The media week that was

Last updated 10:16 27/08/2010

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The first of a weekly Friday column from BusinessDay's advertising/marketing/media writer William Mace.

DOOM OR BOOM - IS THE GLASS HALF FULL?

Doom-sayers have been wearing sandwich boards decrying the Death of Newspapers for some time now.

Only yesterday one internationally respected "media futurist'' told a gathering of media moguls, publishers and journalists in Sydney that "by 2022 newspapers as we know them will be irrelevant''.

This man, Ross Dawson, predicted the rise of social networking and micro-blogging in his 2002 book Living Networks before Twitter or Facebook were even a twinkle in the eye of their creators.

Now that traditional businesses are looking more like flies in the world wide web than spiders, new media minds like Dawson's are in high demand.

He believes media company revenues will increase but iPads and their multiplicity of successors will become our "primary interface'' in place of good ol' news print.

Eventually such news readers will cost as little as $10.

Dawson predicts journalism will be increasingly "crowd-sourced'' by amateurs under the guidance of professionals.

He says there will still be money to be made from media, but established media organisations will need to reinvent themselves to participate in that growth.

RESULTS SEASON ROLLS ALONG

The latest rumblings from the South Pacific's media companies have been optimistic with the up-turn of advertising revenues, but unnervingly pragmatic.

Publishers APN News & Media and News Ltd have already unveiled improved results compared to the same time last year, with a main portion of the latter's success coming from the Fox film business that produced Avatar.

Both businesses have signalled their support for mobile news-reading devices such as the iPad, with News boss Rupert Murdoch calling it a "game-changer'' and APN releasing an iPad application for its NZHerald.co.nz digital masthead.

Fairfax Media the company that owns Stuff.co.nz and a whole swag of newspapers and magazines across Australia and New Zealand releases its full year results today.

Fairfax is expected to tell investors the outcome of an independent report into how the company should go about delivering a "digital dividend'' from its online business model.

The company has already had significant online success with the likes of Stuff.co.nz, but converting that popularity into a sustainable business model when the yield from online advertising is a fraction of that earned from print is playing on the minds of every publisher, big or small.

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WHO PAYS  ADVERTISERS?

Display advertising, the eye-catching graphic banners around the perimeter of the screen, is catching up to its search-based cousin in New Zealand according to figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau released this week.

Search engine advertising such as Google AdWords had been attracting more spend from advertisers because it translates more readily into "click-throughs'' to the company's own site, and from there a purchase is only another click away.

But such "performance-based'' advertising doesn't lend itself well to news and entertainment websites.

Overall the strong growth of online advertising through the recession has continued, up $7.26 million in the April-June 2010 quarter to $62.58 million.

For the first time ever according to the IAB figures, the display category overtook the online classifieds category with $20.6 million spent, although the three subsets all have roughly a third share of the annual $213 million pie.

Publishers will be happy to hear advertisers are once again keen to pay top dollar for big brand banner space, but the international trends still favour search, social media and mobile device advertising.

Online is still relatively small change compared to newspaper advertising which, despite falling 18 per cent, was a $623 million market in 2009.

OR USER PAYS?

There's a gap in revenues there. A gap which the likes of Rupert Murdoch are asking their readers to think very carefully about filling with their hard-earned cash.

He's not just calling the iPad a "game changer'' to stay on Steve Jobs' Christmas card list. It's because it's an entirely new technology bringing with it a whole set of applications [has this word been changed for ever?] that can be charged for.

If laptop and PC users have gotten used to reading and viewing everything on the internet for free, perhaps they'll pay to read it conveniently on a crowded train. Perhaps they'll appreciate content unique to their mobile device, or the chance to become part of a rewarding online community.

Perhaps they'll even pay to view content on their home computers, which is a punt Murdoch has taken on several of his Northern Hemisphere mastheads including British paper The Times [data from Experian Hitwise showed The Times site had lost two thirds of its readership after introduction of a pay wall].

Any prediction of the "media future'' will have to nail down exactly how the "future reader'' will act, and every reader will eventually have to ask themselves if they are prepared to fork out for online content just as they'd done with print copies for hundreds of years.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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