Australian Newsagency Blog

A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

A lesson of history for newspapers and their supply chain

Mark Fletcher
June 28th, 2005 · No Comments

Thanks to referral by Steve Outing at Poynter Online and his piece Newspapers’ Big Mistake: The Historical View I have read How Transistor Radios and Web (and Newspapers and Hi-Fi radio) are Alike by Rich Gordon. Gordon is Associate professor of journalism, Northwestern University, Illinois. He has real world experience in publishing.

This essay by Gordon is an important and timely piece of writing for newspaper publishers and all who work in the newspaper supply chain. It is not a doom and gloom rant. Rather, this essay explains how the disruptive technology of the internet is connects with and meets the needs of a younger audience just as the transistor radio did in the 1950s.

Some newspapers get this and you can see them responding as early adopters of podcasting and other online technologies, aggressively pursuing their news brand into the non print space.

Rich’s essay provides more take away for newspaper publishers than for newsagents for a publisher controls the brand and can make appropriate decisions to extend the life of the brand. Publishers have the ability to respond and grow their connect with their audience.

The Australian newsagent network, 4,600 retail and distribution businesses, does not have the luxury of the publishers. We are the conduit for access to publisher product. We do not have the same connect with the brand. The challenge we face is enormous as publishers will reach a tipping point where online is more important than print and while this may be many years off, we need to be engaged with strategies today.

The newsagent response to the challenge of fast low cost mobile technology has to come from outside the current playing field. There is not much sense is us shifting to the right or left within the same playing space. We need to reinvent dramatically to create the necessary emotional and economic connect with the new consumers.

Rupert Murdoch has engaged McKinsey and Co to advise on the News Corporation Internet and related technologies strategies. Newsagents need to engage with a similar skilled consulting group to advise on the best strategies for the future.

I was talking with a senior executive in an Australian newspaper publishing company a few weeks ago who told me that the Internet would have an impact some day but it would be long after he was gone. The implication was that he didn’t want to discuss the impact it might have because it would be felt after they were gone. As a test I asked whether he thought podcasting was something they would get involved in. He said “podwhat?“.

While I have said that publishers and newsagents need to separately find and follow their own road forward, given that the newsagent network was created by publishers it is appropriate that through these transitional years they work together – but with genuine openness, honesty and shared economically fair goals.

Read the Rich Gordon essay.

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