With another round of editorial job losses imminent at Fairfax Media in Australia, the continuing contraction in the industry supports the argument that if you want to get your message out you might need to go DIY.
An increasing number of corporate and community organisations are setting up newsrooms to fill the void left by retreating traditional media - or to compete with what is left.
Fairfax has announced $30 million in cost cutting for FY18. Most of that is likely to come from axing staff in the newsrooms of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. This is my journo maths, but at the upper limit that represents about 200 staff, although expect it to be between 100 and 150 after some argy-bargy.
Some media competitors report this almost gleefully. However, staff across News Corporation in Australia can expect to see new rounds of redundancies too, according to my mail.
Meantime, given the fragmentation of the media and audiences, companies are investing large chunks of their marketing and communications budgets to better leverage digital and social media channels.
Everyone is deluging the market with their messaging, raising the banality watermark. No wonder CEOS are demanding real ROI on their communications
The Australian reports the NRL is looking to set up its own news operations, akin to the AFL.
I recently spent time at AFL Media and Cricket Australia for research for my upcoming book on this very subject - the DIY Newsroom.
AFL Media represents world’s best practice when it comes to controlling your message for powerful impact.
Five years ago, the AFL invested heavily to establish its high-tech newsroom, thereby going straight to the football public with a rich package of content.
In a four-year deal, the Seven Network, Fox Sports and Telstra paid $1.25 billion for broadcast rights. With AFL Media, the sport provides a valuable environment for Telstra, the digital rights owner. The latest broadcast deal, which kicked in this year, is worth $2.5 billion over six years.
Commercial interests aside, AFL Media is a genuine newsforce of some 100 staff. In season, it produces highly quality footy publications and afl.com.au regularly rates as Australia’s number one sports website.
Across town in Melbourne, Cricket Australia is taking media matters into its own hands to ensure ample coverage of the various forms of its game. The traditional media simply does not have the firepower it once had.
And now the NRL is looking to ape the best practices of newsrooms to “do an AFL” too. As I understand it, the NRL has begun poaching sports journalists who can drive its operations.
Running your own media operation is not without its challenges, even for the biggest brands in the country. For me, there should be three guiding principles:
It has flown under the radar, but there is wide-scale media disruption too at a grassroots and community level.
In regional Australia (population 10 million), hundreds of journalists have been laid off from newspapers and television. This has barely rated a mention in city media, but the deleterious impact on the public conversation in these communities has been significant.
The flip side is that this is a superb opportunity for councils to become the new village voice.
A council newsroom could not possibly keep a check on civic affairs like an independent media could do. But it could creatively and proactively act as a platform for genuine community conversation and debate.
Councils also have a wealth of information that would be of interest to residents but which rarely sees the light of day, tucked away in a tangle of council communications.
Are we the lesser for the fall and fall of traditional media?
Emphatically, yes. But unfortunately the notion of public service does not trump the bottom line for big media organisations.
And therein lies a call to action.
If your organisation sees value in communicating, the best strategy is not to rely on others to do it for you. No, go and do it yourself.
Stuart Howie is a Canberra-based communications consultant. He has worked with organisations, private and public, in Australia and New Zealand, helping them to discover, shape and tell their stories. He is the author of The DIY Newsroom, which won Social Media Book of the Year at the Australian Business Book Awards. Stuart has worked in media, publishing and communications for more than 30 years as an executive, editor and strategist.