Archive | June, 2012

Fairfax announces newsroom transformation

27 Jun

Fairfax today unveiled a national “digital-first” editorial restructure that it says will transform the company into one newsroom with its own internal newswire.

Metro division group editorial director Garry Linnell, who briefed staff on Wednesday, said the plan was “the most significant editorial transformation in this company’s history” in a 25-page staff briefing.

The publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will remove divisions between various print, web, tablet and smartphone as it pushes ahead with plans to shed 1900 staff over three years and build paywalls around most of its content.

Fairfax’s one-newsroom model, which will come with a single art department, is aimed at removing duplication among Fairfax staff.

“We will operate as one newsroom – across platforms, across geographies and across seven days,” Linnell’s briefing states.

“A shared, comprehensive national newslist is one of our greatest assets. It underpins our integrated newsroom.”

Under the new plan, Fairfax journalists will effectively become newswire reporters by filing copy on “rolling deadlines” across a seven-day roster for all platforms.

Weekend and magazine staff will also be rolled into the one-newsroom model and report to a topics editor.

The document describes the process so far. Staff were asked for feedback, reporting that:

  • The current way of operating leads to duplication, confusion and platforms not always getting the best content.
  • While the situation has improved, they still waste the effort of editorial staff and managers because planning and commissioning decisions are not transparent or disciplined.
  • Online is not included in planning
  • With about 90 per cent of staff reporting to print editors and a daily rhythm revolving around a newspaper, they do not treat online audience equally and create additional work for staff, particularly in production.

A number of  new roles are being created and others being transformed.

Editor‐in‐Chief: oversees journalism across all platforms – a transformative change from the current situation in which print and digital are managed separately. The EIC is the ultimate arbiter in the newsroom and the internal and external figurehead. Reports to the Editorial Director.
News Director: the newsroom’s linchpin, effectively the head of content. Platform‐neutral, the News Director is the EIC’s delegate in day‐to‐day operations and forward planning. When questions are raised about when and where a story is published, the News Director makes the final call. News Directors chair the daily and weekly news briefings, manage quality control and Topic Editors’ needs/performance and ensure Platform Editors’ needs are met. They will be supported by deputies to ensure news director presence 6am‐late across seven days.
Platform Editors: The editors of our newspapers, websites, tablet apps and mobile sites are the champions of our products. They are totally immersed in delivering journalism for targeted audiences, and must know intimately their platform’s strengths, audience reach/needs and demographics. They are not passive curators of journalism in the newsroom, but are expected to be
active in ideas generation and execution by liaising with Topic Editors and News Directors.
Topic Editors: Topic Editors lead a team of journalists and are responsible for delivering 24/7 coverage of assigned rounds to all of the platforms. A platform‐neutral role, they will be active in daily and weekly news briefings, maintain newslistings and diaries, manage the performance of the journalists in their team, oversee the production of online and print sections and liaise with
fellow Topic Editors. Editors of national topics report to the National Editor, editors of local topics report to the News Director.
Reporters: Reporters will no longer be aligned to one platform – they will be organised into topics and will produce their stories for all platforms. Their aim will be the same: to set the agenda by breaking exclusive stories, finding fresh and compelling new angles and engaging our audiences.
National of Production Head: a new role to lead a cross‐masthead, cross‐platform production team, elevating the quality of our online journalism.
Producers: for the first time, digital, newspaper and magazine production staff across geographies will unite to form a multiskilled production team.

Staff structure


Fairfax restucturing coverage: a round up

19 Jun

There’s been extensive coverage of the losses of up to 1900 jobs at Fairfax. Here are some highlights around coverage of the announcement, which has also coincided with Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart upping her stake in Fairfax:

The Australian has been reporting that Rinehart is after three board seats, but expects to be offered two. Also, that she is wanting the right to hire and fire editors.

As Australia’s richest person, and Fairfax’s biggest shareholder, Gina Rinehart stepped up her campaign to secure board seats and a say in the newspapers’ editorial direction, chief executive Greg Hywood shocked the media industry with the scale of the restructuring to be undertaken at the 180-year-old company.

