Substance with Style, and Style with Substance

Words by Matthew Drummond, Editor AFR Magazine

Beauty and brains, glamour and gravitas, style and substance – there is no other media title in Australia like AFR Magazine, a magazine that spends as much time thinking about how we look as what we say.

When change is the only constant, sometimes the best way to respond is to be constant, to keep doing what you do, but just make it better. Consistency of vision, and quality of execution, is something that’s integral to the success of AFR Magazine. What we do is fundamentally unchanged – the creation of a beautiful magazine that inspires the readership of the Financial Review. 

But in thinking about this, it occurred to me that the past 12 months have marked some big changes and achievements at the Financial Review – the entire masthead. It has indeed been a pivotal year: 

We started the year by welcoming a new generation of trainees, marking an injection of talent as we craft the next generation of Fin Review writers, and in turn, readers. 

We have transformed the technology that our masthead is built on – on both the back end that we use to create our stories, and the front end that our readers see. The digital experience is more visual and features a much higher level of design. 

Our retail digital and corporate subscriber numbers have grown over the last financial year. These paying subscribers are the most valuable readers in Australia.

Off that growth, we’ve kicked up the level of investment in our business. We’re bringing sub-editing back in-house, to lift the quality of every article we produce across the Financial Review.  

We’re putting on new journalists to increase coverage of areas that our subscribers – the most valuable readers in Australia – are interested in.   

And AFR Magazine was named Newspaper Inserted Magazine of the year at the Australian Magazine Awards again, for the seventh year in a row. As at the end of July, the Financial Review readership in print had recorded 10 per cent growth year-on-year, according to EMMA. 

Most significant of all, and one of our biggest strengths is our suite of inserted magazines: from AFR Magazine, BOSS, LUXURY, Sophisticated Traveller and Life & Leisure in the Financial Review to Good Weekend, Sunday Life, Executive Style, Good Food and Traveller in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, as well as our premium Domain magazines. 

These are titles which are authorities in their respective areas – be it lifestyle, long-form journalism, fashion, travel or food. They are all different, and they each play a different role in our publishing ecosystem. What they have in common is the affluence they reach and influence they have over the hearts, minds and wallets of millions of Australians each month. 

Next year marks 25 years of AFR Magazine, and 2020 is going to be our best year yet. 

We invite you to be a part of it.

Nine is leading the industry in the online video market, says top media buyer

Nine’s commitment to grow 9Now drives strong levels of confidence among media buyers.

At this year’s Upfront, Michael Stephenson, Nine’s Chief Sales Officer, announced that the company will be introducing cost per completed view on both its short-form and long-form video products, creating excitement for one of Australia’s top media buyers. 

On stage, Stephenson said: “Advertising that is being seen for one second or sometimes not at all is not as valuable as advertising that is full screen, has a 100 per cent completion rate and is seen 100 per cent of the time.

“A move to a cost per completed view metric will allow Nine to compete aggressively in the billion-dollar Australian online video market with Facebook and Google.”

Melissa Fein, CEO of Initiative, was thrilled with these announcements.

“Stephenson’s messaging on BVOD is giving us a lot of excitement,” she said.

“It’s great to see that Nine is leading the pack in his BVOD announcement. Also, to see the industry being able to come together next year to create an industry-wide buying process to purchase that extended reach from OzTAM VOZ is what we are most excited for.”

Fein shared her confidence with Nine’s superbrand strategy, designed to build its reach and audience across the key verticals of property, auto, travel and food.

“Nine’s superbrand strategy is very clear and we’ve all been waiting to see how Fairfax and Nine would start to tie those assets together,” she said.

“To see print and digital go to broadcast means that linear television continues to play such an important role in advertising channel plans. It also gives it the power to grow a brand. Seeing that broadcast can grow the Domain brand and the Good Food brand, it gives us a lot of confidence as media buyers.”  

Fein said it was important for media buyers to know there is consistency in Nine’s programming slate for 2020, and she also commended Nine’s stance on female sport programming.

“As media buyers it’s important that we understand the slate for the whole year out, and it’s really good to see the coaches returning on The Voice. We’ve got confidence in The Voice, we’ve got confidence in Married at First Sight, and the casting for that looks excellent,” said Fein.

“It’s also amazing to see women’s sport playing a pioneering front and centre role, and Nine is the only one bringing that to the forefront. I feel proud as a woman to see that happening and a lot of our advertisers will follow with that.

“A very strong, pioneering feeling this year with all the announcements made.”

Media Buyer: Nine ‘has gone to a different level this year’

Nine has delivered “extremely impressive” strategies and propositions in place for 2020, says one top media buyer.

Barry O’Brien, founder and Chairman of Atomic 212, is impressed with Nine’s decision to keep a consistent slate for the year ahead, saying “to be a good network you need good consistency in terms of programming, and Nine have got that”.

O’Brien also pointed to the success of one of Atomic 212’s initiatives, where it worked Tourism NT onto its “Win a Top End Wedding” competition which launched on Today. The campaign was designed to leverage interest in the new Australian movie, Top End Wedding and drive holiday visitors to the Northern Territory by giving away a dream wedding in the Top End.

“We had good stuff this year with Top End Wedding and we did that with the Today show. The results that came out of that were pretty awesome and it was a good story across the board,” O’Brien said.

