media briefs: News loves News … wordless columns … counting up to 86%

Rupert Murdoch is a visionary, says his employee. Plus other media tidbits of the day.

Ain't that good News. There are few things more joyful in Australian media than seeing how many twists News Corp can get into reporting on itself. Thus, Prince Rupert announces that his papers would be printed for "decades" more to come, which is covered breathlessly by The Australian, after which media editor Sharri Markson writes a comment about the story about Rupert talking about the paper she’s writing in. It’s difficult to know what is more gobsmacking about Markson’s report. Is it her Google Translate version of English prose -- "reports to talk it down are exaggerated", "he has proved correct" -- or her mixed/incorrect metaphors, with the observation that "[Channel] Ten’s flailing ratings do not sign the death-knell for free-to-air television"? Neither. It’s this, which would raise a blush in the cheeks of the editor of the Pyongyang Times:
"Being engaging and innovative in the digital space, while still selling millions of newspapers, is critical to the success of News Corp, unlike its one-time Australian competitor Fairfax, and is a reflection on Rupert Murdoch, the most successful publisher the world has ever seen. Murdoch has proved himself a visionary in a media industry largely populated by lesser executives who show more reservation than courage, more anxiety than insight and more uncertainty than solutions."
Visionary, yes. Takes a far-seeing man to buy Myspace, back the Iraq War or ping the Muslim terrorists who got MH370. For all the breathless celebration, the equation is pretty simple: the tabloids make money, the (ex)-broadsheets lose it. "The Australian has more paying customers than at any time in its 50-year history," Markson breathlessly reports, failing to add that it loses more money than it ever has in that period, too. Still, full Marksons for imperial flattery. Sky’s the limit -- this one could be the next Rebekah Brooks. -- Guy Rundle Counting up to 86%. Last week we noted with some scepticism News' claim that it reaches 86% of Australians, wondering quite how the bean-counters reached that claim. After all, while News Corp's most popular websites reach millions, its print publications, which the company often trumpets as the core of its business, reach far, far fewer than that, according to recent circulation data. However, News Corp's head of corporate affairs, the ever good-natured Stephen Browning, emailed us on Friday telling us to "wonder no more", as he fleshed out some more detail about just how News reaches its 86% figure. The figure comes from Enhanced Media Metrics Australia, which reckons that of the 17.5 million Australians over 14 years old, 85.8% read News Corp publications over a four-week period in March 2014. Some of the websites included in that include:
  • mX
  • GQ
  • Gardening Australia
  • SportingPulse
  • Careerone
  • Along with dozens of other properties and the company's major newspapers.
The figures, we are informed, measure unduplicated reach, so each person is only counted once. This list reminded us of the vast number of digital properties owned by News Corp, and gels rather strangely with today's Oz editorial, which calls a digital-first strategy a "premature, unwise and unfailing surrender". -- Myriam Robin A race to the top, before the money runs out. It's the beginning of Kath Viner's last week atop Guardian Australia, and to mark the occasion, as well as the local offshoot turning one, Viner gave a rather interesting interview to Radio National's Media Report late last week. But perhaps the most interesting thing wasn't a statement by Viner at all, but a line of questioning by host Richard Aedy.
AEDY: Is the plan to become one of a handful of global media brands in the English language? VINER: That depends on other English-language media brands, doesn't it? We're third at the moment [behind the Mail and The New York Times] ... It's about having a strong global identity in English-language countries, or anyone who wants to read a newspaper website in the English language. AEDY: It is a race though, isn't it? Can you get this to work before you run out of money? We've got these converging curves in a way ... VINER: Well, The Guardian has recently sold one of its big assets, which means it has a billion dollars in the bank, so I'm not worried about running out of money right this moment.
Meanwhile, The Guardian is still not making the revenue to meet the costs of its Australian operation, but Viner says it's far closer to doing so than the team expected (Guardian Aus managing director Ian McClelland told Crikey something similar a few months ago). -- Myriam Robin How to fill a column without using words. Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Blair seems to be struggling to fill column inches these days. In November Blair repeated the same word 160 times (to make the point that climate change will be affecting our children's children's children's ... you get the idea). Now he's done away with words altogether. Following on from the Tele's beat-up of people on the disability support pension on Thursday (handily debunked by Crikey on Friday), Blair has now filled his page with dots. Each dot represents, well, not much, actually ...
"The 17,920 dots on this page represent just a small fraction of the 832,034 Australians currently claiming the disability pension."
At least Thursday's beat-up compared the number of disabled to another concrete number (the number of Australia's war wounded, though why that number was picked instead of, say, how many gumballs are in the average gumball machine we do not know). But these dots are arbitrary -- look, there are lot of dots. There are more Australians on the DSP than there are dots on this page. Lots!

The column looks particularly excellent online, where the graphic is not reproduced:

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8 thoughts on “Media briefs: News loves News … wordless columns … counting up to 86%

  1. klewso

    Ah, “Prince Rupert” – reminds me of Red Skelton.

  2. klewso

    Where would “Rupert the Stupert” be if he hadn’t found Barry Diller?

  3. Pete from Sydney

    “according to recent circulation data” Myriam – readership and circulation are different figures, that’s an industry wide the redership number is much higher than the circulation.

  4. Warwick Glenn

    Saw a brilliant bumper sticker today: “Is it true? Or did you read it in the Courier-Mail?” However, I feel it should be updated: “Is it true? Or did you get your info from the Murky Murdoch media?”

  5. Kevin_T

    If I am walking past the news stand in the supermarket, and I read a ludicrous front page headline on a News Corp title, does that make me count toward the alleged 86% reach of the company in Australia?

  6. CML

    @ Kevin T – Hopefully not, or you will have to give up going to supermarkets!!

  7. Saugoof

    That 86% number is inflated to produce the highest number possible.

    If I have a peek at, say, the Mx web page once from my work, once from my phone, once from my home PC, and once while being bored at an internet terminal at the airport, that counts as four distinct visits. Unless I log in with a Newscorp user account, which few people would, there is absolutely no way for anyone outside of the NSA to find out that these four visits were in fact from the same person.

  8. klewso

    “Is it the truth – or did you catch it from Murdoch?”

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