Sun - 21.01.2018

Australia’s Fairfax Media to axe 1,900 jobs in trek towards digital future

Australia’s Fairfax Media to axe 1,900 jobs in trek towards digital future

"Fairfax of the Future"

  • 1,900 jobs to be cut over the next 3 years
  • 300 jobs to be shed in Metro division over 2-3 months
  • 2 Metro dailies to shrink to tabloid size on March 4, 2013
  • Digital paywalls to be introduced in 2013
  • 2 printing presses to be shut down by June 2014
  • Expected annual savings of $235 million by 2015

Fairfax is today announcing fundamental changes to the way we do business,” reads the memo that one of Australia’s largest media companies lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on Monday, sending shockwaves through the press.

The changes, which include the elimination of 1,900 jobs over the next three years, are expected to reduce costs by $235 million over the same period, and to provide Fairfax with the flexibility to shift toward a “digital-only model if that is what is required in the future,” says the document, entitled “Fairfax of the Future.”

At the company’s Metro Media division, which encompasses daily newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times, 300 jobs will be cut by the end of September, half of which will be editorial, announced an email sent to staff from the head of the division, Jack Matthews, also on Monday.

Fairfax plans to transform all three of these broadsheet publications into the more compact tabloid format by March of next year. The ASX memo claims that tabloid-sized newspapers are “more accessible and convenient, especially for commuters,” and cites The Times, The Independent and The Boston Herald of examples of “a clear global trend towards compact.”

The company will furthermore erect metered paywalls in the first quarter of 2013 around the digital content of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, a decision based upon findings that while overall readership is growing, under a quarter of readers now access the newspapers’ content through print only, and 77% read Fairfax news off a screen, the memo indicates.

In light of “the increasing transition to digital distribution,” this document to shareholders also states that Fairfax will shutter its Tullamarine and Chullora printing presses, which it claims “are becoming legacy assets with significant surplus capacity” by June 2014 – a surprise announcement that has invited strong criticism for its manner of delivery, and has provoked fury in union representatives.

"We already feel like we're running on the smell of an oily rag"

In a statement embedded in the memo, Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood said of the decisions: “No one should be in any doubt that we are operating in very challenging times. Readers’ behaviours have changed and will not change back.” Hywood's statement continued: “Our investment in quality journalism and our editorial standards will not be compromised and will continue to underpin our success.”

Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) acting federal secretary Paul Murphy labeled this last sentence a contradiction, given the 150 impending newsroom cuts, reported the Herald Sun, a Melbourne daily.

"Any further loss of editorial positions will clearly damage these newspapers' ability to produce quality journalism, regardless of whether that journalism appears in print or on digital platforms,'' the Herald Sun quoted Murphy as saying. "Readers and employees alike are entitled to know precisely how Fairfax Media intends to ensure that these two great mastheads will continue to produce quality journalism when fewer journalists are left to actually go out and hunt out news stories.''

Stuart Washington, a journalist from The Sydney Morning Herald, reportedly expressed a similar fear to the Guardian: "We certainly feel on the editorial floor like it's the perfect storm because we're seeing around a quarter of our numbers reduced and possibly within a 60-90 day time frame. That's going to be particularly hard to achieve because we already feel like we're running on the smell of an oily rag."

Fairfax Media’s share price jumped 8.3% in response to Monday’s announcements, after slumping to record lows at the beginning of June. At the time of publication a Fairfax share was priced at 65.0 Australian cents; down from around $5.00 five years ago.

Sources: Fairfax of the Future, Herald Sun, Guardian

Image Credit: Fairfax Media


Emma Knight


2012-06-18 12:20

Shaping the Future of the News Publishing

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