Fairfax reunites digital and print mastheads

Fairfax Media’s major newspaper mastheads are to be reunited with their online versions in the same division as part of the company’s restructure announced this morning.

However, the share market initially reacted poorly to the company’s changes, which do not appear to be particularly far reaching in terms of product strategy. Fairfax’s share price fell to $1.36, close to its low for the year of $1.32.

CEO Brian McCarthy revealed a new organisational structure consisting of nine business units.

  • Metropolitan Media, which will include both print and online editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age within the same unit. It will also include a national sales team
  • Australian Regional Publishing
  • Financial Review Group
  • Fairfax Radio Network
  • New Zealand Media
  • Agricultural Publishing
  • Printing
  • Digital Transactions
  • Trade Me  

The investor presentation also saw the company formally state its ambition: “To be the leading multi-platform media company in Australasia and to deliver long-term sustainable earnings growth for shareholders”. This will focus on news, information and entertainment content; connection people, businesses and communities and on transaction marketplaces.

In a press release the company claimed: “The strategy will transform Fairfax Media’s business model to adapt, integrate and future-proof the company in an era of unprecedented change; to strengthen Fairfax’s competitive position; and to improve profitability. Once in place, the new strategy will position Fairfax Media as an integrated, multi-platform company comprising leading media brands in Australia and New Zealand, enabling the business to monetise content through any channel.”

It was unclear what future role Fairfax Digital boss Jack Matthews would have within the company. When asked about it at the shareholder briefing, McCarthy said that Matthews was interested in a number of potential new roles.

Potentially the highest profile new role within the company will be chief executive of the metropolitan media unit, reporting in to McCarthy. According to the company: “Fairfax Media is undertaking a process to recruit a chief executive for the metropolitan media business unit, with a number of other key appointments under the new organisational structure to follow.”

The move will inevitably drive speculation about greater sharing of editorial content not just between online and print properties but across mastheads.

McCarthy also signalled that Fairfax is now a believer in paid digital content

He said: “Once the new strategy is in place, the integration of our resources will strengthen our business and allow us to take advantage of the myriad opportunities presented to us by a multi-platform world. “In addition, we will charge for content wherever possible, particularly for online and emerging platforms that provide new revenue streams.

“New platforms mean we are reaching more readers than ever before with our great content – in the future we must be able to monetise that content, while more integrated selling will enable us to provide advertisers with the best opportunities to reach their audiences.”

McCarthy also recorded a video message for staff:

(Hat-tip: Crikey)


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