Saturday, April 06, 2013

Saturday Morning Musings - China, Torbay and the future of Fairfax

Australian Prime Minister Gillard is on an official visit to China along with a gaggle of ministers, officials business people. Over at the Lowy Institute blog, Dirk van der Kley's Can Australia stand out from crowd in China? muses on the difficulty that Australia has in standing out in China. I agree with him about the importance of building relations in depth over time, but I do wonder a little about the question. Why should Australia want to stand out from the crowd in China? What might we gain?

These are genuine questions, for I struggle to see what we have to gain. I am also very uncomfortable at the tendency of Australian leaders to lecture others. 

I have continued to update Thank you Richard Torbay by posting links to news stories. Dear me, Kate McClymont's latest story, 'He could charm the knickers off a nun, 'makes Armidale sound like Sydney on Dumaresq Creek; Dumaresq Creek is the little stream that runs through Armidale.

I am not commenting further on developments here for the moment, although I can see the evolving pattern. However, one thing that has been interesting has been the way that the papers in the Fairfax group have been taking common content and then localising it. A second interesting thing has been the commonality in Fairfax paper web sites. This is not connected to the Torbay story, but is part of the overall Fairfax restructuring. It's partly a matter of common design, more that the web sites take and present feed from across the Fairfax network. One practical effect is to bulk up the smaller paper web sites, making them a source of broader news in the way the country dailies once were.

Rupert Murdoch has been in the country as part of the pre-launch of the new News Corp. The larger Fox Group will hold the other assets. In a strange way, we are seeing the rebirth of the old News before the huge US expansion. The Australian assets of the new News Corp are about 65 per cent of the total, while the virtues of the company are being pitched to Australian investors. Apparently, there is a fear that US investors will dump the new News Corp.

I will be interested to see how all this evolves. My gut reaction is that the new News Corp might actually do quite well because of the content it controls, including the Wall Street Journal. Despite all the travails of the print media, content is still important.

While Rupert was in town, Fairfax announced another restructuring. I am less confident about Fairfax than I am about the new News Corp. Unlike News, I can't see possible development paths. I suppose that my views on Fairfax are biased, I don't like what they have done to the regional press, but I'm also moderately bright and experienced. I don't think the value or imagination is there. It's all restructuring.

Well, the day is now underway and I must move on.    

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