News Corp CEO Julian Clarke has defended The Telegraph’s election coverage saying it’s “vital” people are talking about your newspaper, while his Fairfax counterpart Greg Hywood warned digital subscriptions are “no silver bullet”.
The two newspaper heavyweights were speaking at a packed PANPA Future Forum in Sydney this morning, alongside APN boss Michael Miller and Chris Wharton, CEO West Australian Newspapers.
Hywood said that given scale in Australia, digital subscriptions will be a “supplementary earner” to his business, but that it’s no “silver bullet”.
“It’s all about changing from the old ways, essentially circulation revenue through advertising, and building whole different revenue streams. We’re given the opportunity through digital to take advantage of it,” he said, adding revenue through subscriptions is part of that.
After the panel B&T asked Clarke after about The Telegraph’s much criticised recent coverage of the Federal Election campaign.
“We’re more than happy with them, they’re doing a great job,” said Clarke, who earlier stated that it’s vital your newspaper is being talked about.
The rival News and Fairfax CEOs poured cold water on concerns within the industry about declining sales and structural changes brought about by digital.
“If you want a bit of excitement this is the place to be,” said Clarke, referring to the opportunities presented by the shift to digital.
Hywood added the “excitement you’re actually seeing now inside Fairfax [and others] is a real momentum, an excitement the sort that Julian alluded to, which is really interesting. The changing of the way we do things is fascinating in its own right”.
Wharton added he had “a fair degree of compassion about the pace of change, and that’s important to explain to staff on a regular basis the way the company is going”.
Clarke, who said he believes the market is “settling down”, believes that biggest issue is when you’ve got a mix of paid newspapers, free websites, apps and paywalls, the trick is actually how you line this product range and express it as a value proposition.
Hywood and Clarke revealed that their often-bitter rivalry is a good thing for the ad market, with Hywood stating that he’d be “bored” if he didn’t have competition from News.
The Fairfax CEO also said that the role of journalists continues to change, highlighting the need for journalists to be able to operate across many different mediums and become “self-publishers”.
“[Journalists] might in future have to do more, write the headline, write the piece, drag the picture in, write the caption, and be much more self publisher than journalists.”