Hit by what Mr Hywood called the “perfect storm” of structural and cyclical changes buffeting the newspaper publishing, online and radio group, he revealed the group contemplated a wholesale break-up of its operations before opting instead for the announced restructuring plan.

Alan Kohler in Business Spectator talks about the disconnect between management and Rinehart.

“Australia’s strangest rich person is apparently oblivious to the challenges facing publishers and is interested only in moulding public opinion. Meanwhile the last thing on the minds of Fairfax directors is the influence their editors and journalists might possess.

In other words, the company’s board and its now largest shareholder are at cross-purposes, which is a pretty rum state of affairs. Gina Rinehart has absolutely nothing to contribute to the transformation of the company into a profitable digital publisher and is not interested in it anyway, and no one inside the business is the slightest bit interested in moulding public opinion – they are just trying to survive.”

John Birmingham, a Fairfax columnist says we’ve got to share some of the blame.

 “ … although comment threads and letters to the editor bemoan the decline in standards of journalism, and cry out for more quality and care and less bias, most readers are less interested in hard news than they are in complete tosh.”

Some good background too . The Monthly has put their profile on Rinehart online.

Lang Hancock thought journalists were either “socialists” or “communists”. Gina, too, is deeply scornful of the press. Very few reporters ever get to speak to her, still less meet her face-to-face. In a testy email exchange in late 2010 with Tim Treadgold, the Perth-based resources reporter, she complained about “the established anti-mining journalists (and those who would prefer to do cheap inaccurate shots instead of considering important issues to Australia’s future)”. She went on to grant him an interview, of sorts, by emailing him the questions as well as her answers.

And for more background on Fairfax from The Monthly, here is Margaret Simons in February last year.

Even the optimists within the company acknowledge that if the next few years are mismanaged, Fairfax might not survive as a publisher of quality journalism. To put it baldly, we may lose the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, or they might be sold off. Even if the names survive, the mastheads may cease to exist as large-scale employers of journalists.

Wendy Bacon argues on New Matilda that journalists need to make the importance of independence known.

If journalists and the unions want the public to understand what is at stake they need to explain how the charter works and be part of a more broadly based community campaign to support public interest journalism, both in and outside the mainstream media. The interests of journalists are not the same as corporate management.

And they have –  writting to Rinehart to sign Fairfax’s charter of  editorial independence. Unsurprisingly, no word back from her.

Meanwhile in the WSJ, Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Anagnostellis has some further bad news.

Fairfax Media’s Australian metropolitan print business, including flagship mastheads The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, is worthless despite a dramatic restructuring, in the eyes of Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Anagnostellis.

The broker said the “nil value” reflects the metro division’s deteriorating earnings profile due to highly competitive conditions under which metro and community newspapers operate, the significantly high cost base relative to revenue and the weak structural industry position.

From Private Media, Amanda Gome has some strong opinions on the restructuring:

So in order to stave off the inevitable, Hywood has announced a centralisation model which is really a huge virtual newsroom that then dishes out commodity news to the different states and to different platforms. And that is the next death knell for The Age and SMH. Already they stand accused of having lost contact with their city communities. As a demoralised Fairfax workforce works even harder with fewer staff to pump out commodity news, their papers will look more like The Australian: nationally focused, authoritative, aloof and struggling to stay ahead. This leaves the door open for many smaller, highly targeted niche publications that will take their news and tailor it to their communities.

Not to be outdone by her boss Eric Beecher, who writes of the time eight years ago when he was asked to advise Fairfax on its future:

Three years ago, just as Roger Corbett was proudly taking the helm of an organisation “envied by media companies around the world”, a new book was published. Written by Jim Collins, well known for his deep studies of how companies work, How The Mighty Fall describes the five stages of the decline of once-successful companies:

  • Stage 1: Hubris born of success
  • Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of more
  • Stage 3: Denial of risk and peril
  • Stage 4: Grasping for salvation
  • Stage 5: Capitulation to irrelevance or death.

