Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Bob Burton

Can Spiderman save the Mercury from oblivion?

In late July the Mercury enlisted Spiderman and a bevy of his superhero friends in a bid to try and arrest the circulation nosedive of Tasmania’s largest newspaper.

It was an old-style marketing gimmick, aimed at persuading adults to buy a circulation-boosting 14 editions of the Mercury so they could purchase copies of the Marvel superhero comic series for $2.50 each.

Just in case readers missed the front page ads or the two-page promotional spreads inside, the Mercury – which touts itself ‘The voice of Tasmania’ – devoted scarce news space to further hype the promotion.

“Comics ‘a marvel’ for building poets” proclaimed a page two ‘article’ by a Brisbane-based News Corporation Australia journalist which was based on an interview with a Canberra teacher on the benefits of using comics in teaching primary school kids.

However, Spiderman and his superhero friends may have met their match.

Despite a bevy of similar promotional gimmicks over the last year – everything from coupons for discounted Dr Suess books to a free fuel giveaway draw – the paid newspaper circulation of the Mercury keeps on falling.

Data from the Audited Media Association of Australia reveals the paid circulation of the newspaper version of the Mercury and its Sunday sibling the Sunday Tasmanian has plummeted by over one-third over the last decade and keeps on falling.

The bulk of the Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian’s circulation decline – which amounts to over 19,000 less weekly sales – has occurred since 2010, even though Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals the population of the Mercury’s southern Tasmania stronghold has grown by over 6300 over the same period.

News Corporation Australia, the parent company of Davies Brothers which publishes the Mercury, does not publicly report data on the financial performance of its Tasmanian operations.

However, some fine-resolution data was revealed when a copy of News Corporation Australia’s 276-page internal Weekly Operating Statement to the end of June 2013 was leaked to Crikey in August 2014. (Crikey published the document online but, faced with the threat of legal action by News Corporation Australia, agreed to destroy all digital and print copies in its possession. News Corporation also threatened to sue media organisations which published the leaked document.)

The document revealed profits from the company’s three Tasmanian mastheads – the Mercury, the Sunday Tasmanian and Tasmanian Country – fell by 40% in one year. While the final $9.4 million profit to the end of June 2013 financial year appeared healthy, the downwards spiral signalled big trouble lay ahead.

Since then the combined average weekly circulation of the Mercury and the Sunday Tasmanian has fallen by almost 17,000 copies a week, a drop of almost 20% in just over three years.

Rapidly falling circulation and advertising has set off a devastating financial chain reaction.

Falling newsstand and home delivery sales over the decade – which accounted for about one-quarter of the Mercury’s income – has stripped millions off the bottom-line. The decline in circulation in turn has undermined both the volume of newspaper advertising and the premium which can be charged for it, ripping millions more off the bottom-line.

With high fixed costs of production – journalists, marketing and administration staff, newsprint, as well as printing and distribution – managers have resorted to the usual cost-cutting formula: less pages, higher cover price, more content syndicated from mainland News Corporation Australia stablemates and fewer journalists and photographers. Sub-editing, once considered a critical in-house function, was outsourced to a company which performed the task with lower-waged workers in New Zealand.

Back in the last week of June 2006 a week’s worth of the Mercury and a Sunday Tasmaniancame to 432 pages; by September 2016 a week’s worth had dropped by 20 pages with another dozen pages comprising ‘house ads’ promoting digital subscriptions to the Mercury, branded competitions or its disparate online advertising vehicles. All up it adds up to over 1500 less pages a year compared to a decade ago, with most of the pages winnowed from the Monday to Thursday editions.

Page tallies, however, are only a broad indicator of content. Photos are bigger and bolder than a decade ago while design changes have reduced the density of the text and cut the word tally. All up, there are fewer stories and those there are shorter and shallower.

Relentless cost-cutting though could only go so far in plugging the holes in the Mercury’s ailing balance sheet.

