Hywood and Williams on arrogant publishers and 'reckless' Facebook

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 30 November 2018
Kim Williams and Greg Hywood

Advertisers had little choice but to seek alternatives due to the early arrogance of publishers, argued outgoing Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood.

Speaking with media executive Kim Williams at the AANA Christmas event last night, Hywood said the print industry lost significant revenue as the digital transformation hit, adding that part of the issue was its refusal to negotiate better deals with advertisers.

He criticised the relationship between the two sectors, where publishers in their heyday would simply bump up prices because they had a strong hold on the market.

He said now that the barriers of entry into media have collapsed, publishers can no longer dictate as they used to.

“Advertisers had nowhere else to go. You basically had the magazines, TV and newspapers,” Hywood said.

“There was an arrogance and sense of entitlement.”

Williams, the former Foxtel CEO, agreed with Hywood’s sentiment, saying it was the ego of the media industry that has held them back.

Williams led Foxtel through its digital transformation period at a time when the industry was still sceptical of change.

He lambasted the industry for believing in the longevity of legacy medias and said it needs to learn to ride the waves.

“In business hubris is your enemy at all times,” Williams said.

“The media are probably richer in hubris than any set of businesses ever constructed in the history of capitalism.”

“It's just a sad fact that hubris is the dominant personality of media.”

He also targeted social media giant Facebook, issuing a warning about its future.

“Facebook has been utterly reckless in its responsibility to remove material it knows has bad intentions,” he said.

“If I had Facebook I would sell it because I think it's going to be regulated to death.”

Hywood, who has a week left in his CEO tenure, had little to say about Fairfax's merger with Nine. He did however ague it was necessary for publishers of today to ensure they have multiple channels available to meet consumer demand.

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