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#wef12: CEO of Australia’s Fairfax Media encourages publishers to make ‘the big calls now’

September 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Newspapers, Online Journalism

The Sydney Morning Herald is one website which will see a paywall introduced

Earlier this year Australian publisher Fairfax Media announced what it described as ‘landmark’ events, including the introduction of a digital-first editorial strategy in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, as well as a paywall in front of its Metro Media digital content.

The strategy followed a 12-month review, which concluded a need for “decisive action to restructure our business model to better reflect audience and advertising trends”.

This included cost cutting measures such as the loss of 1,900 members of staff in a bid to make savings each year of $235 million AUD, within the next three years, according to a report by one of Fairfax Media’s metropolitan titles the Sydney Morning Herald.

At the time chief executive of Fairfax Media Greg Hywood said:

No one should be in any doubt that we are operating in very challenging times. Readers’ behaviours have changed and will not change back. As a result, we are taking decisive actions to fundamentally change the way we do business.

The changes announced today have been selected after considering the merits of a full range of structural alternatives, including a demerger. The package of strategic initiatives is bold, and several are difficult, particularly as they will impact on some of our people.

However, we believe that they are in the best interests of Fairfax, our shareholders, and ultimately the majority of our people. They are necessary to ensure Fairfax retains its position as a leading independent media company and a key voice in our markets.

It is now a couple of months since the announcement was made and on Monday (3 September) Hywood spoke at the World Editors Forum in Kiev in detail about the restructure, and where it is hoped it will take the company in the next few years.

Hywood said the company was facing the same external pressures and declines as other media business and decided to respond by building a “platform or technological-agnostic” model.

And the company is “within reach of a very different profitable model for journalism focused primarily on digital distribution”, he said.

During his presentation to the conference he also called on other news outlets to “make the calls, and make the calls now”, in order to develop a “dominant digital news position”.

At Fairfax Media such big calls have included a move for two of its metropolitan titles – or mastheads as Hywood refers to them – SMH and The Age, to a compact format next year. The company is also closing down two large printing plants and moving the work to its regional plants.

In the newsroom there has also been a “revolution” he said, with the newspaper placed “at the end of the process”. Meanwhile sales teams are focused on offering “one media solution for each advertiser”, rather than going in with individual solutions per platform.

And while Fairfax Media is making these significant changes to its business, Hywood thinks other news organisations should also be reassessing their situations.

One day… it won’t be profitable to print any more. Then what you do is turn the digital tap on, what drops out is the entire costs of the manufacturing business underneath it.

As outlined in the ‘Fairfax of the Future’ strategy earlier this year, the company believes that implementing the changes it is will give it “significant flexibility to adjust the business model to reflect audience and advertising trends” should they change in the future.

But “you’ve got to make the big calls now”, he warned.

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Fairfax Media to launch political and national affairs journalism site

June 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Fairfax Media is planning to launch a new website focusing on political and national affairs journalism, according to a press release.

The nationaltimes.com.au site resurrects Fairfax’s National Times brand, which was published from 1971 to 1986 as a weekly print title.

The site, which will feature aggregated content from smh.com.au, theage.com.au, brisbanetimes.com.au and watoday.com.au and be accessible from these sites, will go live in August.

“The National Times brand was synonymous with intelligent and thought-provoking journalism,” said Brian McCarthy, CEO and managing director, in the release.

“It informed and encouraged debate on the important issues of the day and that will be the commitment of our new online site.

“The best of our opinion writing, commentary and analysis will be aggregated on the site and I believe it will be a beacon for all those people with an interest in politics, policy and current affairs.”

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The Australian: Fairfax says earnings could fall by 28 per cent

The Australian reports:

“Sydney-based Fairfax Media, publisher of newspapers including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Australian Financial Review, said underlying earnings could fall to around $600 million, before depreciation, amortisation, interest and tax, and assuming no further deterioration in advertising markets.”

Full story at this link…

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FT.com: Fairfax’s ‘plunge’ into first-half loss

February 23rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Journalism

“Fairfax Media, Australia’s oldest newspaper company, plunged into a first-half loss on Monday after writing down the value of its mastheads and incurring heavy restructuring charges, underlining the plight facing media companies,” reports the FT.

Full story at this link…

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