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Earlier this week Think TV botched the release of 2017-18 TV revenue data by not being clear and providing comparable figures for reasonable analysis. Now their cousins, the print media “think tank” NewsMediaWorks, has gone further by completely changing the way the data is presented. The move makes any accurate analysis impossible.

The headline on the latest release on the June quarter 2018 data barely mentions the financial year data, unlike the release in early August 2017, which provided a handy table of how print media revenue (total, print, digital and NIMS — Newspaper Inserted Magazines) performed in the year to June 2017. The lack of that table and its data (the 2017 release had data for that year and 2016) makes it impossible for any rational attempt to be made to compare the three years’ performance of newspaper revenues.

The 2018 release does, however, provide one figure that allows an accurate comparison to be made: “Australia’s news media sector remains the third largest media sector by ad revenue, reporting $2 billion for the full 2018 financial year.” The 2017 release describes that figure as “total revenue” and provides a figure of $2.1 billion and one for 2016 of $2.33 billion. That means total news media revenue fell more than 14% from 2016 to June 2018, but that there was an improvement in 2017-18 in that the rate of fall slowed to just under 5%. If you believe the release issued this week, there seems to have been a marked improvement in the June quarter, but without meaningful, accurate figures to allow analysis, we have to take that with a large grain of salt.

The release earlier this week of 2017-18 revenue figures for broadcast TV was almost as confusing. There was no comparative data or breakdown of sector data (free-to-air and Foxtel for example). On the face of it there seems to have been a 23% slide in free-to-air revenues from 2015-16 to 2017-18 to $2.85 billion (out of $4.16 billion of total industry revenues). But we have no way of knowing how revenues went from July 2016 to June 2017.

This apparent obfuscation is now typical of print media (and increasingly broadcast TV media) in this country. Print has stopped providing regularly, quarterly updates on the performance of print and digital sales and subscriptions (as they have in the US, but not in the UK which remains a very open print media sector). Transparency is becoming increasingly rare — which is ironic in an industry that clamours for increased transparency from business, unions, governments and anyone it wishes to target. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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