In an attempt to prop up its falling revenue base the newsstand price of the weekday Mercury – which now sells for $1.40 – has increased four times in a little over the last three years, to double the cover price. (The price increases were an extra 20 cents in July 2013, another 30 cents in November 2014, 10 cents in each of February 2015 and July 2016.)

Incremental price rises are at best a temporary salve on what is likely to be a mortal wound inflicted by falling circulation and advertising on the continued production of the hard copy version of the Mercury.

The Mercury’s digital despair

If the Mercury is to have a future at all it will hinge on its ability to rapidly bridge from its heavy reliance on newspaper advertising and retail sales to building a growing digital subscriber base.

Without a rapid increase in digital subscriptions the Mercury would be doomed to racking up financial losses News Corporation Australia is unlikely to tolerate for long.

As of June 30 this year, according to the Audited Media Association of Australia, the Mercury had a measly 252 digital subscribers. (At that time Fairfax Media’s Launceston-based Examiner had more digital subscribers.)

With a dismal digital subscription base and falling hard copy sales, the Mercury decided it needed to launch an advertising blitz in its own pages. During recent months Mercury readers have been subjected to a barrage of ads spanning from double-page spreads to smaller ads hyping discounted digital subscriptions to the Mercury and the Sunday Tasmanian.

For full digital access to the print versions of the Mercury and the Sunday Tasmanian, plus home delivery of the two weekend editions, the cost is $28 every four weeks, a $14 discount off the newsstand price of the hard copy version. For those that want it, home delivery of the Saturday and Sunday editions are thrown in for good measure. For $52 every four weeks digital subscribers can also get home delivery of all weekday editions of the Mercury.

As a teaser the Mercury is offering potential digital subscribers a 50 per cent discount for the first 12 weeks.

Despite the massive advertising blitz and the big up-front discount the appetite was limited, with just 1200 additional digital subscriptions in the three months to the end of September.

The increased number of digital subscribers beyond the continued decline in print sales would barely raise enough cash to cover the costs of a journalist or two and their overheads. Even more sobering is that the rise of digital subscriptions was only slightly greater than the fall in the more valuable print circulation. (When the latest sobering circulation data was released by the Audited Media Association of Australia last Friday it went unreported in the Mercury.)

Asked whether the result was satisfactory or disappointing the editor of the Mercury, Matt Deighton, told Tasmanian Times “I think it was okay … I don’t think anyone is cheering about the results at this point but it does give us a reasonable foundation to grow when we start getting serious about it over the next 12 months.”

As to whether the Mercury has a digital subscriptions target to ensure sustainability, Deighton was guarded. “At this point we haven’t really discussed that publicly – that’s commercially confidential,” he said. Asked if it had a digital subscriptions target for the end of the year Deighton insisted it didn’t: “Not at this point, no.”

In late October News Corporation Australia officially announced that the websites of its regional mastheads – including the Mercury – are about to shift to a “freemium” model of limited free articles with the rest behind a paywall, as has been done with The Australian.

The strategy of forcing online readers to pay for articles currently made available for free is a signal that the Mercury’s days as a hard copy newspaper may be numbered. While the announcement is significant, this also went unreported in the Mercury.

On Saturday the Mercury foreshadowed it would be announcing the introduction of its paywall this week. While insisting the Mercury would remain financially “very strong” if it chose to primarily focus on print circulation, a shift in its business strategy is considered essential.

“The problem is that if we don’t go down the paywall route we are really just managing slow decline,” Deighton said. By adding a paywall to its website and pushing digital subscriptions, he said, the Mercury hopes to be “in a position where we can grow again.”

The shift to digital subscriptions and hard paywalls has spill-over consequences for the content of the Mercury.

Increasingly the most prominent stories tend to be those that – with an eye to prompting social media shareability and spur of the moment newsstand sales – evoke the strongest emotions: uplifting tales of battles against life-threatening illness and acts of heroism on one hand or confronting stories of crime and crims, tragedies and car crashes. Accountability journalism – especially of the State Government – has been softened and largely pushed down the page order.