Turning to the data announcements, a key topic of the Upfront night, Michael Stephenson, Nine’s Chief Sales Officer, told the room that Nine will continue to grow 9Now as Australia’s leading provider of premium commercial video.

“From today, we will offer to price and trade all our BVOD and short-form video based on a cost per completed view. You will only pay for views that have a 100 percent completion rate,” Stephenson said.

“A movement to a cost per completed view metric will create a level playing field and allow marketers to compare the real cost of advertising on Nine, Facebook and YouTube.”

O’Brien said this announcement was important: “The program is one thing, but then outselling it is really good. Michael Stephenson’s offering of the data platform to compete against Facebook and YouTube was very impressive.”

Nine’s 2020 Upfront was “quite spectacular and went to a different level that I didn’t think it could”, O’Brien added.

Real Australian Stories

Words by Andy Ryan, Co-Head of Drama

Australian audiences love Australian stories. Whether it’s the thrill of an Underbelly, the hijinks of House Husbands or the triumph of Love Child, Australian dramas have always been a vital part of our TV landscape.​

Now more than ever, Australian dramas are also a vital part of Nine’s programming mix. And while the drama landscape has undergone radical change over the past decade, Australian stories continue to win hearts – and eyeballs – for Nine and 9Now.​

​It’s often said we are experiencing a golden age of television. Dramas like Game of Thrones and The Crown have redefined what’s possible for television series, with budgets previously reserved for blockbuster movies. ​

​And while it’s true that audiences are spoilt for choice with more options on more platforms than ever before, Nine’s dramas will always have a point of difference. We tell 100 per cent Australian stories, made for our local audiences by the finest casts and crews in the country. We tell stories that resonate with Australian audiences, that are tightly focused on our core 25-54 demographic, and are designed to capture audiences on linear TV as well as catch-up.​

​But most of all, we want to tell stories that entertain. No drama will succeed unless it has a ripping yarn which can, as the old showbiz adage says, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, and make ‘em gasp.​

​It’s the reason why Doctor Doctor is returning for a fourth season. Why we are diving back into the mean streets of Melbourne’s gangland wars with Informer 3838, the story of Lawyer X. And why Rebecca Gibney is bringing her groundbreaking character Jane Halifax back to Nine in Halifax: Retribution.​

​We’re especially excited to showcase some of Australia’s most outstanding actors on Nine dramas in 2020. Stay tuned for a roll call of industry icons including Rebecca Gibney, Rodger Corser, Tina Bursill, Anthony LaPaglia, John Waters, Claudia Karvan, Jacqueline Mackenzie and Robyn Nevin. They’ll be joined by some of the most exciting and popular faces on television, including Stephen Peacocke, Ella Scott Lynch, Rick Donald, Nicole da Silva and Olympia Valance. ​

​And watch out for the new and emerging stars to burst through in 2020. Like the stories themselves, we’ll bring actors and performances that are guaranteed to surprise, delight, and shock. ​

The Rise of Women in Sport

Words by Liz Ellis, Australian Netball legend and Nine Wide World of Sports commentator.

No longer content to sit on the sidelines, the sisters are now doing it for themselves.

Once the near exclusive domain of blokes, sport-as-entertainment is starting to look a lot different. Female athletes, and the entertainment they produce, are becoming hot property. For a long time, we suspected that women passing, catching and hitting a ball could fill stadiums and light up screens. Now we know it.

No longer a sideline to the main event, it is increasingly becoming the main event. For an old duck like me it feels like on the one hand it has been a long time coming, and on the other hand something that has happened nearly overnight. It also feels incredibly satisfying that broadcasters and sponsors see that potential.

Just five years ago netball was paying broadcasters to show its domestic league, and there was no such thing as Women’s NRL or Women’s State of Origin. 

Yet here we are, heading into 2020 with all of the above, and all of them live and free on the Nine network. Athletes like Ash Barty, Ellyse Perry, Laura Langman and Kezie Apps are household names, and can, on any given weekend, be found with a flick of the remote control. And once people are finding them, they are watching them. Ratings for Super Netball are up two per cent year-on-year and this year’s Women’s State of Origin match out rated the Swans v Hawthorn match in Sydney by almost two to one.

I have to pinch myself when I see the Wide World of Sports logo come up on screen at the start of a Suncorp Super Netball broadcast; when the Constellation Cup, the annual test series between Australia and New Zealand, gets the full Channel 9 treatment, complete with Ray Warren voiceover.

For a long time netball was the outlier, the one women’s sport that was shown regularly on television. Now we have company, and that is a good thing. I am often asked if the rise of other women’s sport is a threat to netball. On the contrary, it represents an opportunity.

That opportunity is the normalisation of women playing professional sport on the television. When my eight-year-old daughter turns on the television and finds women playing netball, cricket, or football, she can see so many opportunities for people just like her. She can fall in love with any number of sports and athletes in a way
I couldn’t when I was a little girl.

This is beyond exciting. 

I couldn’t be happier that women’s sport is taking its place and making headlines of its own. That female athletes are being celebrated, scrutinised and analysed just like their male counterparts.

But do you know what would make me really happy? Really excited? When we stop talking about women’s sport. When we no longer mention female athletes. When athletes are just athletes and sport is just sport. Five years ago I thought that this might never happen.

Now it feels so close I could touch it. Or tackle it.