New research claimed that newspapers, combined with their online websites, are more reputable and effective in influencing the views of consumers than other media channels. The report is a fascinating look at how people consume their news and interact with newspapers (figure 1). It paints a rather glowing picture of the Australian newspaper industry at a time when the sector is struggling for relevance in most developed economies.
So, are print classifieds making a comeback? Not really, but they are not completely dead either.
It’s a well documented (ppt presentation) fact that the Australian newspaper industry is not scarred as much as it is in other developed economies. In fact, according to CAESA, total print revenue in Australia grew by 1% in 2008 whereas it dropped by 12% in the US. Currently, the industry is worth around $ 3.7 billion (see chart).
Spending on classified advertising has dropped in 2009, registering around $1.25 billion in revenue. I am told by Newspaper Works that on a rough estimate employment advertising makes up around 30-33% of the classifieds market. So, even in the worst of times employment classifieds still generate around $400 million (exact figures not available publicly).
Tens of thousands of jobs are advertised online each week. In December 183,700 new jobs were added online (Also see SEI Index). In comparison, newspapers registered 9,645 jobs in January 2010. There is no doubt that online thumps print in volume of ads, however more money is spent on newspapers ads than on online job boards (See interesting Q&A with Paul Bassat).
Nevertheless, it is important to note that, even in the depths of the recession, newspapers continues to be rather resilient. The two indexes measuring print ads – ANZ index and DEWR – recorded healthy numbers of job ads. In 2005-06, ANZ reports, on average 20,450 print ads were advertised weekly. In June 2009 it reached its lowest number of 8,111 jobs. Still, these are pretty significant numbers for an industry whose obituary has been written multiple times. It is highly unlikely newspapers will relive their heydays again, but they aren’t actually losing further ground either.
Besides, it appears that many employers/recruiters continue to find value with print (Otherwise, it would be hard to justify ROI in light of the cheaper alternative offered by job boards). The Source of Talent Report ranked newspapers as the seventh most successful channel to recruit talent. One thing is for sure, even though employment classifieds has fundamentally shifted to online channels, print is not dying just yet.
Still, considering the rapid changes in how information is distributed and consumed, it’s hard to be bullish about print. Indeed, it maybe true that people trust newspapers, but the big question is whether this sentiment will have any positive bearing on the fortunes of the employment classifieds section. I see no evidence, in the report, which points to job seekers preferring print ads to online jobs ads. The likely scenario is that the print industry will continue to find new ways to do well, but it is unlikely that there will be much contribution to the revenue from the classifieds section. Tellingly enough, already 70% of a newspaper’s revenue in Australia comes from non-classified sources.
Commendably, against all odds, newspaper operators are fighting back and putting up their case as best as they can (see video). The ‘Newspaper Works’ is an impressive initiative of the newspaper industry to have a common voice and fight for relevance in a rapidly changing landscape. Will we see a similar alliance/association of job board operators to speak in unison? Especially, given that they themselves are rattled by alternative forms of engagement with job seekers.