News Corporation executives, confronted with declining advertising, falling newspaper sales and the slow uptake of digital subscriptions, are already running out of patience.

With digital subscribers currently representing less than five per cent of the Mercury’s total subscriber base, the axe is poised for yet another round of cost-cutting.

In early November New Corporation’s global chief financial officer Bedi Singh confessed to financial analysts it had taken a further battering from falling advertising revenue. Advertising revenue in the September quarter for its Australian subsidiary, News Corporation Australia, was down 11 per cent, he said.

Singh told analysts a further $40 million would have to be cut from the company’s Australian mastheads by the end of June next year. Singh flagged redundancies and not replacing departing staff wherever possible “while we continue to push digital initiatives more broadly.”

While Singh’s comments were reported in The Australian they went unreported in the Mercury.

Where exactly the cuts will fall, Singh didn’t say, other than that he would be having a meeting with editors.

The magnitude of the cuts at the Mercury remains unclear but Deighton confirmed there will be some impact. “Given they just announced it [the cuts], at this point we don’t know … I don’t think any masthead is necessarily going to escape unscathed and we are all doing work in the background to see how we can operate as efficiently as possible,” he said.

Is this the endgame for the Mercury as a newspaper?

In announcing the latest price hike in July this year, a small page 2 ‘article’ in the Mercury defended the 10 cents per copy price hike on the grounds that “despite the price increase, the newspaper continues to represent great value for money.”

However, the hard subscription data for the newspaper reveals an increasing number of Tasmanians think otherwise.

How long the newspaper version of the Mercury will continue to be produced is an open question. Already the Monday to Thursday editions have been pared back to just 40 pages, with advertising, sport pages, opinion pages and in-house supplements accounting for the bulk of that.

Before too long older readers, long used to reading editions of the Mercury with a higher proportion of hard news stories, may soon confront a decision on whether to take out a digital subscription or stop reading the publication altogether.

Earlier this year the CEO of Fairfax, Greg Hywood, told investors the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were shifting to a target of raising 65 per cent of their advertising revenue from just their Saturday and Sunday editions. “It should surprise no one, and certainly not us, that the seven-day-a-week publishing model will eventually give way to weekend-only or more targeted printing for most publishers,” he said.

If scrapping weekday editions of major mastheads such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age is on the cards, will the Mercury go down the same path?

Deighton argues News Corporation is pursuing s different strategy to Fairfax, one which seeks to increase investment in print titles such as in regional Queensland. “I think if there are midweek [newspaper] closures I think they will be happening interstate well before they happen in Tasmania,” Deighton said.

While evidence indicates the heavy promotions such as those featuring Spiderman may have – at best – slowed the falling circulation of the Mercury, it is equally clear it is beyond their superpowers alone to save the publication from yet more financial cuts.

*Bob Burton is a Hobart-based Contributing Editor of Tasmanian Times. His earlier articles on Tasmanian Times are here.

If you would like to be added to his email alert list for when new articles are published you can sign-up here.

Tasmanian Times (TT) is free – always has been, always will be. If you like what TT does, please consider making a donation.

• John Hawkins in Comments: … The independent Wilkie and those Greens in parliament are streets ahead of the Lib/Lab dross that represent us. Where is the Mercury or the Examiner as the disaster of a bankrupt Forestry Tasmania deepens and its debts are funded by Tasmanian taxpayers? Where is the Mercury and Examiner regarding the Tasmanian Planning Commission and the badly considered changes to our planning laws to benefit developers that put 500 thinking Tasmanians into the Town Hall – not a squeak …

• Bob Daniels in Comments: Unfortunately The Mercury is directed by News, Sydney. Increased subscription and advertising costs don’t encourage Tasmanians to support their local paper. A sure fire way to lose subscribers. It would have been better to lower subscriptions and keep advertising rates competitive therefore maintaining circulation levels and attracting bigger advertisers with an assured readership. After all, the staff as been cut to the bone to offset the profit loss. A crying shame for a once great local newspaper.

