Fairfax: Journalists need to think like PR agencies

By Paul McIntyre | 23 May 2012

Fairfax Media has laid down its intent to claw back the news agenda that TV and radio stations steal everyday from its mastheads to fill their own news and talkback bulletins.

Speaking at the Newspaper Works “Undercurrent” dinner series last night, which pulls together a diverse mix of media buyers, journalists and academics, Fairfax Media’s general manager for News, Darren Burden, said the conventional way newspapers approached stories was to break them then walk way and let radio and TV take the story on. That, he said, was about to change.

“There are a couple of things we need to do as journalists. We need to think more like a PR agency, which shocks people a bit but it’s about when you have a great story and you set the agenda, you don’t walk away from it. Instead you take it and drive it for three days so people understand what the story is about. What we have been possibly doing a lot is write a story, put it up on the front page, it sets the agenda but then radio and TV take it and then they own it. People who either watched it or heard it think that was a good story from Channel 9 or 3AW. We have been giving away our advantage for many years and we need to start driving our stories and owning them.”    
Burden also said the day of the homogenised, one-size-fits-all homepage is coming to an end. He said Fairfax was moving towards a model in which a bespoke line-up of content better suited to different demographic groups and personal media preferences would be served up to individual users.

“I call it the one-to-many homepage problem,” said Burden, who was last night’s Undercurrent speaker along with the University of NSW’s director of Journalism and Media Research, Catharine Lumby.

“Right now we build one homepage to many people. Baby boomers are our single biggest [user] group and the next biggest is Gen Y. We are trying to service both those and it’s actually quite difficult right now because we have one homepage that hits all of them. We are going to change that to be more personalised, depending on where you’ve come from and what you’ve read before. It is quite a significant change.”

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