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News Corp open discussions with potential buyers for regional and local mastheads

News Corp is opening its regional and local newspaper books for discussions with potential buyers.

According to a piece published in the News Corp-owned masthead The Australian yesterday, the company has hired investment bank Citi as an advisor. The story also suggests potential suitors are already circulating, including equity firms Anchorage Capital and Apollo.

News Corp bought the regional titles in 2016

“We have begun exploratory conversations in response to renewed interest in elements of our regional and community publishing portfolio,” a spokesperson told Mumbrella this morning.

But Mumbrella understands News Corp is not actively looking for a buyer.

News Corp expanded its portfolio in December 2016, after it bought APN News & Media’s newspapers for $37m.

The deal saw two daily newspapers, 60 community titles and 30 websites based in regional Queensland and northern New South Wales shift into the hands of News Corp. Titles included The Sunshine Coast Daily, The Toowoomba Chronicle, The Daily Mercury in Mackay, The Warwick Daily News, the Morning Bulletin Rockhampton and the Tweed Daily News.

News Corp’s NewsLocal titles include the Blacktown Advocate, Hornsby Advocate, Penrith Press, Manly Daily, Hills Shire Times, Inner West Courier, Mosman Daily, North Shore Times and the Wentworth Courier.

Discussions come as News Corp looks to move most of its regional titles to a premium digital subscription model.

Toowoomba’s The Chronicle, The Gold Coast Bulletin, Townsville Bulletin and Cairns Post already have websites based on the premium subscription model.

News Corp owned mastheads in red, Australian Regional Media (owned daily mastheads in blue and Fairfax Media mastheads in green.

The audience of the titles is hard to measure, given News Corp Australia’s withdrawal from the Audited Media Association of Australia’s audit last year. The publisher, which prints mastheads including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the Herald-Sun in Melbourne and Courier Mail in Brisbane, as well as its local and regional titles, decided instead to turn its attention to Enhanced Media Metrics Australia (EMMA).

According to the AMAA’s latest recorded News Corp data – from January to June 2017 – The Cairns Post’s average paid print sales were 13,896, The Gold Coast Bulletin’s were 21,468 and the Monday to Friday edition of The Townsville Bulletin had a circulation of 16,484. The Geelong Advertiser reported average paid print sales were 29,589 and The Northern Star’s audience was 6,950.

The last reported circulation figure for Toowoomba’s Chronicle was 14,015.

Between March 2017 and February 2018, EMMA data suggests the Northern Star has an audience of 38,000. Toowoomba’s The Chronicle’s latest audience, according to EMMA, is 50,000 and the Townsville Bulletin posted an audience of 63,000. The Gold Coast Bulletin and Cairns Post titles have audiences of 88,000 and 62,000. The Geelong Advertiser’s audience, according to the most recent figures, is 70,000.

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