• Mick Kenny in Comments: This is a fantastic and detailed summary of the Mercury’s recent decline. Rupert might hope to shape the future of media to his own commercial ends but I doubt even he can turn back the tide of change … He struggles to tweet without sounding like a prophet short of a flock … On the up side, there are many alternative news sources, the Guardian not least, with its increasing local and national content.

• Mark Worley in Comments: The Mercury deserves a chance. It’s by no means perfect, it never has been. But Hobart needs it. Tasmania needs it. As much as I love the ABC, the state needs another voice. If anyone thinks Rupert or any senior News Corp execs give a damn about their smallest asset, they are mistaken. If anything, the push towards an online paywall appears to be ensuring the death of the paper – a case of Sydney HQ ordering Hobart’s editors and staff to play Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun. The online price point is simply too high to attract enough subscribers. I am sure the execs know that. But damn it, what is the alternative here? …

EARLIER on Tasmanian Times …

Mercury … The Fall … and why it matters …

If you would like to be added to his email alert list for when new articles are published you can sign-up here.

• Ian M in Comments: … After an inquiry the ABC, I believe, reported it was found that the media had “contributed” to the tragic outcomes. While I do like some local content, the local rag has to do better than he said/she said, ads and syndicated content. And because of multiple failings, they deserve exactly fuck all until they can demonstrate they’ve resolved these issues.

• Matthew Sykes in Comments: … All this commissioned by a disgruntled former editor at the Merc. How’s that for balance?

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]
27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Mike Bolan

    November 20, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Woww! Merc’s paywall also keeps out non-payers from restaurant and other business reviews hence hugely limiting the markets for those businesses. Brilliant! This appears to be a media group that isn’t interested in helping to develop local businesses.

  2. TGC

    November 19, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    #26 It is highly unlikely either Jacqui Lambie or Andrew Wilkie will be tempted to sacrifice their spots in the Senate/MHR to personally run for election in Tasmania.
    Their biggest fear would be they could be successful and be forced into making policy decisions and finding ways to finance them
    Neither wants to do that- being noisy and “outspoken’ covers the ego ok.
    So, in their absence they will have try to con candidates to run under ‘Lambie’ /’Wilkie’ banners
    in the hope that some of that ‘noise’ and ‘outspoken’ will rub off.
    Of course it would mean formulating policies that an electorate could take seriously and that, I suspect- will be well beyond both Lambie and Wilkie. Razzle and dazzle would be their limit

  3. Claire Gilmour

    November 19, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    (A Mercury article which is pay walled but I could read for free (and therefore quote – copy/paste) on the Gold Coast Bulletin … doesn’t that say a lot! Nothing like trying to keep the locals blind eh Mercury!)

    Hallelujah! Gives one hope. Please make it so …

    Jacqui Lambie, Andrew Wilkie look to use influence in State politics
    November 20, 2016 9:00am
    By MATT SMITH

    The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, and Senator for Tasmania Jacqui Lambie are considering using their influence in the next state election.

    POLITICAL heavyweights Andrew Wilkie and Jacqui Lambie have grown so frustrated with the way Tasmania is being run they are considering using their influence in the next state election.

    In a move that would be a political game changer and real threat to the Hodgman Government and its Labor rival, Denison Federal independent Mr Wilkie and Senator Lambie separately told the Sunday Tasmanian they were increasingly disheartened by the direction the state was heading.

    The popular Mr Wilkie stopped short of saying he would start his own political party, but stressed “a great many people” were urging him to do so.

    “I feel compelled to play some part in the next state election because I share the community’s total exasperation with the weak governance in the state,” Mr Wilkie said.

