Fairfax chief realistic at digital forum

THE Fairfax Digital-sponsored “Media 09 – Annual Forecast for Digital Media Professionals” – began this morning with an address from Brian McCarthy, chief executive of Fairfax Media.

He gave a grim but realistic picture of the media industry, citing falls in his own company’s share price by 60 percent but stating that a similar falls had hit so-called “media high-flyers” such a Seek, the job-search site..

On a much brighter side, he said new circulation figures released yesterday had shown that newspaper print sales had increased 1.5 percent compared with five years ago.

”It’s the corporations that have the problems,” he said. “Debt has become the new four-letter word.”

“Media is still producing excellent products.”

He said his own company was well positioned to handle the future economic challenges. “Content is king – I know this is an line but I still believe it to be true.”

Mr McCarthy said The Age’s sales had increased 5 percent during the bushfire coverage of the last week. It’s website had had 1 million video views and traffic had increased 50 percent on its website.

Success would come from strong integration between online and print. “In Sydney and Melbourne we dominate the news – full stop,” he said.

“But we have to pay attention to the cost line, constantly driving efficiency and innovating to grow new revenues.”

Mr McCarthy said he had been “around long enough” to know the downturn would not last forever. “We are all in the same bucket,” he said, referring to all media companies – new and old alike. “This is only a short-term thing. One day it will turn upwards again.”

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