Australian Newsagency Blog

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

Two regional newspapers close for good in Victoria

Mark Fletcher
June 1st, 2020 · 7 Comments

The Great Southern Star and Yarram Standard suspended print production in March as the coronavirus pandemic was ramping up. The publisher has now confirmed that the closure is permanent. The Age has the story.

Closure of independent local papers highlights the struggle for all media – locally-owned and multinational – as the pandemic eats away at the remaining advertising not yet lost to digital giants like Google and Facebook.

The Star, established in Leongatha in 1890, had a weekly print run of about 4300; the Standard at Yarram near the Ninety Mile Beach, about 1600.

Mr Giles said his family had been torn over the decision to close and the impact on communities.

“I understand towns are probably fearful of losing their identity,” he said. “The main people I’m concerned for are the 60-plus seniors who love their paper.”

Mr Giles said among the body blows to local papers was the leakage of revenue to social media. “I’ve been trying to tell local businesses that [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg is taking all our profits over to America.”

While I get that publishers see value in targeting Google, Facebook and other social media platforms for loss of revenue, the reality is that what has happened is the world has changed. How people engage with news has changed. We have all seen it coming for many years.

I am surprised there have not been more newspaper closures sooner.

I agree there is an issue with the tax paid by these giant offshore social media companies, and, indeed, many large businesses. They scam us raking in billions from Australians paying little in tax, making almost no economic contribution to government funded infrastructure.

There is also an issue of shop local. Advertisers have fled print to these social media platforms. I know I did ten years ago because of the more efficient ad model. Everyone on Facebook and Twitter, everyone searching Gooogle for news and clicking on a paid ad has put a brick in this wall.

News itself has fuelled the change. Whereas in the past, stories would break in print. Now, they break within seconds of happening and become fanned quickly beyond local thanks to the digital platforms.

The medium is dead. Okay, for some, the print newspaper is something they like. However, there are not enough of them to fund the infrastructure to keep print alive. All that is up for debate right now timing of to closure of print newspapers. Okay, maybe not all because analysis and investigative journalism newspapers like The Saturday Paper could exist for ages.

Yes, it is sad local papers are closing. We knew this would happen. Their closure does not need to mean an end to local news, it does not need to mean the end of a local newsagency that is part of a channel created to distribute news.

It is now up to locals who want a local voice for local news and opinion make that happen. A newspaper publisher closing does not mean the need is gone. Those calling for the need for a local newspaper should look at what they are doing and the choices they have made and can make now to support a local voice platform for 2020 and beyond.

Newsagents can play a role in this.

11 likes

Category: Media disruption · Newspapers · Social responsibility

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Colin // Jun 1, 2020 at 8:03 AM

    And no doubt to be repeated in many more places in the coming months.

    Excellently described, a slow train crash, unable to prevent the finale.

    Note the last para. There is a need and desire for local voice platform… ie not necessarily a newspaper. End of an era.

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  • 2 Peter // Jun 1, 2020 at 9:35 AM

    I think the big problem with new tech is they don’t play by the rules. They call themselves disruptors as though that makes them exempt from contributing as a normal business entity. Not only do they pay minimal tax, they don’t pay to gather news, but parasitically feed off those that do. It’s time that governments of the world unite to force them to pay their fair share of tax and reimburse proper news gathering outlets for their appropriation of news stories. What else do they have these G7 or G20 etc groupings for?

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  • 3 Mark Fletcher // Jun 1, 2020 at 9:41 AM

    Peter, I’d like to see more effort from government on tax minimisation as it’s not only the tech companies. News Corp. is a master at this as are mining companies like Rio Tinto.

    This list from Michael West speaks to the cost to our economy: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/top-40-tax-dodgers-2019/

    It’s a global problem that needs a global solution.

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  • 4 Peter // Jun 1, 2020 at 11:17 AM

    I agree Mark, but at least traditional news outlets employed journalists as well as a host of other employees directly and indirectly associated with the dissemination and distribution of news.

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  • 5 Graeme Day // Jun 1, 2020 at 1:37 PM

    Yes they did employ those people however they were profoundly printng Sydney/State World based and not producing important “local” news which is what each Country Town wants.
    They want their Town news, plus the local region news and not News that comes from AAP Reuiter that is mass produced and distributed by everyone From this month on AAP closes its news production and sub- editing businesses becasuse they were not able to compete with free online publishers. It was aservice in declines as World news was/is becoming easier and quicker to obtain. News Corp and NINE have severed ties and will use their own resources which are vast.
    Country newsapares will survive if the reinvent themselves with meaningful local and Regional news at a reasonable cover price. The cover price is important because tha local advertising is not great in numbers and expensive to produce.
    It is also wvery expensive for Capital City and National operators such as K Mart, Woolwoths -Coles -Aldi and all the chains to participate as the target audience is small and very limited as
    one publication per advertisement.
    It’s ealty days yet however I believe it can be done, getting the business model right is the key.
    Country newsagents will play abig part in this if they grab the distribution and retail sales opportunity.

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  • 6 Andrew T // Jun 4, 2020 at 6:12 PM

    One of the longest serving newsagencies in Tweed Heads has called it a day.

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  • 7 Graeme Day // Jun 4, 2020 at 9:10 PM

    Hi Andrew
    That would have to be Newtons a prominent position on the left hand side going north.
    I visited the store whilst I was consulting at Coolangatta.
    They had been in the industry for a long time and were well respected.
    the Mall opposite took much away from them and they countered that by specialising in Office Smart (Stationery) for business and got quite a name for it despite Office Works being a Kilometre away.
    Sign of the times I guess.

    0 likes

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