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Media briefs

Jun 11, 2014

Media briefs: a certain scribe who smokes … bet on Jesus … Fairfax shares …

Up in the air, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... Jesus? Plus other media tidbits of the day.

You are what you smoke. Sad to see Errol Simper, The Australians “A Certain Scribe” jumping on the anti-anti-smoking bandwagon by endorsing Christian Kerr’s overblown beat-up (as exposed by Crikey) of tobacco industry “stats” on plain packaging.

Simper is one of the few independent voices left at the Oz, and usually takes a pass on the paper’s frenetic boosting in the service of turning beat-ups into “controversies”. But as the scribe himself notes: “Your correspondent’s war with tobacco has waxed and waned over the years …”. Don’t say. It is often observed that people look like their pets. Simper looks like a slightly crushed Dunhill 25. He hasn’t smoked cigarettes these past decades, they’ve  smoked him. When he finally goes, they should stub him out in a giant bottle green ashtray, while the band plays the Winfield theme. If they cremate him, it will, due to OHS, have to be done outside, in the beer garden.

Fair enough, that’s his choice — and plain packaging doesn’t impede that choice at all. But the certain scribe has made it to a certain age. The plain packaging push has been led by oncologists who have spent their careers telling 45-year-old parents that they won’t see their kid’s 18th. Since branded packaging appeals above all to teenagers, and that is when smoking habits are established, the very least a lifelong smoker could do would be to base discussion around it on real facts, not a conscienceless beat-up.  In that regard, his “all but sobbing” with nostalgia, at teenage smoking, has a taste of snuff about it — Guy Rundle

About those Fairfax shares … Earlier this week Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood sent a missive to staff whingeing about News Corp’s sledging of the company, and within it was this graph …

It shows the claimed “outperformance” of Fairfax shares over News Corp shares since June last year, when the Murdoch family company split itself into two groups, one of which is News.

Hywood proclaimed:

“Since its split in late June 2013, News Corp’s share price has gained 27% versus the 87% lift achieved by Fairfax and over the last six months Fairfax’ share price has outperformed News by close to 50%.”

Far be it from us to try to set News Corp in a better light (its local papers, led by The Australian, do that better than anyone), but Hywood’s comparison is rather selective. To start with, there’s a vast difference of share prices. News Corp shares (the old News Corp) closed at US$32.52 on the Friday before the split. The shares traded around $US15 after the split and in early July hit a low of US$14.52. News shares traded at US$17.35 ($18.31).

Fairfax media shares were around the year low of 46 cents in late June of last year and have risen to 98 cents yesterday. But looking back, Fairfax shares have fallen from just over $4.50 in 2007 to yesterday’s close — that’s a loss of more than 80%, which puts the story in a different light.

At yesterday’s close of 98 cents, Fairfax was valued at A$2.29 billion. At yesterday’s close here of $18.31, News was valued at $10.77 billion. That difference in value is all that matters, not a rise in a share price from a very cheap level to cheap, as we have seen with Fairfax. — Glenn Dyer

Who gets in? A new American report reveals that if you’re a freelancer, photographer or activist, you’re more than twice as likely to be denied a press pass than journalists from traditional media. Who Gets a Press Pass? analysed a series of responses from a survey of more than 1300 media representatives across the United States and found those from reputable mastheads were much more likely to be granted accreditation.

According to Nieman Journalism Lab, journalists at even some of the most popular blogs have been denied credentials to cover events such as court cases and the US Senate.

Authors from the US report suggest that freelancers may not even feel entitled to a press pass, with low numbers of unpaid independents even asking for access. In 2012 the ABC highlighted the importance of establishing some kind of Australian industry body to represent citizen journalists as legitimate voices of the people. It named Crikey as one of the few success stories of online media ventures. So what does this mean for journalists around the world, including those here in Australia? We can only hope official bodies will reconsider and let the little guys in. — Phillipa Rust

Jesus, that’s a terrible stunt. It’s only June, but the prize for tasteless publicity stunt of the year might have been nabbed by Sportsbet for this … 

Yes, what could possibly be wrong with associating betting with Jesus in the country with the world’s greatest problem-gambling habit? The damage from which is often as not dealt with by church agencies. Few squawks of protest so far from the “Christianity is under attack” crowd such as Bolt et al — who yell loudly about the end of civilisation whenever some art student does some pale Piss-Christ imitation. Could this be to do with the fact that Sportsbet is a $300 million-plus company, which has bought a loooooot of advertising on Network Ten in the past?

Aussie newspapers red all over. Australia was the global black hole for newspapers last year, with steep falls in circulations and revenues, according to a report based on the 2013 annual survey of the world’s newspaper industry by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Australian papers, predominantly owned by the Murdoch family’s News Corp, Fairfax Media and the Irish-controlled APN News and Media, have failed to make any international comparisons of their local performance.

The WAN-IFRA report shows that newspaper sales in Australia last year fell faster than sales globally (up 2%) and in Europe and the United States. Sales in Australia and Oceania fell 9.9% in 2013, compared with the 5.3% slide in North America, 5.2% in Europe and 1% in the Middle East and Africa. And, over the past five years, circulation plunged a massive 19.6% in Australia and Oceania, compared with 10.3% in North America and a huge 23% in Europe, especially in countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

The association report also detailed the grim news on the revenue side; for example, it said global print advertising worldwide fell 6% last year from 2012, and is down 13% over the five years to 2013.

“Over five years, print newspaper advertising increased 3.3% in Asia and the Pacific (mostly driven by big gains in Japan, Thailand, offset by falls in Australia and New Zealand). Latin America saw a near 50% jump in ad revenues in the five-year period. But falls were reported of nearly 30% in North America, 17.9% in Europe and 21.1% in the Middle East and Africa.”

And don’t think the internet is going to save newspapers, either. The report continues:

“While newspapers attract a significant portion of the total internet audience, the biggest challenge for publishers continues to be how to increase the engagement of audiences on digital platforms. While 46% of the digital population visits newspaper websites, newspapers are a small part of total internet consumption, representing only 6% of total visits, 0.8% of pages viewed and 1.1% of total time spent on digital platforms.”

In other words, newspaper websites are an afterthought for many consumers — despite the huge numbers for sites such as the Daily Mail (over 160 million visitors a month) and Yahoo and CNN in the US (over 70 million to 90 million a month). –– Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. Terrifying news out of Las Vegas today, where a couple has gone on a shooting rampage …

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