Like him or loathe him, if you are in the newspaper industry you should listen to him. I am talking about Rupert Murdoch who in his own life time has built his media company, News Corp, into a global giant. Murdoch went from one newspaper in Adelaide to the Sun and Times in London, the Washington Post and countless others along the way.
And it’s not just newspapers – there is Sky in television; 20th Century Fox in cinema; not to mention numerous internet interests, including Myspace. From his small beginnings Rupert Murdoch and News Corp have shaped the industry that we as newsagents know. We used to have the arena to ourselves, but that monopoly has disappeared not only for bricks and mortar retailing, but across the new media such as the internet and mobile phones.
Rupert Murdoch gave a presentation to the Federal Trade Commission’s workshop From Town Crier to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age? You may think this was for an American audience for American issues, but falling circulations, reduced advertising, the internet, Google and Amazon’s Kindle are all issues that confront UK newsagents. What he said is directed at us:
“From the beginning, newspapers have prospered for one reason: the trust that comes from representing their readers’ interests and giving them the news that’s important to them. That means covering the communities where they live … exposing government or business corruption … and standing up to the rich and powerful.”
We are part of that trust package, part of the community, but as different ways of accessing a newspaper’s content have become available we have found that we are being jostled out of the centre of the picture.
He goes on to highlight the vast array of content provided across media by the company and how “In the future, we will provide our content to devices that today are still just a glimmer in the eyes of their inventors. And we are always looking for ways – whether better content or delivery – to meet our customers’ needs and interests.”
When the Sun was launched 40 years ago it was just through newsagents on a daily basis. Now the content is being updated on their websites and other channels as needed and up to the minute. But it is this comment that sent the clearest message:
‘I have often made the point about newspapers this way: by reminding people that we are in the news business, not the dead tree business. In other words, what makes a newspaper is its content and brand – not necessarily the form in which it is delivered.’
So the question is: What are UK newsagents doing to change the focus of their stores to stay vital and relevant to their customers when newspapers are no longer the main profit driver?