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New Fairfax Business Network aims to lure like-minded advertisers

27 Aug

The Fairfax Business Network (FBN) is the brand new portal created by Fairfax Metro Media for advertisers looking to reach business and finance minded audiences.

 

The Australian Financial Review – Picture: Lachlan Hardy, Flickr.

The FBN is now home to business titles including The Australian Financial Review, BusinessDay, MySmallBusiness, BRW, Executive Style, Money, Smart Investor, Money Manager, Trading Room, InvestSmart and ASX.

The network has been designed to give advertisers a one-stop shop to a combined audience of over 2 million monthly readers.

The new network comes after Fairfax posted a loss of $2.7b last week.

Fairfax Metro Media chief executive Jack Matthews said, “The Fairfax Business Network has been created to give our advertisers one easy gateway to engage with out audience through multiple platforms, across our extensive portfolio of business and personal finance brands.”

Fairfax Media made a similar move last year when they created Fairfax Woman’s Network, combining eight titles into the network, allowing advertisers to engage with millions of readers.

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.

Fairfax and News Limited brace for structural changes

29 May

The writing’s on the wall for Australian media organisations, which have had a somewhat buffered impact to dropping circulations and advertising losses than their US counterparts.

Next week looks to be a big one for both Fairfax and News Limited with announcements due on major restructuring. There is already some speculation about what the announcements could mean, including:

News Limited

Plans set to be announced June 4.

  • 400 editorial jobs cut
  • Merging its weekday and Sunday tabloids to seven day operations
  • Online Digital Media to be brought closer to the main company

Fairfax

Rollout due July 1, plans to be announced this week or next.

  • Doubling its cost-savings to target $170 million
  • Plans to become a “fully integrated digital media company” and “platform agnostic”
  • Seven day roster to be rolled out for staff
  • Redundancies not ruled out

The ABC has not been spared upcoming changes either with a team of British consultants making some recommendations, including:

  • Staff and programs to share more resources, and more staff will be expected to file stories for TV, radio and online
  • A central planning desk to co-ordinate stories to avoid different programs covering the same event
  • To move to a ”news now” capability – trying to break more stories online to compete with commercial media websites

Twitter, news and #auspol

28 May

It’s getting harder to know where tweeting ends and where news begins, or even that there is a difference. As politicians take to tweeting to let their views be known and journalists continue to break news on the social news site, the function of traditional media is constantly under threat.

One of the value propositions put forward by news organisations is their ability to confirm, with authority, that which social media can’t.

It was interesting then to see AAP copy run across Fairfax and New Limited sites, which began:

LIBERAL MP Kelly O’Dwyer has suggested Australian-born citizens should get priority to become parliamentarians – apparently forgetting her own leader was born overseas.

The story was based on a tweet by O’Dwyer, in response to the outrage over Gina Rinehart receiving Government approval to use 1700 foreign workers for a mining project in WA.

The tweet read “Sen. Cameron says we should prioritise Australian workers before bringing in foreigners. Does this also apply to Senators?”

The tweet is really open to a number of interpretations, and some quite the opposite of others. It seems odd then that a rather large assumption was made about its meaning and run with, without seeking any confirmation from O’Dwyer as to what she actually meant.

The AAP copy was picked up, largely unchanged, and ran across Fairfax and News Limited sites without any further question.

Later, O’Dwyer  responded to a tweet by Matthew Lesh (@matthewlesh) which said that “@KellyODwyer‘s misunderstood point: Cameron is hypocritical when speaking against overseas born workers in Oz, as he is one himself. #auspol,” with “Finally someone understands the irony.#auspol”.

Politics aside,  the irony is that the tweet’s meaning was clarified on Twitter, but not until news organizations had spread a rather inaccurate version of it, based on nothing but speculation.

It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last, that twitter has led the political news cycle.

Government whip Joel Fitzgibbon took to twitter to quell media rumours of him canvassing votes for Rudd.

Asked by ABC’s Latika Bourke on Twitter if he had “any comments on reports you are gathering numbers against the PM?” Fitzgibbon replied “I thank my colleagues for the publicity but no one does more to support the PM and the Government than me!”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard was apparently satisfied with words of support from Fitzgibbon on Twitter.

According to the AAP piece, asked whether Mr Fitzgibbon’s tweet was enough to settle the issue, Gillard said: “I think his words are clear.”

“It’s not the vehicle as to how they’ve been disseminated but what they say.”

And with that the PM very nicely summarised the problem facing the media.

Google’s health check for newspapers

14 May

Good read on GigaOm  about Google’s head of news products Richard Gingras recently comparing newspapers to old-fashioned internet portals like Yahoo, and suggesting that unless media companies can adapt to the Web rather than fighting it, they are likely doomed.

The talk at Harvard, hosted by Nieman Foundation, was live-blogged by Matt Stempeck of MIT’s Center for Civic Media (his original notes are posted here).

Some highlights via GigaOm are:

On how newspapers got to where they are:

We look back at the 40 golden years of newspaper profitability as if things had been structured that way forever. But these four decades were triggered by an earlier media disruption: television. The rise of television advertising caused a contraction in the newspaper business, where major metropolitan markets went from supporting 4-5 newspapers to 1-2 papers. The limited number of remaining companies allowed monopolitistic pricing. This wealth was created by disruption, and what disruption gives, it taketh away.

On the iPad as the savior of journalism:

[The iPad is] a fatal distraction for media companies. Too many publishers looked at the tablet as the road home to their magazine format, subscription model, and expensive full-page ads. The format of a single device does not change the fundamental ecosystem underneath it, and this shiny tablet has taken media companies’ eyes off of the ball.