AS the editor of the Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook, Megan Brownlow has spent countless hours discussing and analysing the current media and entertainment industry.
Having released the company’s four year forecast for 2012–2016 – which looks at 11 key industry sectors including internet, free-to-air television, and newspapers – Ms Brownlow is particularly well placed to speak with authority about the future of newspapers at this year’s Future Forum.
Ms Brownlow’s presentation will identify key findings from consumer research which offer newspaper publishers opportunities to grow, particularly in the digital space.
“I will also look at where newspapers fit into the entertainment and media industry as a whole and how this has changed over time,” she told News Now.
According to Ms Brownlow, Australian newspapers are at a critical point in history driven by the changing behaviours of readers.
She says Australian publishers have been reactive, not proactive about changing consumer behaviour and reacted sluggishly when US and UK newspaper markets were hit with declining revenue and circulation years ago.
“What Fairfax and News Limited are doing is appropriate. There’s always wisdom with hindsight and they should have started the process prior to now. Timing is a big issue with the publishing industry.”
Although newspaper publishers are experimenting with “different models and bundles, Ms Brownlow says progress is hampered by an industry-wide fear of failure.
“I’ll be talking about the culture change that’s required to allow that kind of experimentation to happen and how we treat failure. We need to change our view about experimentation and failure because it’s part of innovation and teach shareholders its part of a process,” she said.
Ms Brownlow doesn’t suggest publishers experiment recklessly, which would be like throwing profit to the wind.
“Experimentation is critical but using the right measures for that sort of experimentation to judge its success is equally critical. They should not expect a magic bullet for revenue and profitability immediately, and understand that some risks will need to be taken. Inevitably there will need to be some failures,” she said.
According to Ms Brownlow, global trends can tell us a lot about the future.
Because Asia-Pacific markets are emerging economies they still enjoy powerful newspaper markets and strong advertising growth.
“Emerging Asia-Pacific economies are expecting an average compound growth rate of 3.6 per cent over the next five years, driven by advertising.
“Indonesia, India and Hong Kong are fascinating markets with really high growth in advertising. Indonesia and India also have good circulation. Hong Kong is big on free sheets so circulation revenue is lower,” she said.
Ms Brownlow admits there will always be question marks over the future but she’s certain about one thing, “We are at a pivotal point in history. Newspapers will not exist in the way they exist now.”
The PANPA Future Forum is on September 6 and 7 at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre.
Speakers include author of Newsonomics Ken Doctor, News Limited chief executive Kim Williams, industry analyst Jim Chisholm, global head of social at Ogilvy Matt Gierhart, news editor at Gazeta Wyborcza Grzegorz Piechota, The Poynter Institute’s managing director Butch Ward, 2011 Hegarty prize winner Nigel Tutt, and managing director at The Boston Globe Caleb Solomon.
The Future Forum entry will be free for those who are members of, or subscribers to, The Newspaper Works – this includes all those who were members of the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association [PANPA].
A major part of the Future Forum is the Newspaper of the Year dinner, which will be held on day one at the Convention Centre.