    “It is undeniable that the Tasmanian Parliament has too many lazy and incompetent timeservers, which helps to explain why public policy in Tasmania is poor and why many state parliamentarians have become a laughing stock.”

    Senator Lambie, who headed up the Jacqui Lambie Network and ran candidates in Tasmania during the July federal election, is also looking at ways to shake-up the state political scene.

    “I am leaving my options open,” she said.

    “I just want to see how the Government goes over the next few months.”

    “They do a lot of talking the talk, but not a lot of walking the walk.”

    University of Tasmania political scientist Richard Eccleston told the Sunday Tasmanian voters were showing a “decline in faith and trust” in the major parties.

    “If you look at the national trends, and certainly the result in the Federal Election, there is a significant percentage of voters in Tasmania that are not strongly committed to any of the three established parties.”

    “A good quality candidate that is aligned or endorsed with either candidate (Mr Wilkie or Senator Lambie) would be a real chance, or a real threat, at the next state election.”

    Mr Wilkie said Tasmania needed “strong leadership and deep reform.”

    “I’m still considering the best way to be involved in the state election.

    “I obviously have a range of options including being a spokesman for the community, through to endorsing candidates.

    “I note that a great many people are encouraging me to even go so far as to start a political party.”

    Senator Lambie said she had learned during the Federal Election campaign that it can be hard running, and funding, a party.

    “I hate the thought of taking election donations,” she said.

    But the outspoken Senator said she would be interested in high-profile candidates who were ready to hit the ground running.

    “If the right candidate approached me it would certainly be an option.”

    Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff yesterday welcomed the competition.

    But, with a warning.

    “We welcome anyone who would like to contest the election,” Mr Rockliff said.

    “However, Tasmanians know that given our Hare-Clarke electoral system, a vote for any of these minor parties will be a vote for another job-destroying Labor-Green Government.

    “As for Mr Wilkie’s insults, Tasmanians well know that he is a de facto Green with his anti-forestry, anti-fish farming and anti-anything outside Hobart agenda.”

    Exclusive polling, published by the Mercury last week, showed the State Government would struggle to hold on to majority government at the next election.

    The Liberals only need to lose three seats to be placed in minority government, forcing them to cut a deal with others to govern.

    Senator Lambie, who was elected from a strong vote in the state’s North West, would most likely look for candidates in the seat of Braddon where the Liberals currently have four elected MPs.

    Mr Wilkie has recently been a vocal critic of State Government policy and its performance in issues ranging from gaming machines in Hobart’s northern suburbs, light rail, the Macquarie Point development and the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment.

    He could be expected to have the greatest success with candidates in the south of the state in Denison, and Franklin.

    In the July Federal Election, Mr Wilkie secured his third term as Denison MP securing 44 per cent of first preference votes — compared to the Labor candidate Jane Austen (23 per cent) and Liberal Marcus Allan (19.90) per cent.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRP8d7hhpoQ

  4. Mike Bolan

    November 18, 2016 at 10:50 am

    Declining circulation implies declining readership and declining ‘reach’ for advertisers, which reduces the appeal of the medium to advertisers and thus both the amount they are prepared to pay for ad space and the likelihood of choosing that medium for advertising at all.

    The Mercury’s response to declining readership has been to introduce a ‘pay wall’ which, like Trump’s Mexican wall, is likely to reduce readership and further threaten advertising revenues. The most successful digital advertising media have gone for building audience to the highest levels to increase attractiveness to advertisers.

    Without further data it’s imossible to say whether the Merc’s readership reduction strategy is genius or suicide but we can take an educated guess even if we aren’t journalists ourselves.

  5. TGC

    November 17, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    #22 “I could go on.” True!

  6. Matthew Sykes

    November 17, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    Love this – a journalist who probably hasn’t run anything more than a hot bath is now telling the Mercury what its future hinges on.

    In his 1000 word piece on the decline of the Mercury’s circulation Bob Burton makes not one mention of the digital disruption threatening to cripple the industry the world over. How’s that for context?

