Monday, 25 August 2014

APN News & Media Limited (APN) still cost cutting in regional media division and now advancing the aims of the Newman Government

Sadly, regional newspapers in the APN News & Media Limited (APN) stable are still in the grip of a cost cutting regimen:

Resilient local trading conditions assisted by a strong real estate pillar helped Australian Regional Media (ARM) to deliver an improved performance.
Revenue was down 8% to $99.0 million, with EBITDA down 17% to $10.5 million.
Consistent with the broader publishing industry, ARM was negatively impacted by the weak agency market, with National revenues down 20%. ARM continues to focus on connecting with its audience and has grown its weekly aggregate audience by 8% to 1.4 million since the beginning of the year.
ARM continues to effectively manage its cost base and delivered year on year cost savings of $6 million in the half.
[HALF YEAR FINANCIAL REPORT AND APPENDIX 4D:APN News & Media Limited and controlled entities for the period ended 30 June 2014]

Rather worryingly, in Queensland APN became involved in furthering the political aims of an increasingly unpopular government of the day, by participating in a skewed 'community consultation' campaign conducted by the Newman Government, the Strong Choices questionnaire.

The Guardian 23 April 2014:

If you're not interested in raising taxes, reducing services or selling off assets, then the Queensland government doesn't want to hear from you.

Queensland treasurer Tim Nicholls has declared the government's “Strong Choices” campaign a success after the first week of operation, with more than 16,000 people making submissions through the Strong Choices website on how to reduce government debt.

Using an interactive questionnaire, people can suggest raising taxes, selling or leasing state assets, and reducing government services to reduce government debt.
In a statement on launching the site, which is part of a $6m campaign, Nicholls said the aim was to canvass Queenslanders’ views.

“This unprecedented level of community consultation and communication will enable every Queenslander who wants to take part to have the opportunity to provide detailed feedback on exactly what their priorities for the state are and to make their own choices as to how they would reduce the state’s debt,” he said.

However, the questionnaire does not allow you to submit your results if you choose not to raise taxes, cut services or sell off assets. If you complete each page but don't reduce the debt by the approved amount, you're unable to continue on to submit your results and the section on prioritising government spending.

Screenshot of the error message on the Strong Choices site.

This ensures any responses collated by the Queensland government will only include those who agree with the premise that the debt must be reduced to between $50bn and $55bn, skewing the results.....

Not content with manipulating the range of possible choices respondents had, the survey also apparently botched a graph:

The graph used on the site also emphasises the “unsustainable” range of debt, as it mixes two different axis increments – the “sustainable” section increases in lots of $10bn, whereas the unsustainable section increases in lots of $5bn, and has a greater distance between tick marks.

Brisbane-based software developer James Ottaway posted this new version of the graph to Twitter, demonstrating how it would look with a consistent axis:

Closely aligning newspaper mastheads with the Liberal-Nationals coalition is not a way to increase newspaper readership and boost profitability one would have thought and, is a move more akin to News Corp's business model which sees The Australian losing money hand-over-fist year in and year out since 2008.

With The Canberra Times revealing this week that; Operating losses at The Australian widened from $19.3 million to ­$27.1 million against a budgeted loss of $7.56 million, according to the last weekly internal operating accounts for 2012-13. Revenue tumbled from $135 million to $108 million, versus a budgeted $133 million.

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