News Corp to launch more than 50 digital-only regional titles

Just a couple of months after ending the print life of more than 100 regional and community titles and moving them to a digital-only format, resulting in 500 to 1,000 redundancies, News Corp has announced a plan to launch more than 50 new digital titles primarily targeting regional areas.

The first 15 titles are due to launch in September, with the rest to be rolled out across three years.

Last Thursday, news editor for the company’s national community network, Jessica Clement, tweeted that she was looking for 15 reporters to staff the first 15 mastheads, which will be based in Albury-Wodonga, Ballarat, Bendigo, Gippsland, Latrobe Valley, inner-city Melbourne, Mildura, Shepparton, Dubbo, Hawkesbury, Port Macquarie, Orange and Tamworth, and South Australia’s Clare Valley and Port Lincoln.

The approach appears to mirror News Corp’s existing News Local model, which sees the titles manned by just one reporter, who covers everything an area’s readers care about, from court and sports reporting to property and business news.

Three journalists have already been hired, with a further dozen sought. The company’s Australasian executive chair, Michael Miller, said the new recruits will be “embedded in the mastheads’ local communities”.

The editor of the national community masthead network, John McGourty, added that the new titles will be “hyperlocal”, and rely on subscriptions.

“It really is just grassroots journalism, the ways it‘s always been and our audiences connecting with that in better and bigger ways than ever before,” McGourty said.

“It‘s important to us that those journalists are embedded in their community, that they are living and working in the communities that they’re serving so that they are true hyperlocal journalists.”

Some revenue will be drawn from advertising, with some of the publications becoming competitors to Antony Catalano’s Australian Community Media titles, the country’s largest regional media publisher. Both ACM and News Corp have closed print centres as part of the companies’ response to COVID-19.

Just last week, ACM said it needed to close four print sites to ensure the business’ future. Two of the sites were closed temporarily in April, when the business suspended more than 150 non-daily titles and stood down employees working at both those newspapers and the printing facilities.

While the new digital News Corp titles are said to serve regional communities, one masthead in the first batch of 15 will be targeted at inner-Melbourne readers. McGourty said these parts of the city, such as Yarra and Richmond, have a “village atmosphere”.

“We’re trying to find out if we can grow an audience at a hyperlocal level inside a city. We’ve already done that in places like Adelaide, and Sydney,” he said.


Two weeks ago, News Corp launched its own newswire after pulling funding from AAP, which encountered a close-call with closure before a last minute reprieve in the form of a consortium of investors, fronted by former News Corp executive Peter Tonagh.

And at the beginning of the month, former WPP CEO Mike Connaghan joined News Corp to lead its commercial content division, and it was announced that chief operating officer Damian Eales would be moving to New York to take up the newly-created role of global head of transformation.


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