    Instead, The Mercury’s declining circulation all apparently stems from 10 cent rises in the sale price. Fab analysis.

    Mr Burton writes the Mercs digital subscription stands at a “measly” 252 subscribers as of June 30. He then reports that a 3 month advertising blitz sees the figure grow to 1200.

    His take on an almost 10 fold increase? Disappointing.

    All this commissioned by a disgruntled former editor at the Merc. How’s that for balance?

    Editor: Helluva lot more nuanced than that Matthew. Firstly the article wasn’t commissioned. Bob did this fine article off his own bat … Secondly I assume you refer to me, Lindsay Tuffin, as ‘a disgruntled former editor’. Never reached those lofty heights. An aim of tassietimes was to allow anyone to have their say, within legal constraints. Another early aim (TT has been going 14 years) was to complement Mercury; to add a bit of thought to tabloid culture ( see http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php/article/mercury-the-fall-…-and-why-it-matters ). But a falling out with a mate (still puzzles me) eventually put paid to that …

  7. John Hawkins

    November 17, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    #18 TGC

    Try Wilkie the hundreds of millions for the Hobart hospital gifted by the Feds as a result of his efforts money since sqandered by the incompetence of the Lib/Labs.

    The Greens have never actually governed in their own right as a result of the Lib/Labs reducing out of fear the number of representives in parliament.

    Steve Kons should have gone to jail for lying to parliament over a key Tasmanian judicial appointment. Kons shredded the relevant documents. The Greens tabled the shredded paper in the parliament Kons resigned.

    Just two examples of being streets ahead and street wise.

    I could go on.

  8. mark

    November 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    It’s a weird one, like Fairfax, they’re basically now real estate ad companies with annoying newspapers attached. They need the mastheads in some shape or form to at least attempt to legitimize the pandering to the real estate industry as news.

    In terms of hard news, there’s nothing you can’t see on the ABC each night or hear on the hourly news. If you’re really desperate to read, take the article link, open a private browser, stick the link in google and you can click through for free.

  9. Luigi Brown

    November 16, 2016 at 11:51 am

    #15 “They deserve a chance.”

    I have read that post twice and the only reason given for giving the Mercury a chance seems to be that they gave the writer his break in journalism.

    OK, that’s worth one subscription from the writer. But why would anyone else subscribe?

  10. TGC

    November 16, 2016 at 11:12 am

    #5 “The independant Wilkie and those Greens in parliament are streets ahead of the Lib/Lab dross that represent us.”
    And here is a list of positive achievements for “The independant (sic) Wilkie and those Greens…” over the last coupla years…

  11. Chris

    November 16, 2016 at 9:43 am

    All the above is relevant, but the power that is neglects the buyers of their “product”.
    Bryan Grey (of East west & Compass) urged Reg Ansett to halve the fares and fill the planes, the result of that philosophy is evident today in cut price airlines, but is ignored in Newspaper editorial centralisation and offshoring.
    Why isn’t our paper selling?
    Because its crap and its one advertisement carrier, just look at international news …….ah found it in three little squares.
    This paper, in my opinion, finally died when Sue Neales left and no equal journalist was appointed, perhaps there was PRESSURE?
    Edmund Rouse, of Gunns, Bribery fame advocated the local bias in order to sell, but that era has now passed and the world has invaded our media now and when we cannot get higher standards with the accessibility of media today, we wonder if New York is only interested in maintaining the ideals which are germinated there.
    I recall in recent years where a police request to withhold certain details for a day or two of a tragedy were ignored, in spite the anguish of the parents and the victim was “defamed” in a photo gleaned from elsewhere.
    It solved a few bottom line sums i suppose, for a few more days.

    The Mockery remains in the 19/20th century and has become all but outdated, buckle up or ship out.
    The Guardian is a an example of a media organisation which is local and international and remains relevant.

