The Australian yesterday ran a story about newsagents yesterday: Signs of hope after agents battered by print fallout. Written as a puff piece to promote Hubbed Connect, I say it is incomplete for these reasons:
- The headline: Signs of hope… yes, there are signs of hope but not because of a bill payment service but because smart newsagents are thinking and acting as retailers and not as agents.
- Plenty of newsagents love newspaper home delivery and don’t see it as thankless. They see the News Corp. controlled fees as thankless. Portraying it as that only serves the purpose of the article.
- News Corp. itself has played a key role in the state of newsagency businesses in Australia: For decades it has forced newsagents to deliver newspapers for a fraction of the real cost of providing the service; for many years it held the cover price of its products down, causing newsagents to make less each year in real terms; News controlled who became newsagents yet it did not use this control to build a strong and viable channel.
- Not all retail newsagents sell lottery products. I would guess that around a third of all retail newsagents don’t have lotteries. This is important since the article says ANF data show 30% of newsagency traffic comes from lottery product sales. I don’t have lotteries in any of my businesses and I’m not complaining at all.
- The article says the last year has been the toughest for newsagents yet there is no explanation of how this conclusion was reached. I know of plenty of newsagents how increased sales last year by being entrepreneurial. Such balance is not included because it does not serve the purpose of the article.
- The number of delivery only newsagents is wrong. A quick check with News circulation people could have confirmed that.
- The article quotes an ANF representative saying Connect is a game-changer for newsagents. The article should have tested this, interviewed newsagents who have already implemented their own game-changer strategies. It should has asked how it is a game-changer beyond pitching to newsagents in 2013 something Australia Post has had for many years and offers today in a retail format far more advanced than what is being proposed to newsagents.
- There is no disclosure of the ANF having a shareholding in the Hubbedd Connect platform promoted in the article.
- There is no disclosure that Matt hand bury is a relative of Rupert Murdoch, CEO of the company that published The Australian.
- In February 2012 I wrote that News Corp. was in crisis in relation to newspaper home delivery. The company denied it was in crisis in a range of public forums yet it did not challenge the evidence of considerable newsagency closures. The company since responded with new terms for newsagents and by this action indicating that it was in part a cause of the crisis.
There are many newsagents who have successfully reinvented their businesses, newsagents achieving growth in shopper traffic and growth in revenue on the back of their own entrepreneurial efforts. Why does The Australian not cover that?
Yes, retail is tough and being a newsagent is hard work. This article in The Australian is written to serve a commercial purpose and for that reason it is incomplete and inaccurate.