SYDNEY: Australia’s biggest news brands are still banking on the drawcard of quality content, despite the growing influence of Google and Facebook on the news industry, according to senior executives at NewsCorp and Fairfax Media.

Australian publishers are grappling with a fast-changing landscape which has seen dwindling print circulations and many journalists lose their jobs. But digital innovation is still the way forward, one executive believes.

“You need to consistently innovate in digital to remain in the forefront of the industry. Australian news organisations punch well above that weight in that regard and they should be pretty proud of it,” said Chris Janz, Managing Director of Australian Metro Publishing for Fairfax Media, at the recent Inform News Media Summit in Sydney.

(For more on how news organisations are responding to the challenges of digital, read WARC’s report: The future of news in Australia – balancing tech versus content.)

While there has been a lot of industry chatter about the influence of Google and Facebook on Australian news, Nicole Sheffield, Chief Digital Officer for News Corp Australia, believes that publishers still have the upper hand.

“Everyone’s just gone, ‘Hang on a tick. This is actually not a distribution mechanism that’s helping anyone’. In fact, it’s diluting audiences. It’s actually confusing them,” she said.

“You can’t even see our brand most of the time so there’s no real ability to create brand value. And at the same time, you’re taking me away from an environment where there is no link. At least there are referrals when there’s a Google link.”

Publishers appear to be getting over their fear about upsetting the tech platforms by standing up for themselves as well. Sheffield emphasised that it is “okay to walk away”.

“Three years ago, as an industry, we were still playing nice and going, ‘Oh, we better be in everything. We’re getting disrupted, we better get on the train’. Well, now we’re going, ‘No, no, no. We know our business is journalism and content. We know what we stand for. We’re committed to paid content, and we’re committed to various forms of revenue so we’re going to have to stay true to that’. And sometimes that means you’re not popular.”

Sourced from WARC