How the emu could follow the eagle and see our economy rise again

On Monday I am off to New York again but not for a haircut. I've paid over the odds for a few things in my life, but $428 for a trim a couple of months ago still takes my breath away.

On Monday I am off to New York again but not for a haircut. I've paid over the odds for a few things in my life, but $428 for a trim a couple of months ago still takes my breath away.

Nevertheless, I admire Warren-Tricomi Salon for its confidence in its service ... and its pricing policy. They got away with it.

America is such an incredible economy. The enthusiasm and inventiveness of the country just makes you feel good. We could do with a good dollop of it here in Australia.

Everyone has a choice in life and it seems to me that Americans choose to be happy and wealthy. And guess what? Huge numbers of them end up both.

But we are in the media and marketing business and as I prepare for the Big Apple and I'm thinking about the problems that confront newspapers around the world.

It was peak-hour traffic clogging our streets and other rising costs in the inner city that killed off our old evening newspapers, plus TV news. Readers will recall dad arriving home from work, after a quick one at the pub on the way, with the paper tucked under an arm.

In New York, the killer is not the traffic to get the newspaper truck through, but the cost of the truck itself. Or more precisely the wage deal that pays the drivers $180k a year.

"What a racket," Louise says, "I thought you could only earn that on the iron ore fields of Australia."

"Now I know why a haircut costs $428," Charlie says. "The price is being driven up by Teamster truck drivers."

But the serious part about America is that their advertising market is booming while ours in Australia has shown a lack of confidence and gone backwards. Yet our economy is good compared with elsewhere.

"Announcing an election that far out sure didn't help," Charlie says. "Particularly when it was announced by a minority government. Stupid. It just underlined a general feeling of instability."

But with their election tucked away, the advertising market in America, despite a relatively troubled economy, is set to grow 3 per cent while ours is down 1 per cent from last year. That's crazy!

What it does say, though, is that things are set to take off after September. We might even get close to a mini boom time.

I know that our media owners are expecting the good times to roll and I for one think they're right.

We can learn a lot from America, and one of them is believing in ourselves. The thing that is working in America for its newspapers is the digital business. While it's true here that a greater number of people are now reading this column online than in the newspaper itself, the big challenge is how the newspaper owners can transfer that desire for the information into revenue and profits. The answer is the "paywall" - the online barrier that the reader moves through, at a price, to access all the news that has been gathered by the paper.

America has got some great examples; the best of them is The New York Times. It now has around 600,000 paying digital subscribers and the revenue generated from its readers and subscribers overtook advertising income for the first time in 2012. And it's growing at 13 per cent. The grand old company had a good year last year, posting a profit of $US133 million compared with a loss of $US39.7 million in 2011.

Charlie has given me five pages on the American economy and he says it's OK. "The Eagle may rise again," he says.

And I am banking on the same happening here after the one day in September. You might be amazed to see how fast old man emu can move.

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