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Digital dominance and print decline at Fairfax

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World News Publishing Focus
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Digital dominance and print decline at Fairfax

Despite writing off a substantial proportion of many newspaper assets, and seeing its share price drop to record lows, Mr Hywood says, “in many respects the story we were able to tell was the best story we could tell since the big changes that began to occur to media in the early 1990.”

It isn’t wacky optimism that makes Mr Hywood talk this way: what is occurring at Australia’s leading media organisation is according to plan.

The company is preparing for the day – which Mr Hywood believes is coming soon – when metropolitan dailies will no longer have profitable print revenue. He said the strategy does not affect Fairfax’s substantial local newspaper business, many of which have 75 per cent penetration rates in their markets and no significant competition for advertising. But the big titles in cities – which have relatively low readership penetration, high options for advertisers – have to prepare for the day when print is no longer profitable.

“We see the metro publications as part of a transformation that is extraordinarily exciting but absolute unrecognized,” Mr Hywood said.  “People see these metro publications through the prism of print revenue. But if you stand back, and ask how we run a business without print revenue – you see the product is the journalism, not the technology. If 70 per cent of our audience says they want the journalism through a digital platform, who are we to say they need a print platform? We have to build the business around the audience.”

Investors are dubious.

“But they are wrong,” Mr Hywood contends. “While print advertising might fall, if you have built a dominant digital audience – and I mean dominant – as Fairfax has done in Australia, you can grow digital advertising through that model, and you can add digital subscriptions, and you get rid of the manufacturing and supplant print in a few years.”

You may view Mr Hywood's presentation on slideshare.

Author

Larry Kilman's picture

Larry Kilman

Date

2012-09-03 17:00

Author information


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