  12. Simon Warriner

    November 15, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    Your faith is touching, Mark, but my experience is that unless you write the bloody article for them they are to hopeless to pick up the phone and follow a lead even when you give it to them in writing and say “follow this up”.

    You would think a story about violence in a public service workplace, sexual harrasment of a trainee, and very unusual management support for the cause of the dysfunction would be worth following up, especially when it involves an emergency service we all rely on, but obviously not in the Mockery’s world.

    Still, if you can get one of them interested, Linz can forward my details to them.

  13. Mark Worley

    November 15, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    The Mercury deserves a chance.

    It’s by no means perfect, it never has been. But Hobart needs it. Tasmania needs it.

    As much as I love the ABC, the state needs another voice.

    If anyone thinks Rupert or any senior News Corp execs give a damn about their smallest asset, they are mistaken.

    If anything, the push towards an online paywall appears to be ensuring the death of the paper – a case of Sydney HQ ordering Hobart’s editors and staff to play Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun.

    The online price point is simply too high to attract enough subscribers. I am sure the execs know that.

    But damn it, what is the alternative here?

    Everyone loves to whine about the quality of media, regardless of where they are in the world. Yet, very few people are willing to pay for either quality content, or local news – both of which cost far more to produce than the “rip and reproduce” farms (ie. Daily Mail, ninemsn, yahoo7, news.com.au etc.)

    So, today I subscribed.

    I know I am biased. The Mercury gave me my start in journalism in 2004 and many of my friends still work their guts out there every day, doing their best to produce news that matters for Hobart and Tasmania.

    They deserve a chance.

    If you can afford to pay for your local news, as you have for your whole life in the printed form, I recommend that you subscribe too – if not just so this historic old newspaper survives a little longer.

  14. John Hawkins

    November 15, 2016 at 10:29 am

    #(9) TGC sorry 499 I forgot you were present.

    Maybe the M and E could investigate work visas, numbers employed and wage rates for Malaysians at the two Ta Ann plants in Tasmania?

    Seems a hot topic.

    We have gifted our forests free to this family run and owned business plus nearly $50 million of our money.

    Why and How can that be?

    Editors of the M and E is Ta Ann worthy of a closer look or do you not have any reporters based on the island that can do this quality of work.

    How we miss Sue Neales!

    Thanks to Andrew Wilkie I have placed a document before Parliament, detailing how the Tasmanian Peeler Billet Contracts were handed let free to this Malaysian company by Forestry Tasmania.

    Forestry Tasmania was then run by Evan Rolley who later switched camps to Ta Ann.

    http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php/article/forestry-tasmania-andrew-wilkie-mp-and-the-tabled-document-

    The family controlling Ta Ann have reputedly stolen $15 billion yes 15 billion from their own people in Sarawak as detailed by Lukas Straumann in his book Money Logging (ISBN:9783905252682 available on Amazon).

    Editiors of the M and E have you ever read or even reviewed this book in your Tasmanian papers. If not, why not?

  15. Nigel Crisp

    November 15, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Simon #10, I couldn’t agree more with you, and for me the status of the Mercury has been depressingly apparent in the online comments section.
    Quite often even commenting is disabled for some stories and now no doubt due to short staffing, your newly posted comment might take a day before it appears online.
    If your post seriously goes against the Murdoch ideology, then it’ll never see the light of day.
    The stand-out though for me is that even when you send their journalists an interesting email, be it a thank you or maybe a follow-up, they never respond.
    So for me their demise can’t come soon enough, and when it does, they can content themselves that it’ll be all their own doing.

  16. john hayward

    November 15, 2016 at 9:05 am

    A superhero like Spiderman normally exhibits heroism on behalf of truth, justice, and other virtuous things. Taking the field on behalf of Rupert Murdoch was bound to cost him fans.

