The Australian media landscape after the Nine/Fairfax takeover
I’ve been a fan of The Age newspaper since the mid 2000s when I was reading them on a desktop computer and my rudimentary Nokia and Motorola I used each for a few years until I got an iPhone in 2010 and my news reading game was changed forever. An iPad followed shortly after in 2012 which was also amazing for consuming news. Reading news on the Nokia & Motorola was pretty terrible to say the least and maybe not what those devices were intended for. But it beat reading the newspaper. And plus at that time it was free to read. I now mainly read news on a Google Pixel XL & iPad Pro 9.7”. These are the best devices I have ever had for news consumption. The laid back reading experience with them is amazing.
I’ve been subscribing to newspapers on and off since newspaper paywalls began to be introduced around 2011. I’d always dabble and use their discounted trial offers not knowing that my lack of consistent financial support and that of many others led to the loss of many journalist jobs from the very newsrooms that were producing the news that we were all reading. But I have a feeling nowhere near enough people financially support news operations’ digital presences and that the physical newspapers’ seem to still subsidize the digital side of things.
It wasn’t until last May’s journalists strike at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age after a raft of proposed job cuts (that ended up going through anyway) that I decided to pony up and subscribe for a full year. But after hearing that the Fairfax Media mastheads were going to be shifting to the right of politics and supporting business a lot more as well as the fact that I wasn’t reading as much of their content I decided in May of this year not to renew. I feel lucky that I didn’t subscribe for another year after the news that Nine Entertainment Co. would be taking over Fairfax Media. I do still read The Age but have ways to scout their paywall rules.
Sometimes I wish there were more news sources in the Australian media landscape. And this is why I think it’s as important as ever that the ABC is kept strong and independent. The ABC makes up for Australia’s lack of independent news sources with the strong journalism it does by the likes of Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent, 7:30, AM, PM, The World Today, hack on Triple J and much of the already cutback Radio National. It’s also why it’s going to be a shame when the joint journalistic partnerships between the ABC & Fairfax Media will most likely be wound up after the Nine/Fairfax merger. I definitely don’t see the same calibre of journalism that Four Corners does showing up on 60 Minutes or A Current Affair.
So a voice disappears when Fairfax gets subsumed into Nine. Who have we got left (apart from the already dominant News Corp and the already mentioned ABC [SBS included])? Guardian Australia, Schwartz Media (The Saturday Paper, The Monthly & Quarterly Essay), Crikey, New Matilda, Independent Australia, Seven West Media, Southern Cross Austereo, BuzzFeed Australia, Junkee, Pedestrian, The New Daily, Channel Ten & The New York Times’ Australian bureau. Not a whole lot really even if I have missed out on a few. (Please let me know in the comments any news sources I need to be reading or am missing out on.)
I’ve got a confession to make. I subscribe to News Corp newspapers. Well The Australian to get free access to The Wall Street Journal. And I use my parents’ Herald Sun digital subscription while they read the physical newspapers that come with it. And I also benefit from a Foxtel subscription my parents’ pay for. I subsidize (pay half) a subscription to Foxtel for my grandparents. My grandpa can’t seem to live without the sports channels since I helped them sign up on a deal two and a half years ago. I find The Australian mostly rubbish apart from the Media and Tech section and even they are very right leaning or News Corp favourable a lot of the time. I find my free Wall Street Journal subscription much better for it’s tech and media coverage but like the Australian focus in The Australian’s subsequent sections. The Herald Sun is just to stay in touch with what’s going on with Melbourne and Victoria. I don’t like the idea that I’m supporting the filth that Andrew Bolt puts out.
Being from country Victoria I get some portion of my news from the Fairfax regional publications. There’s a Facebook page I like that competes with my local newspaper (an independent) by beating them to the punch in a lot of cases on stories that the newspaper has no chance of being first with because they only publish twice weekly. This Facebook page posts a photo and the story within a Facebook status update and gets a much larger response than the local newspaper in a lot of cases. And the comments are usually more numerous too. Sometimes the page posts a video and it gets 10s of thousands of views. There are other groups in my community like an Emergency Watch and What’s On page that are quite useful. Just more examples of Facebook taking over local news. Twitter never had the same effect with local news in my area even though I do have a Twitter account. Facebook has been super dominant because nearly everyone I know has an account.
I’ve read that Nine wants to sell out of all the regional Fairfax newspapers. I’m hoping this doesn’t result in journalist and job losses because they have already been very cut to the bone. This has already happened in Fairfax New Zealand. I’m wondering if when they are sold online paywalls will be brought in and the newspapers no longer printed. It would be such a shame as I just don’t know what would replace them. It’s no secret that a lot of the news that gets read out on television and radio originates in the newsrooms of newspapers across the country and the world. And the more we are cutting from these newsrooms the less diverse information we will see.
Anthony Eales is a media, news & tech junkie from Australia. You can reach him on Twitter @ants000. If you like this article consider giving me a clap.