The editors of three newspapers judged by the industry as the best in the country talk to Mediaweek
News Corp’s national broadsheet daily The Australian has continued its award-winning tradition into 2016. After being named the PANPA Newspaper of the Year multiple times in the last decade, more recently The Weekend Australian was named PANPA Weekend Newspaper of the Year in both 2014 and 2015.
This year it continues to set the pace under new editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker with a win as Newspaper of the Year at the in-house News Awards and then just last week it took home the major award as PANPA Newspaper of the Year.
Whittaker told Mediaweek one of the focuses in its PANPA entry was the major overhaul of The Weekend Australian Magazine undertaken in May this year. “The magazine was always one of the biggest drivers of sales of the successful weekend edition. In conjunction with editor Christine Middap we redesigned it, gave it a new masthead and upgraded the cover stock. Readers now get a minimum of 60 pages and they get more food, wine, motoring, travel and real estate content.”
As to the impact on circulation and ad sales, Whittaker said there was good news on both fronts. “Since the publication of the new version we have seen a doubling of forward bookings for advertisers and we’ve attracted a number of new clients who have re-evaluated it as a platform for luxury brands. We have had good reader feedback and a small circulation uplift. The Weekend Australian is the best-performing Saturday newspaper in Australia with flat circulation figures – that is a very good result in the current environment.”
Whittaker noted the Monday to Friday audience is now 178,045 across print and digital according to audited figures. “Those numbers are an all-time high for The Australian. The Nielsen monthly digital audience was 1.9m which is also an all-time high.”
In terms of editorial highlights, he mentioned Bowraville Murders, Dan Box’s five-part series into the murder of Aboriginal children in the 1990s, which was accompanied by a podcast series. “The podcast has had 400,000 downloads and at one stage was the most-downloaded podcast in Australia.”
As to the brand’s long-term goal of achieving profitability, Whittaker said he and the paper’s CEO Nicholas Grey are making good progress. “The paper is in the best place it’s been for a long time financially with increased consumer revenue growth.”
As to its future, Whittaker said there had never been a more important time for a product like The Australian. “I agree with the publisher of The Wall Street Journal Will Lewis, who noted last week readers are looking for healthy eating as opposed to digital junk food. We have shown our digital audience is growing and our digital proposition is attracting a big quality audience that will pay for that content.”