Archive for June, 2012

Is Print Media Dead? Ask Fairfax

The future of print media as we know it in Australia was dealt a body blow this week when Fairfax Media announced that they would shed 1,900 jobs, shrink the size of their print versions of key news titles and charge for subscriptions to their online sites.

This is obviously devastating news for the people affected by the job cuts, but beyond those immediate concerns, there are questions being asked about what these changes mean for the future of the media in Australia.

I’m all in favour of both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age moving to a smaller size – it’s not the size that matters (!) it’s the content and the editorial charter.  What may affect this more deeply, is the loss of so many journalists; with pundits assuming one in every four or five Fairfax journos being shown the door.

I’m also in favour of purchasing online content because we need to place value on high-quality online content.  Fairfax has been running with this model for quite some so an extension to their SMH and Age titles is a natural and sensible progression.

What is frightening is that soooo many wonderful and talented journalists will be unemployed and it’s unlikely that any of the Murdoch titles have the capacity to take many on – although I do suspect some interesting cherry picking to ensue!

However, with every cloud…

This move by Fairfax may in fact create a significant wave of change in Australia’s media make-up if some of the sacked Fairfax journalists follow in the footsteps of their previous Fairfax colleagues – I refer to of course Amanda Gome at and Alan Kohler at  With the possibility of key Australian journalists left wanting to ply their craft, they may create their own online media outlets –meaning we may in fact get the opportunity to relish increased diversification in our media through innovative and passionate ex-Fairfax reporters.

Perhaps the sadness in all of this is Fairfax’s grand underestimation of the value of its brand. Fairfax holds a unique place in the Australian media landscape with flagship titles such as The Australian Financial Review and BRW in addition to Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.  It seems to me that rather than playing to their strengths, they’ve been overtaken by their weaknesses – for this the management needs to answer…

Yours in PR

Re-Branding or Just Window-Dressing?

When is re-branding a meritorious attempt to reintroduce a product, concept or service into the market, and when is it just mere window dressing with no tangible outcome whatsoever?  This is an important question worth considering prior to any attempt to re-brand something, as has been observed in yet the latest attempt to re-brand the Gold Coast, as was reported in the Gold Coast Bulletin recently.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that great effort and expense was invested in re-branding the Gold Coast as part of the ‘Very GC’ campaign, which did get good traction with the yound set but tended to alienate older and long-time residents of the ‘Goldie’, and yet here we are again with another attempt to re-package and re-sell it, with the multi-million dollar price tag to boot.

Why now?  The answer to this is primarily two-fold – with the Gold Coast awarded the rights to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018, there is an urgent need to position the Gold Coast in a favourable light for inbound atheletes and tourists from around the world.  Those of us old enough to remember the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982 will recall the great uplift in civic pride that was visited upon the River City, and the effect was repeated just six years later for Expo 88. (Yes, I am that old, but it’s our little secret, ok?)

The second reason is that the Gold Coast despite its beautiful beaches, amenable climate, theme parks and attractions, restaurants and hotels has several major detractions, including a persistent problem with drugs and crime, and has grown at such an exponential rate that its local road network is utterly unable to cope with the ongoing influx of tourists and permanent residents who settle there in their thousands each and every year, making it a very difficult place in which to get around either quickly or easily.

The difficulty is that any re-branding campaign at best will alter superficial perceptions of something, but without fixing the systemic problems that are the heart of the matter, and that are in and of themselves the cause that has precipitated the need for a new image, and therefore will not live beyond their existence as a superficiality.  At worst, what might happen is that your slick marketing campaign may in fact draw people in, who trust that they might actually have a new experience, and then the gap between their perception of something new or better when it is juxtaposed against the reality that nothing has actually changed, can actually cause real brand damage.

If on the other hand, a major effort was made to fix the problems that have caused the negative perception, and THEN to re-brand it, as part of a process of re-education and re-positioning in the market, THAT is is a different prospect altogether, and if handled correctly, does have the capacity to create an experience that completely alters not just our perceptions of a place, product or service, but our experience of it.

So, I am interested to know, when has a re-branding experience left you cynical and cold?  I would love to know your thoughts on this.

Yours in PR

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