July 01, 2003


A Melbourne Age staffer writes to Professor Bunyip:

You rave on about the bias here and you go overboard about it because you're a right wing ratbag and don't see the real issue. The real problem is management that's let circulation fall to 150,000 some days. The excuse was that we had "A" and "B" readers nailed down so circ. figures didn't matter. The Hun now has more of them than we do. Money is tight all the time and we don't have enough reporters. Plenty of associate-deputy-assistant editors, but bugger all reporters. If you came to Melbourne from Mars, you'd buy the Age out of curiosity but you'd read the Hun to find out what's going on. New printing presses are nice but won't make much difference. This is 2003 -- you think the punters are impressed by high quality colour? We don't even have a publisher any more. All the corporate focus is in Sydney. Mate, enjoy making fun of our columnists because they've only got a few years left at this rate ...

The Age learned last year that it had lost A-B readers to the Herald Sun. Attempts to regain them -- or to regain circulation -- have been weak, or seemingly haven’t been attempted at all. Judging by the tone of Bunyip’s correspondent, the place is fixin’ to die.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 1, 2003 08:17 PM

Forgive my ignorance of newspaper circulation terms, but who are "A" & "B" readers?

Posted by: Glenn at July 1, 2003 at 08:43 PM

Dear Glenn
Before anyone guesses, let me try - advertisers and businesses?

Posted by: Gabby at July 1, 2003 at 09:59 PM

Another question on terminology: I see "punter" on English and Australian sites. Looking it up, it is defined as someone who bets against the house. But, it seems to be more inclusive as used. I am guessing it means something along the lines of "average kind of guy". Is that correct?


Posted by: Rick at July 1, 2003 at 10:36 PM

"A and B" refers to demographics. A and B readers are the richest. The Age for several years has used the fact that it had a larger share of A/Bs to secure advertising.

Now rival newspaper the Herald Sun (colloq: the Hun), which traditionally secured the C/D demographic, is also leading in the A/Bs.

Just like this site!

Posted by: tim at July 1, 2003 at 11:11 PM

"Punters" - derived, obviously, from racetrack gamblers - is just another term for readers.

Posted by: tim at July 1, 2003 at 11:12 PM

The Bunyip's correspondent is right: it's not the "bias", it's the crap reporting.

The Age carries so much wire copy these days it's just like reading the Guardian or the NY Times. Only four days too late. The A3 section is a prime example of a cost-cutting measure dressed up as some kind of editorial goodie-bag. Chockers with wire.

In fact, there's an argument to be made that one of the problems with The Age is that it's not biased enough: while you always know where the Hun stands - over at the far right, with Timbo here - the Age dithers around like an old mole at a christening. (Oooh, I can hear the spluttering of the fascists 'round here already - for them the Age is the Spencer St Socialist, and no amount of evidence to the contrary is to be heard.)

That said, The Eye in the Hun is a truly shit gossip column. Then again, if it had decent daily competition (apart from Spy, once a week) it might not suck as hard.

And don't get me started on The Age's rock'n'roll coverage...

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 1, 2003 at 11:22 PM

Bon Scott

So the Hun is part of some kind of vast "far right" conspiracy eh? Tim, the Hun, and those who do not hate the Howard government may variously be described as conservative, market liberal, centre-right or even right of centre, but do you really expect to be taken seriously in describing them as far right?

Most of us like to see our own views as moderate and sensible, and those with whom we disagree as some how extreme. It is an easy trick to label those to the right of centre-left as as 'far right' but you end up tarnishing the views of most voters.

If you really want to see 'far right' views then look up the National Front, the British National Party, the John Birch Society etc on the internet. Their views have much in common with the far left.

Posted by: Matthew at July 2, 2003 at 12:13 AM

The Age is going down the gurgler? Goody!
Let's hope the Sydney Morning Herald goes the same way!

Of course if they woke up and realised that most of us A's and B's are Liberal voters, and catered to our wish for straight reporting, they may get back some readers. But I'm afraid they'd rather the ship went down than was run efficiently.

Posted by: Toryhere at July 2, 2003 at 09:00 AM

Matthew: I never used the word conspiracy. In fact, your whole argument appears to be with someone who isn't me, apart from you disagreeing that the Hun is far-right. Did you just cut and paste your response from a template or something?

Okay, whatever, that's a matter of opinion. They're certainly not in bed with the NF or the BNP or any of those old school fascist fronts - please, they're far too good at their jobs for that - but the Hun definitely panders to reaction.

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 2, 2003 at 10:11 AM

The retards at Mao's little red organ have never had a clue.To point them straight , the man is dead.

Posted by: d at July 2, 2003 at 11:08 AM

Ratbag? Say what you want about the paper and this particular writer, but I LIKE "ratbag!"

Posted by: Wonderduck (formerly just Eric) at July 2, 2003 at 04:07 PM

Bon Scott

I guess one man's conservatism is another's 'reaction'. Whatever you say about the Hun it has the largest circulation in the country. I don't think it could manage that if it presented views that were really extreme.

Posted by: Matthew at July 2, 2003 at 09:51 PM

Forget all the crap about bias, wire copy, A and B readers that is making Age circulation drop dramatically. It is a matter far, far more importan than that, a matter close to the heart of every true Melburnian- Sport, and footy in particular. The Age's sport section (conviniently located on the back of the Buisiness section), is a paltry two pages at most- shithouse. On Fridays, when the footy andrenalin starts its weekly pumping the Age offers a dissapointing one page, most of it with terrible layout, and full of shit anyway (they seem to think that having Dermie can solve all their problems). The Herald Sun, however, devotes pages to the tips, reports, FOOTY!!!!!!. That is why, my friends.
All the Herald Sun have to do is lure Leaping Larry L, and they have the Melbourne market.

Posted by: Doug at July 2, 2003 at 10:00 PM

Matthew: some of the views in the Hun are pretty extreme. But, as you say, they've read their market correctly. I don't see any contradiction between the two.

Doug: you are absolutely right. The Age's footy coverage is woeful.

Posted by: Bon Scott at July 3, 2003 at 12:41 PM