    John Hayward

  17. Mick Kenny

    November 14, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    This was a fantastic and detailed summary of the Mercury’s recent decline. Rupert might hope to shape the future of media to his own commercial ends but I doubt even he can turn back the tide of change to his liking. He struggles to tweet without sounding like a prophet short of a flock, from what I’ve seen. On the up side, there are many alternative news sources, the Guardian not least, with its increasing local and national content.

  18. Simon Warriner

    November 14, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Journalism is telling stories that the people they are about would prefer not be told.

    How often do we read real expository journalism in the Mockery?

    Clearly not often enough to keep the available pool of readers interested in parting with their hard earned.

    We don’t buy newspapers for the bloody adverts! Clearly the manager idiots are having trouble unpacking that concept.

  19. TGC

    November 14, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    #5 “…500 thinking Tasmanians into the Town Hall…”
    Not sure “thinking” is the word that best described the gathering. –

  20. Chris

    November 14, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    #6
    Fire up on line, read the TT, oh you are, try the Guardian too.
    Make Tasmania honest again!

  21. Bob Daniels

    November 14, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Unfortunately The Mercury is directed by News Sydney. Increased subscription costs, increased advertising costs doesn’t encourage Tasmanians to support their local paper. A sure fire way to lose subscribers. It would have been better to lower subscriptions and keep advertising rates competitive therefore maintaining circulation levels and attracting bigger advertisers with an assured readership. After all, the staff as been cut to the bone to offset the profit loss. A crying shame for a once great local newspaper.

  22. lola moth

    November 14, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I dread the day when there are no more newspapers printed and every piece of mail including junk-mail is delivered to my computer screen. How the hell am I going to get the fire going of a morning?

  23. John Hawkins

    November 14, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    The Mercury and the Examiner have only themselves to blame for their current dire predicament.

    They have let down the community by being partisan towards the advertisers who pay their bills, thereby compromising their independance.

    Readers have been hung out to dry and they have deserted them in droves.

    The Mercury paywall operates from today with an interview with John Gay!

    Gunns had control over editorial during the Pulp Mill fiasco as the Examiner published inserts written by their allies. Readers took an intense dislike to editors and their editorials as they brought their papers into disrepute.

    Both papers still publish an anti green letter from their acolytes in nearly every edition. The independant Wilkie and those Greens in parliament are streets ahead of the Lib/Lab dross that represent us.

    Where is the Mercury or the Examiner as the disaster of a bankrupt Forestry Tasmania deepens and its debts are funded by Tasmanian taxpayers?

    Where is the M and E regarding the Tasmanian Planning Commission and the badly considered changes to our planning laws to benefit developers that put 500 thinking Tasmanians into the Town Hall – not a squeak.

    Where are the investigative articles in the M and E as our utilities run by a small group of their cronies all appointed by Government incur ever increasing losses?

    Where is M and E when the Liberal party implodes under the influence of Abetz?

    Where was the M and E when parliament was reduced in number to become unworkable in order that a group of third rate pollies could reduce the influence of the Greens.

    It is the job of our newspapers to keep these useless bastards honest.

    They have not and as a result they and we are going broke.

    Long live Tasmanian Times and its hard working and wonderful Editor Lindsay Tuffin.

  24. Luigi

    November 14, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    To answer the question: No, I don’t think Spiderman can save the Mercury from oblivion.

  25. Russell

    November 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Maybe they should look up the word “relevance” and see how that fits in with their paper and today’s society?

  26. John Biggs

    November 14, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    This is a real shame. I take your point Chris that the Age may be better value, but I find the Merc great value for its local content: what’s on, commentaries on local politics, Letters to Ed (my favourite), and something to read over breakfast.

    Books don’t hack that particular reading slot for some reason.

  27. Chris

    November 14, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Guilty- I have not bought a Mockery for years, why would you when the Age only costs $15 a month with a wide range of articles and comment.
    There again what do other newspapers do to try and influence the political agenda in Australia and what New York biases apply in those cases.
    Feed em cake and BS.
    Listen to the people is the new cry, but lets ignore Abetizm in this State.

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