Herald Sun mulls spoiler for Fairfax’s big day

The Age's compact dummy

The Age’s compact dummy

News Limited’s Melbourne tabloid the Herald Sun may bring forward one of its blockbuster features of the year in what appears to be a bid to snatch attention from Fairfax Media’s relaunch of its broadsheets as compacts on Monday.

Mumbrella understands that the Herald Sun is looking at unveiling AFL writer Mike Sheahan’s Top 50 on Monday, a full three weeks ahead of the launch of the 2013 season.

Sheahan’s tips are a must read in the AFL-mad city and the edition is widely talked about on television and radio. In previous years Sheahan’s Top 50 have been released about a week before the start of the season.

“Mike’s Top 50 is one of the most read articles of the year. It’s debated on any sport TV show,  3AW and will boost their circulation massively,” said one News Limited insider.

“I guarantee you if it’s released on Monday people will fill the airwaves talking about Mike’s decision and how right or wrong he is. It’s massive.”

Another Herald and Weekly Times staffer was certain plans were afoot telling Mumbrella: “They’ve definitely brought forward Mike Sheahan’s Top 50 best players, which is a highlight of the football season, to coincide with The Age’s move to compact.”

“They want to stymie The Age’s buy factor.”

When contacted by Mumbrella editor of The Herald Sun Damon Johnston declined to comment. “I’m not in a position to talk about our content strategy, you shouldn’t take that as a confirmation or a denial,” Johnston said.

Mumbrella also understands that a meeting was held at News Limited’s Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph earlier this week with reporters being asked to ramp up their news coverage in the days leading up to Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald making the change.

As Mumbrella reported on Tuesday, News Limited’s broadsheet The Weekend Australian will publish a one-off Sunday edition, sponsored by BMW – the same company sponsoring Fairfax’s compact relaunch.

Fairfax declined to comment on speculation about News Limited attempting to steal its spotlight.

“Our focus is solely on providing our readers – and new readers who will no doubt pick us up because of our handy new size – the high quality, independent journalism they expect and demand from us,” said Fairfax Metro Media editorial director Garry Linnell.

Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Mitchell predicts his own paper and the company’s tabloids would benefit from Fairfax’s move.

“I think The Oz will benefit in the same way it did when The Courier-Mail and The Advertiser went tabloid,” Mitchell wrote in an email interview with Mumbrella.

“I also think the News Ltd tabloids will benefit because News does tabloids much better than Fairfax (witness Sydney’s The Sun-Herald) and the News tabloids will have much lower cover prices.”

Media analyst Steve Allen said the decision of Fairfax to maintain the same advertising rate card could also give News Limited a competitive advantage. “At times it will allow the likes of the Telegraph to compete outright on cost efficiency and secondarily beat them on bulk, volume and reach,” said Allen.

Fairfax has previously rejected this interpretation arguing its titles are not moving down market and will be maintaining the broadsheet “tone” of the publications.

Allen also said he would not be surprised if News Limited tried to steal Fairfax’s limelight on Monday. “Unquestionably, Kim Williams is probably one of the most competitive chief executives (News) has had in awhile. He would not want to give Fairfax an easy run whatsoever.”

Nic Christensen


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