Farewell MX

Feebie afternoon commuter newspaper MX finishes its run today after 14 years of publishing in Melbourne (and shorter runs in Brisbane and Sydney).

Melbourne Express was its awkward morning competitor for a short time in 2001 — it was never going to last because morning distribution is so difficult. That brand name lives on in The Age’s morning updates.

Some may mock MX for being overly filled with show-biz news and lifestyle stories, but for years it had a good team of local reporters, and their focus on public transport-using readers meant they always gave the PTUA a good run, often on the front page. It was a great way to reach a key demographic… for advertisers too, of course.

Here are some of the more (for me) memorable stories:

30/8/2005: East-west tunnel? Or public transport? It’s a debate that’s been around for a while.
MX: road tunnel, or public transport (30/8/2005)

11/10/2006: Celebrating the PTUA’s 30th anniversary
MX: 30 years of PTUA (11/10/2006)

23/5/2011: When the PTUA’s “Problem Of The Day” poked holes in the new tram network map, MX went Full Tabloid on it:
MX: Map of crap (23/5/2011)

2/6/2011: And this one, critiquing in detail the screens at Southern Cross Station:
MX: Southern Cross screens (2/6/2011)

Alas, their coverage of local news changed somewhat earlier this year when MX had a revamp. Recently there’s been little local content in it; indeed it appears much of the paper has been a generic Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane production.

MX of course had other uses. Some would get it every day just for the crosswords. You could wave it angrily at cars that failed to stop at zebra crossings. You could use it to cover that horrible-looking stuff on the train seat.

Litter could be a problem on evening trains, though MX probably helped the push for recycle bins to be installed at suburban stations. (And litter on trains is unlikely to just vanish when MX is gone.)

Perhaps with the recent proliferation of smart phones (iPhones were still six years away when MX launched) it’s not surprising it’s wrapping up.

It’s hard to break news if you go to press at midday for distribution to people at 4-5pm when many of your readers will have seen the same stories at lunchtime on their phones and computers.

Notably, News Corporation has been advertising news.com.au heavily around public transport recently.

So long MX, it’s been nice knowing you.

And to all the journos there I dealt with over the years, past and present: Erin, Hanna, Inga, Lachlan, Maria, Michelle, Nadia, Rebecca and any I might have forgotten (and/or not saved in my phone!) — thank you and good luck!

PS:

The last weekday of @TheAge as a broadsheet – I won’t miss it

I don’t read The Age in paper form everyday, but when I do, it’s either on the weekend where I can spread out as much as I like (so broadsheet is fine, though the smaller format of the supplements is fine too), or on weekdays on the train, where the broadsheet format is extremely awkward to handle.

Many of us will know the feeling — we’ve managed to find a nook on the train where we can unfold the paper without hitting other people with it, struggled just to turn the page without it inadvertently folding in on itself, and finally got to the new page only to find it’s a bloody double-spread of adverts for Dan Murphy’s or some other booze outlet we have no interest in reading.

It may be seen by some teary nostalgics as the end of an era, but I for one welcome the new compact tabloid format.

Wow! What a scoop for The Age!!
Yesterday’s Age — a big scoop?

Mind you, as Jonathan Green writes in this interesting article, it may just forestalls the inevitable continuing decline of paper sales.

It does sound like some kind of paywall will go up around the web site, too. It’s unclear how well that’s worked for News Limited papers such as the Herald Sun, given there are easy ways of circumventing much of it.

I also wonder what on earth Fairfax were thinking when they built The Age’s Tullamarine printing plant, now set to close within a year or two, but which only opened ten years ago at a cost of $220 million — all set up with highly expensive printing presses to print broadsheets. Did really nobody see coming the decline of classified ad revenue, and thus big fat broadsheet newspapers?

Sunday Age “outperforms the rest”

I’m always amused when one of the newspapers crows about the latest circulation figures.

THE Sunday Age continues to be the best-performing metropolitan newspaper in Australia, according to the latest circulation figures.

The newspaper recorded the best year-on-year growth to September 2011 of any daily, Saturday or Sunday newspaper in the country.

Sunday Age: Sunday Age outperforms the rest

It takes a particularly selective use of the figures to come up with the headline “outperforms the rest”. In the article they quote the Sunday Age’s circulation of 228,826, but fail to mention the circulation of their competitors.

Age vs Herald Sun circulation

The figures were all published last week. The Age is outstripped by their main competitor in Melbourne, the Herald Sun, every day of the week.

While it’s true that the Sunday Age is growing in circulation (by 2126 in a year apparently), I think it’s rather optimistic to claim it “outperforms the rest” when it’s only selling 41% of the competition, and at this rate of growth (and the current rate of loss for the Sunday Herald Sun), it’ll take another ten years to get equal.