Archive for February, 2009

Newspaper Ad Awards 09 launch

February 26, 2009

THE most prestigious newspaper advertising awards for the Pacific region have been launched by the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association.

PANPA’s Ad Awards 09 recognise excellence in in-house display advertising and campaigns on multiple platforms, supplements and features, and high-achieving individuals.

Entries close on Friday 27 March, with the winners to be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on April 23.

For the first time, PANPA members will submit their entries online – replacing the previous process of constructing cardboard displays and sending bulky packages to the association’s headquarters.

This has been made possible by a link with Workstream Solutions and their SpeedyAd technology, commonly used for constructing real estate pages.

Visit www.panpa.org.au/adawards09.asp to see full categories and learn how to enter.

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APN predicts profits will return

February 25, 2009

THE region’s third largest media group, APN News and Media, has predicted a profitable fiscal 2009, leveraging the completion of a capital expenditure and restructuring program.

CEO Brendan Hopkins told markets this morning he expected APN to report a profit of A$120 million in fiscal 09, recovering from a 2008 loss of A$24 million.

The loss was largely due to one-off items that included a significant write-down of its New Zealand assets.

Reporting the 08 number, Mr Hopkins said the company’s underlying profit had been A$140 million, which represents a 17.3 percent fall on the 07 result of A$169.5 million.

Brendan Hopkins ... cut costs

Brendan Hopkins ... cut costs

Previous investments in new print plants and workforce restructures would achieve a 7 percent drop in costs across APN’s trans-Tasman operations this year.

APN – the largest newspaper publisher in New Zealand – had been facing down its most “difficult times” since the company went public, Mr Hopkins said.

The New Zealand economy had been particularly painful although costs had been reduced. Australia had had its own challenges with “national advertisers electing to not proceed with planned campaigns”.

This had hurt the company at the end of last year and the softness in the market had continued into January and February.

However, Mr Hopkins said his company’s sales pipeline in its publishing division was “solid” for March. There was also reason for optimism in its outdoor and radio businesses.

He acknowledged the company had suffered revenue declines but said APN had grown or maintained market share. The company’s reported revenue was A$1.258 billion.

Earlier this year, APN’s 39.1 percent-shareholder, Independent News & Media, scrapped plans to offload its interests. The company has seen its share reduced by 54 percent this year, according to Reuters figures.

*APN is a member of PANPA. Its senior executive Martin Simons is a director.

Debt troubles push two publishers to edge

February 24, 2009

AMERICAN newspapers are having another bad week. Last night, the Philadelphia Inquirer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection less than 24 hours after the Journal Register took similar action.

The Journal’s stock will be cancelled and it will be owned by its lenders under a proposed reorganisation plan that was filed in a New York bankruptcy court. Bloomberg reports that it owes $1 billion with assets of between $100 million and $500 million.

The company employs more than 3,500 staff and its stock has been trading at less than 1c. It has eight dailies and 18 non-dailies.

Philadelphia Inquirer CEO Brian Tierney... debt, not operating revenue, the problem

Philadelphia Inquirer CEO Brian Tierney... debt, not operating revenue, the problem

The Philly Inquirer is in much the same position, according to its court documents, which said the value of the company was “almost certainly far less than the amount of the outstanding debt”.

One investor was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that its investors would likely lose “everything”.
The Inquirer became known around the world for being rescued by a clutch of enthusiastic, local millionaires who did not want to see their city newspaper die. They were brought together by marketer and PR professional Brian Tierney, who was speaker at PANPA 08.

After buying the Inquirer from McClatchy Co., the group brought together the Inquirer and the Daily News in May 2006 to produce a single newspaper for their city.
Mr Tierney told staff in a memo that revenue losses due to the recession was “squeezing our operating profit” and this was now “insufficient to service our debt load”.  The memo indicates that the newspaper has continued to profitably innovate and, like so many American newspapers, it is not the newspaper but the company and its debt structures that is having the most damaging problem.

He told US reporters in a separate statement that “this restructuring is focused solely on our [$390 million] debt, not our operations. Our operations are sound and profitable.”

Before this move, the paper had cut jobs across the newspaper, including 68 in the newsroom. It then had to take a second action, taking out another 10 percent from its staff costs.

This comes against the backdrop of a report from the North American Newspaper Association that said advertising fell by its greatest percentage in 37 years in the quarter ending December 08.

The New York Times has been not immune from the troubles. It stated overnight that it will not pay a quarterly dividend to help reduce its own debt levels. This follows similar decisions made by Media General and McClatchy, two other large American newspaper publishers.

McClatchy famously paid US$4.1 billion in less than three years ago for a 12-newspaper-chain owned by Knight Ridder. The Inquirer was one of those titles.

See earlier stories on the financial results reported by Fairfax Media yesterday.

MLC scoops Fairfax shares

February 23, 2009

THE Australian Stock Exchange has informed markets that MLC Investments bought 16,001,549 Fairfax Media shares on February 19, increasing from 109,823,749 shares (7.23%) to 125,825,298 shares (8.28%). For news of the Fairfax financial announcement today, and the CEO’s message to staff, see earlier stories.

This is a message sent to Fairfax Media staff by their Chief Executive, Brian McCarthy, before his analyst briefing call this morning. (see earlier story about the Fairfax announcement)

Good Morning,

With our first half results being reported to the market this morning, I wanted to write to you directly on where our company is at and the road ahead.

