WA media’s waning influence

22/01/2020 - 09:54

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Western Australia faces a major challenge because of the declining influence of the traditional news media, according to one of the state’s top advertising executives.

WA media’s waning influence
Steve Harris says the fires that cut the Eyre Highway this month received little national coverage. Photo: Brayton Gillette

Western Australia faces a major challenge because of the declining influence of the traditional news media, according to one of the state’s top advertising executives.

The Brand Agency’s Steve Harris has worked in the advertising industry for more than 25 years and says there has been a massive change in the past decade.

“I remember how powerful traditional TV and newspaper media really was,” he said.

Mr Harris, who will be one of four speakers at Business News’ Great for the State lunch next month, said the rise of social media had put huge financial pressure on traditional media outlets.

They had responded by changing their business model, with more content produced in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Sydney and Melbourne are becoming more powerful in setting the agenda,” Mr Harris said.

Mr Harris cited the GST debate, saying the poor deal WA had lived with for many years would not have been accepted by other states.

“We’ve got much less political power because our news media is marginalised,” he said.

“If that was Sydney or Melbourne, there would be a lot more outrage.”

Similarly, he was surprised by the lack of coverage of fires that cut the Eyre Highway this month.

“For 14 days, WA was cut off from the rest of the country.”

Mr Harris said the big fall in the number of journalists working for mainstream media outlets was also compromising political debate.

He said the traditional news media had always played an oppositional role to government and was vital in keeping the government accountable.

However, this influence was waning in the face of the immediacy and widespread availability of social media.

Despite this shift, Mr Harris said many people, including government advisers, were paying a disproportionate amount of attention to traditional media over new media.

He said the reality in middle Australia was that most people simply didn’t read the morning paper or watch the evening news.

“I’ll be sharing those numbers and it’s really surprising,” Mr Harris said.

An example of the new influencers was New Zealand digital marketing agency Topham Guerin, which has been described as a 24-hour meme machine, generating content for social media.

It has played a key role in recent campaigns for conservative political parties in Australia, the UK and its home country.

• The Great for the State lunch, on Friday February 7, will also feature business leaders Michael Chaney, Elizabeth Gaines and Sinead Taylor. Full details at businessnews.com.au.

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