Former Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell reckons News Corp’s tabloids shouldn’t have websites. He thinks all of News Corp’s tabloid national news should be available for free under news.com.au, while the local tabloid papers should run localised editions for their cities, including traditional rounds like city councils and police, and largely leave national affairs alone.

In his memoir, which was released earlier this month, Mitchell says news.com.au could have three times the traffic of Fairfax behemoth smh.com.au and be in a position to capitalise on display advertising revenue if the tabloids would stop splintering their traffic. He suggests news.com.au have local news available through the navigation menu, as the ABC website does.

Meanwhile, the city papers should run like the regional papers — by focusing only on their cities and leaving other things alone, says Mitchell. Mitchell says he’s suggested this to News Corp’s execs before. He writes that the decline at The Australian and News Corp’s suburban papers hasn’t been as large as that at the big city papers because the city papers have muddied heir “content missions” (mind you, the big city tabloids still make most of the revenue that subsidised The Australian through the lean years). Mitchell writes:

“Once, a paper such as the Daily Telegraph in Sydney or the Courier-Mail in Brisbane would cover all the villages of their cities. It would publish different versions for different parts of the city. Sydney particularly is a city of villages populated by people who seldom leave their area … Yet the news agenda of [The Daily Telegraph] has for at least a decade and a half concerned national politics, state politics and national gossip. There is very little on-the-ground investigation or reporting of Sydney’s communities. This trend is only increasing online.”

Of course, one implication of this would be to leave The Australian as News Corp’s sole paper with a national focus. Which would be very handy for The Australian, to operate with no competition from the tabloids. — Myriam Robin

Peter Fray

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