The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Revolution at the AFR...

Fairfax is building a brand new team over at the AFR, poaching former prodigal son, Brett Clegg, from The Australian. Brett seems like a very talented guy. There are many terrific journalists over at the AFR, including Andrew Cornell, Laura Tingle, Robert Harley, Adrian Rollins, Alan Mitchell, Ben Wilmot, Matthew Drummond, and others. And there is now vigorous competition in the business media space, with the successful debut of the cash-flow positive Business Spectator, which I write for regularly.  I have previously outlined some constructive strategy ideas for the new Fairfax CEO (and now Clegg) to consider, including:

1) Merge all (and I mean all) of the business resources across The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Australian Financial Review to create a single, unified financial news centre, and treat each separate platform as a conduit of information from this central content-producing hub. Think of journalism as being manufactured in a factory, with the output distributed to shop-fronts around the country. So more generic and retail business news can be farmed out as freeware via The Age and The SMH online, and through their print iterations. The higher value-add product would be made available via subscriber-only channels, such as The AFR/Business Spectator, Eureka Report, and other specialist offshoots (on this note, Australia is desperately in need of a weekly property investment equivalent of Eureka Report);

2) Buy Business Spectator and that cash-cow, Eureka Report, now why you can still afford to do so (or before News Ltd does), and get a world-class financial journalist with deep digital experience to run the whole show for you. Do not allow one of your existing executives to do the job - they've likely already been contaminated by Fairfax's less-than-ideal DNA. As discussed above, leverage your editorial resources across a multiplicity of mediums. So Michael Pascoe and Ian Verrender could write for The SMH, The Age, and Eureka Report. Likewise, The AFR could draw on The SMH/Age's Peter Martin, Adele Ferguson and/or Michael West. The prettier talking heads should be harnessed for financial TV (see below) - think a business analogue to News Ltd's political hunk, Peter van Onselen, who anchors numerous Sky News shows;

3) Create a new partially paywalled, super-site merging The AFR and Business Spectator, but like the FT and the WSJ, permit 'commodity' news and some other richer content to be read for free in order to generate subscriptions. Ditch The AFR's current online publishing system, and allow summaries of all news and articles to be accessible in searchable form via the Internet;

4) Create a genuine online business television channel as a small-scale competitor to the (pay-walled) Sky that is largely free and employed as an alternative platform to deliver visual advertising. This is a huge opportunity, and precedents have been set by the likes of Bloomberg Television;

5) Move the financial news production model to a 24/7 cycle, and break all important stories as and when they become publishable, thereby driving eyeballs to your online channels; and

6) Replicate the very successful and mostly free FT and WSJ blog strategies, such as FT Alphaville, Money Supply, and Real Time Economics, as uber high-end forums that aggregate sophisticated research and trading talk, to stimulate 24/7 traffic amongst your deepest-pocket users: institutions. Blogs are also a very powerful way of engaging your readership to dynamically and interactively produce content for you.