Under its current chairman, Fairfax Media took less than three years to move briskly from Stage 3 to Stage 4. And if there’s one certainty about the future of the company, it is that the current chairman and board won’t be hanging around to preside over Stage 5.

Rinehart, Monckton and the media

19 Jun

According to GetUp:

This week mining billionaire Gina Rinehart became the largest shareholder in Fairfax, having already bought a stake in Channel Ten. But  this new video reveals this move is bigger than one woman’s ambition — it’s part of a coordinated and very deliberate strategy, with climate skeptic ‘Lord’ Monkton seen here advising a room full of mining executives on how the industry must gain control of Australia’s media.


The Australian has also reported that Rinehart is after three board seats at Fairfax, but likely to be offered two. The board currently has eight directors, but can appoint up to 12.

Rinehart has also requested rights to hire and fire the editor. According to The Australian:

Mrs Rinehart is said to believe her substantial shareholding in the company, in contrast with other directors, entitles her to be treated differently.

Behold: People are paying for (particular) content on their tablets

19 Jun

A survey, funded by the Online Publishers Association, found that 61 percent of tablet users have purchased some form of digital content.

Poynter has a piece on it, but in summary:

  • People are buying magazines (39%) and e-books (35%) and newspapers (15%)
  • Magazines (10%) and entertainment (8%) win out over newspapers (5%) and news (4%)
  • There is little consensus about whether digital content should be sold on its own or bundled with other offline content, such as a print subscription
  • More people prefer to get content via mobile-optimized websites than apps
  • Paid or not, content consumption is one of the favored uses of tablets
  • Video comes out on top as the most-common type of content viewed on tablets (54%), next followed by weather info (49%), local news (41%) and national news (37%)
  • Short form news and entertainment  are the most popular video content
  • 31% of Internet-using Americans now use tablets, up from 12% last year
  • It’s predicted that 47 %t will use tablets by 2013


ABC wins at radio

19 Jun

The ABC has won nine prestigious international “decorative microphones” at New York Festivals Radio Program & Promotion Awards. Eleven ABC radio programs made it into the finals.The list of  ABC awards can be seen here.

Established in 1982, the competition honors the most innovative work in radio broadcasting, with entries from radio stations, networks, and independent producers from around the globe. This year’s Grand Jury selected 196 entries representing 22 countries as Finalists.

About half of your brand’s followers are likely fake

12 Jun

So your brand is on Twitter and you want more followers… but how useful are they to you if nearly half of them turn out to be bots?

A study by Marco Camisani Calzolari
, a corporate communication and digital languages professor in Milan, into 39 brands on Twitter showed up to 46 per cent of followers were likely to be automated bots.

He used an algorithm to determine the behaviour of followers, based on key indicators of what was likely a bot.

The academic analyzed feeds of 39 international and Italian brands, including @DellOutlet, @BlackBerry, @CocaCola, @IKEAITALIA and @VodafoneIT.

While the study sample was relatively small it raises some questions about brands obsessions (and individuals too) with numbers of followers, especially when nearly half of them are fake. One wonders if brands are deliberately gaming the system to give the illusion of bigger followings.

As one observer pointed out:

Twitter should be able to crack down on this a lot more than they already are. If a professor can singlehandedly come up with an algorithm to detect bot accounts, why can’t Twitter do the same and remove these accounts? Unless, of course, they can and they’re afraid of what might happen if they open Pandora’s Box.

Twitter tidbits: episode one

12 Jun

Does competition create dubious practices … and other questions. Interesting discussion between media luminaries Jonathan Holmes, Alan Kohler and Jonathan Green. Thoughts?

  1. jonaholmesMW
    Question: shd commercial TV code of practice forbid payment for interviews that attack reputation of 3rd party? Feasible? Downsides?
  2. AlanKohler
    @jonaholmesMW Interesting that the regulated media (TV) tend to do worse things than the less regulated media (print)
  3. GreenJ
    @AlanKohler that would be the result of competition. popular print in a competitive market act as poorly… see UK. our tabs have no rivals.