Thursday 7 September 2017
I haven’t been well for a few days so I thought I would take a short break. However, here is something I wrote in 2016.
Where Did All His Readers Go?
Recently I found myself without access to the internet. It only lasted a day and a bit, thankfully, but it did bring home to me just how reliant I am on it. The pause however, did give me reason to think about how very differently I consume information now as opposed to say 10 or so years ago. It also gave me reason to think about what influence old media, and in particular Murdoch newspapers, might have on the next election.
I have been a prolific reader all my life and not to fill my brain with a daily dose of anything newsworthy might lead to withdrawal symptoms. Habitually at 6am I would be awake waiting for the familiar thud of the Melbourne Age dropping onto the driveway. Together with a hot cup of green tea my day was put in perspective.
With the advent of the internet it all changed. Both the reader and the media proprietor now find themselves in a vastly different arena.
Whereas in my case I relied on The Age to provide the entirety of information about my many and varied interests I now find I have unlimited access to anything and everything I want to know. It is simply astonishing just how much the web has changed the world.
Now I wake at six (a lifelong habit) turn on the iPad, check the weather, my email, post some thoughts on Facebook and then peruse the newspapers, but not before seeing whose writing what on The AIMN. In fact my newspaper reading is now limited and specific. I hone in on what I want to read and move on. I don’t subscribe to pay sites because there is ample quality information available on free sites and blogs. For example I look with contemptible curiosity at the headlines on The Australian site just to see the outrageous unmasked bias. I can peruse any newspaper in the world.
The interesting thing about the decline in sales and influence of Australian newspapers has been how they have responded. On the one hand Fairfax decided to cut costs, lower its journalistic standards, change its size and be a little more tabloidish. On the other hand Murdoch, who had made his fortune on smut decided to prostitute his publications by becoming even more offensive and provocative. It hasn’t worked. They both now opine rather than report.
So in terms of political influence Labor has little to fear from the nefarious front pages and slanted editorials of his tabloids. The recent Labor victories in both Queensland and Victoria have highlighted News Limited’s growing irrelevance to the electoral process.
Last year, the total daily circulation of all Australian daily newspapers was a little over 2.1 million, fully one million lower than it was at the turn of the century. When you take into account the growth in population post Second World War the decline is even more spectacular. In 1947 two copies of daily newspapers were sold for every five people. In 2014 the figure was 1-14. So now, Murdoch with a 60% share of the Australian circulation can only attract 4% of the population to buy his rags.
And the point of course is that the readership is rapidly ageing and disproportionately Coalition. They are voters who are locked into their political preferences. If you analyse any poll you will find that 60% of the Coalitions support comes from those over 65 and 60% of Labor’s from the under 40s. Hence it’s unlikely that Murdoch is influencing the younger voters. The group that gives Labor the best chance of winning the next election. And with so much support coming from a rapidly ageing cohort the right must be concerned as to where their future voters will come from.
Recent surveys by Essential Research also suggest that even those who read the Murdoch tabloids have little trust in them. Of the major newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald constantly score 70% trust with The Australian on 60%. But the three Murdoch metropolitan tabloids are only trusted by a little over half of their readers. The Herald Sun 53%. The Courier Mail 54% The Daily Telegraph at times fell to 41%. This of course means that those who buy this tabloid filth must do so for entertainment or sports. Certainly not for reliable reporting on politics. Habit may be another factor of course.
So, if all the research is correct, Murdoch only reaches less than 10% of the voting population which is about half the reach they had when they so blatantly supported Howard in 2001.
There are a couple of things to remember when discussing Murdoch’s political influence. The first is the flow on effect. The Australian is the shock jocks first point of call every morning and whatever bias is on for the day is quickly absorbed by the presenters of untruth.
Whilst the shock jocks have substantial audiences the fact is that the average listener can be likened to the average Murdoch reader. Elderly and set in their ways.
The Australian loses around $30 million every year and it is difficult to imagine it continuing production after the mogul dies. It is also difficult to expect that it doesn’t exert some influence on television which still attracts a sizable audience of uncommitted voters. Again it must be said that television audiences are now older. The young have deserted it for the internet, games or streaming media.
The second factor in all this is that whilst there has been a dramatic decline in the sales of newspapers and readership there has been a corresponding rise in the readership of their websites. Tabloid newspapers however have not been able to successfully merge their image into the digital market. It may be a graphics thing where internet news demands some form of visual and quantifiable sophistication.
Research also shows that Australian newspaper web sites have high traffic rates but whereas we might assume the average readership of the print edition The Daily Telegraph might have a 15 minute duration. Visits to its website are a lot shorter. As little as thirty-seconds or so. So, its fair to assume these visits wouldn’t have much political impact at all.
There is no doubt that Labor can expect the full treatment from Murdoch at the next election. Anything from filth to fantasy. Everything will be magnified out of proportion, images crudely photoshoped to show leaders in the worst possible way together with lie after lie after lie. There is no doubt they will be as crass as is possible. But the big question is. Given all the evidence, what sway will they have?
There was a time when you would do nothing to offend the mogul but instead ingratiate oneself. Perhaps it’s time to call a spade a spade and tell the Australian people just how un-Australian this American citizen is. Tell them he should not be imposing his Republican Tea Party ideology on us and that it’s about time he started to pay some tax in Australia. In other words call the mongrel for what he is. A pathetic self-serving power-hungry bastard who believes you can control people with words calculated to gain favour with conservative governments.
The decay of traditional news media and the rise of digital media has meant that the young have not been touched by the Murdoch cancer. Instead they are forging opinion based on information sourced of themselves. And in doing so have dramatically reduced Murdoch’s sphere of influence.
He may preach from the high alter of propaganda but only reach the already converted but he is certainly not winning over any new adherents.
Some findings from the Essential survey
How much trust do you have in the following media commentators and journalists?:
Laurie Oakes 71%, Sarah Ferguson 51%, Tony Jones 51%, Mark Riley 51%, Michelle Gratton 49%, Neil Mitchell 49%, Chris Uhlmann 46%, Andrew Bolt 38%, Alan Jones 29%.
The most trusted newspapers were:
SMH (70% a lot/some trust) and The Age (66%). The least trusted were The Telegraph (46% a lot/some trust), the Herald Sun (48%) and the Courier Mail (48%). Overall, trust in media has fallen a little since this question was asked last year – however rankings remain much the same.
The most trusted media were ABC TV news and current affairs (63% a lot/some trust), SBS TV news and current affairs (61%) and ABC radio news and current affairs (58%).
The least trusted were internet blogs (20%) and commercial radio talkback programs (34%).
How much trust do you have in the following institutions and organisations?:
AFP were top with 68%, the ABC had 58%, religious organisations 25%.
Some thoughts for the day
“If a newspaper article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but subjective words are scattered throughout it together with carefully phrased unsupported statements then dismiss the article as having no cogency.”
“Lying in the media is wrong at anytime however when they do it by deliberate omission it is even more so. Murdoch’s tabloids seem to do it with impunity.”
“We would be a much better society if we took the risk of thinking for ourselves unhindered by the unadulterated crap served up by the media and some self interest groups.”