Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood denies ‘knee jerk reaction’ to revenue resulted in editorial cuts

Greg Hywood Fairfax Media

Hywood: “We are reshaping our staffing levels so we can…continue to invest in the journalism we saw today”

Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood has denied the newspaper company had a “knee jerk” reaction to poor revenue numbers resulting in the proposed 120 editorial cuts.

Speaking on Sky News’ Mediawatch program, Hywood said: “We’ve been transforming our publishing business for five years and it’s about reshaping our publication so they can deal with the sort of disruption that’s occurring in the advertising market and reshaping our publishing models so that it can still deliver, at scale, high-quality journalism.

“We don’t just look at a set of revenue numbers and have a knee jerk reaction to them, we assume that there’s big structural change in print revenues, and we assumed that five years ago and we were proven to be correct.”

“The good thing is we’ve given ourselves a lot of space in terms of making choices in how we continue to publish.”

Hywood’s comments were in response to a question from Mediawatch editor James Manning, who asked if anything had changed since Fairfax Media had posted an increase in revenue at the end of last year. Despite this Fairfax Media announced a planned 120 full-time editorial jobs across Sydney and Melbourne were on the chopping block.

In response to criticism of the cuts, which saw staff walk off the job, Hywood penned an opinion piece asking “Since when has quantity got to do with quality?”.

“For many, many years the newspapers had very lean staff but they were very high quality newspapers. Those numbers went up in the 1980s and 90s when economic conditions were very robust in traditional media but as things have tightened up we are just really reshaping our staffing levels so we can make sure the businesses are robust enough to continue to invest in the journalism we saw today,” Hywood said on Sky News.

The Bribery Factory was a global exclusive and is one of the great stories in global journalism so far this year.”

Hywood said the growth of digital has allowed its editors and publishers to access “instantaneous feedback about what people are reading and enjoying”.

“We’re much more capable of shaping the content to the reader’s interest. What we’ve found is we have a long-tail of stories which we do write that actually doesn’t gather a lot of interest, and as we can reduce the number of stories people don’t read so we can focus on the areas where people are most focused and most interested and deliver most demand,” he said.

“That’s really around the sort of investigations we published today, breaking news, national politics, state issues, business and entertainment. These are the areas we’ll focus on. Any organisation does that.

“All we’re doing is ensuring our organisation, our journalism, reflects what the consumers are demanding both in terms of where they get their information and what they receive.”

Hywood said the newspaper company is now all about sharing content, saying it is open to third-party distribution platforms such as Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News.

“We’re very comfortable sharing content, that is what it’s about. What we do is participate in a conversation in our communities and what we do is put our content out not just through our own platforms but on other platforms like social media,” he said.

“We’re very open to third party distribution models. Gone are the days when newspaper groups controlled the information and tried to control the dissemination of information. We now participate in this conversation, the community is better off for it and it makes for a more competitive environment and a more transparent and open environment.”

Hywood’s comments came before an announcement regarding changes to The Canberra Times and proposed 12 redundancies across the ACT.

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