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The funding crisis in Australian media is getting worse

07/07/21 by Adam Kershaw

A new study of digital news habits in Australia reveals the rapid increase in news consumption at the start of the pandemic has not been maintained.

More alarmingly, the proportion of people paying for news has not increased, and interest in news has declined significantly in Australia over the past year.

In 2020, during the early months of COVID-19, 70% of Australians accessed news more than once a day. In 2021, the proportion of heavy news consumers fell to 51%, which is 4 percentage points lower than pre-COVID.

Similarly, general interest in the news has been steadily declining since 2016, when 64% of Australians said they were “very” or “extremely” interested in news. In 2021, that has fallen to 52%.

The Digital News Report conducted by the University of Canberra has been running for seven years and compares media usage of Australians with consumers in 46 countries across 6 continents.

For publishers and those involved in Australian media, it’s sobering reading. More than 150 news companies underwent redundancies, closures and suspensions during the pandemic.

While many global outlets experienced a boom in subscription and advertising revenue over the past twelve months, the outlook for Australian publishers is far less rosy:

  • In 2021, Australia has the lowest number of heavy news consumers (51%), which is 13 percentage points lower than the global average.
  • Australians are among the least interested in news, and the lightest news consumers in the global survey.
  • Only 14% of Australians are paying for online news, which is below the global average (17%).

But there is a bright spot - Australian consumers who do understand the financial difficulty facing the news industry are much more likely to pay for news and 24% say they are likely to pay in the next 12 months.

This is where our energies must be focused. There’s urgent work to be done by publishers and the industry as a collective to increase community awareness about the funding crisis in Australian journalism. And there’s work to do transforming the relationship between Australian readers and publishers.

While the deals being cut by some publishers with Google and Facebook will help stem the bleeding, now is the time to experiment with new business models and develop new modes of growth that encourage readers to pay for and support journalism directly.

Spotpass is working with publishers across Australia and New Zealand to help monetise their content and accept payments from their readers directly. Are you a publisher or content creator? Enter your details below and we’ll be in touch to discuss how Spotpass can work for you.




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