Newspapers in Australia have been dealt a bitter blow with the Victorian government’s decision to stop print advertising almost immediately.
Virtually all metro print advertising placed by premier Daniel Andrews’ government will cease at the end of this month.
Particularly affected are News Corp Australia’s Herald-Sun and Nine Entertainment’s The Age, which have been the beneficiaries of between $12.4-14.4 million a year in recent years.
Andrews is due to announce the move today, citing a “return to pre-pandemic levels of spend and a need to deliver taxpayers better bang for buck”.
From next month the only ads placed by the government in metro newspapers will be those required by law.
However, trade publication Mumbrella quoted a government spokesperson that television and digital advertising “will remain an important part of the government’s advertising agenda”. Mumbrella said the change was not expected.
The move comes after a commitment to spend on advertising in regional print newspapers, which has since been echoed by another Labor government, that of Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. At last week’s Queensland Country Press Association conference, she spoke of the “absolutely vital” role of regional newspapers and their position as “the lifeblood of their communities”.
In Victoria, Age owner Nine stands to win back some lost print revenue through a possible increase in TV and radio advertising, as well as digital ads. For News Corp – which recently commissioned a new print centre in suburban Truganina to produce the Herald-Sun and other mastheads – any catch-up will have to come from digital and other forms of revenue.
Victoria will still “continue a special focus on rural and regional messaging, including in available local press, which accounts for 20 per cent of all campaign spend, as well as dedicated multicultural messaging, which accounts for ten per cent of spend – both exceeding set targets”.
It will still advertise its work in hospitals, schools and kindergartens, transport infrastructure projects and its $31.5 billion tourism sector.
The spokesperson said that as the government had “returned to pre-pandemic levels of annual advertising and ensuring value for money”, television and digital channels would remain an important part of its advertising agenda. OMD currently holds the contract to buy government advertising, through treasury’s Master Agency Media Services function.
Later News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller responded in The Australian and on LinkedIn, saying the numbers behind the government’s decision did not add up.
“It is hard to see this directive as anything other than an act of spite against those who dare hold it to account.”
The Herald Sun devoted its front page to coverage of the move.
Pictured: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has been a frequent target of print media