Fairfax promises new structure to speed up move to digital

Fairfax Media’s AGM was today given few clues about the company’s new strategy and structure to transition from a print-led to digital company.

The company had originally planned to give more detail of a new direction at an investor day last month, but postponed that until November 23.

At today’s AGM in Melbourne, CEO Brian McCarthy told investors that there would be a “new organisational structure” focused on greater sharing of content between print and online and a more integrated sales operation. However, there were few clues beyond that. He said:  

“First being a multi-platform media company is about us adapting to the new media environment, by shaping our content and our advertising offering to the needs of readers and advertisers.

“Second, our metropolitan business model needs to be about having the right products in the right place at the tight time to capture audiences as they need to decide ands select how and when they want to consume their news and information.

“And third, through internal development and external acquisition, we will leverage existing audiences and invest in new audiences to build new revenue streams.

“To fulfil all of that we will put in place a new organisational structure initiate greater sharing of editorial content; initiate greater collaboration across print, online and mobile; introduce more integrated selling; and monetize, our content, both online and our emerging platforms where possible.”

At the time of writing, Fairfax’s shares had fallen slightly from their opening of $1.47 to $1.43.

Some Fairfax watchers predict dramatic changes in approach, if not in the senior management. Yesterday Crikey’s Margaret Simons predicted: “I gather that Fairfax Media is contemplating a fundamental shift away from a future based on print, and towards the migration of readers to online and in particular mobile devices — the iPad and its competitors.”

However, one observer suggested to Mumbrella that a key issue the company faces is that neither of its two most senior players is experienced enough outside of their respective medium to run a fully integrated operation. Fairfax Media CEO Brian McCarthy is from an almost entirely print background, while Fairfax Digital boss Jack Matthews’ background is in digital and TV.

Others predict that the shakeup will see Fairfax divided into three groups and no longer have a Sydey-Melbourne management split. The three groups would potnetially be metro (covering both The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s print and online properties and probably run by Matthews), rural and broadcast.


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