As I wrote in my email to you on December 11, 2008, I believe firmly in the overall strength of Fairfax Media and its long-term future. The headline net loss being reported today by the company is due principally to a non-cash write down of the value of some of our media assets across Australia and New Zealand, in publishing and broadcasting.

The write down is a significant number, however it represents less than 8% of the intangible asset base on our balance sheet. The write down has caused the company to report an overall net loss for the first half of the financial year.

In addition to the asset write downs, there are additional one-off charges, including a staff redundancy charge of $62.4 million. It is very important that the half year result be properly understood.

The fact is that Fairfax Media achieved an underlying EBITDA of $370 million. This is equal to media consensus analyst forecasts for the half year. We remain profitable, with strong cash flows. This underlying trading performance constitutes a creditable first half result. This is thanks to your efforts, and those of your staff, in the face of difficult economic conditions. With regard to debt, we see no need to refinance any debt before 2011.

We have good headroom on our debt covenants. With regard to raising equity, the Directors see no present need to raise equity and there has been no decision to do so.

The Directors will keep this matter under constant review. Fairfax Media has many strengths. Fairfax Media has excellent brands, strong circulations, and growing audiences. We are strongly diversified across print, radio and online. This has helped us withstand the present economic conditions and will help us benefit from the upturn when it comes.

As you know from our reporting of the news each day, these are tough economic times. They are depressing consumer and market sentiment, and this carries over into the share price. In my personal view, today’s share price does not properly reflect the value of this company.

There are challenges ahead for us to face. We are going to have to work as hard as ever this year as a team, and in the long term I have no doubt that we will come through these challenges.

On a personal level, I have very much enjoyed these first two months as CEO of Fairfax Media, and visiting our sites and offices around Australia and in New Zealand. We’ve had some good discussions that help my thinking on what’s ahead and how we will work through it together.

In the near future, I will be outlining the management structure that meets the challenges of these times to take the company forward. We will have an excellent leadership team. I hope this note will help you put the the half year result in context, and help you better understand the creditable underlying trading result that was achieved in the circumstances.

I thank you and your staff for the commitment to the company in these testing times. Please pass this email on to your teams as appropriate.

Kind regards

Brian McCarthy

Fairfax CEO’s message to staff on result

February 23, 2009

This is a message sent to Fairfax Media staff by their Chief Executive, Brian McCarthy, before his analyst briefing call this morning.

Good Morning,

With our first half results being reported to the market this morning, I wanted to write to you directly on where our company is at and the road ahead.

As I wrote in my email to you on December 11, 2008, I believe firmly in the overall strength of Fairfax Media and its long-term future. The headline net loss being reported today by the company is due principally to a non-cash write down of the value of some of our media assets across Australia and New Zealand, in publishing and broadcasting.

The write down is a significant number, however it represents less than 8% of the intangible asset base on our balance sheet. The write down has caused the company to report an overall net loss for the first half of the financial year.

(more…)

Fairfax diversification helps first half result

February 23, 2009

FAIRFAX Media has reported first-half underlying profits of A$157.6 million, down 23 percent, in an announcement to the ASX.

The result, which was in line with analyst predictions, reflected a drop in advertising revenue in difficult economic conditions.

The company recorded a net loss of A$365.3 million after major one-off costs such as the A$62.4 million restructuring expenses and the non-cash impairment of some assets – including a A$447.5 million write-down on the value of its mastheads, licenses and goodwill across all operations.

While the newspaper publishing business took a slight hit based on a declining ad market, online revenues grew 13.7 percent to A$135.1 million.

(more…)

Glare of TV at Right to Know show

February 20, 2009

AUSTRALIA’S Right to Know group will host a national televised conference on the state of Australia’s freedom of speech.

The event, in Sydney on Tuesday 24th March, will bring together academics, lawyers, journalists, public servants, politicians and the public to examine Australia’s free speech problems and discuss the best solutions.

The conference will give a rare insight into the daily behind-the-scenes workings of both the journalists whose job it is to get the news and the officials charged with protecting information that could be harmful.

(more…)

Broadsheets increase market share

February 16, 2009

AUSTRALIAN newspapers are continuing to hold circulation amid the economic downturn, registering half the size of falls seen in similar Western economies.

Combined circulations drops just 2.1 percent in the Sept-Dec 08 period, compared with falls of up to 5.1 percent in Britain, according to analysis released by The Newspaper Works.

The leading broadsheet newspapers – Fairfax’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, plus The Australian from the News Ltd stable – all increased their circulations.

The latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation showed The Australian – that country’s national daily – increased weekday sales 1.5 per cent to 137,000 from the same time a year ago, while sales of The Weekend Australian was three points higher at 309,000.

Sales of the inter-state tabloids dipped, however, with softer outcomes in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

The chief executive of Fairfax Media, Brian McCarthy said last Friday that the overall results showed their more newspapers were being bought than five years ago.

His colleague and publisher of Fairfax’s metropolitan newspapers, Lloyd Whish-Wilson, told the Sydney Morning Herald the was “very pleased” with his company’s performance and that “people continue to turn to us to get the news”.

He said Fairfax had held its own in a difficult circulation period and made market-share gains in the weekday newspaper markets of Sydney and Melbourne.

News CEO pays tribute to staff amid bushfires

February 13, 2009

THIS is the text of an email sent this afternoon to all News Ltd staff from their Chairman and CEO, John Hartigan, who pays tribute to colleagues for their outstanding coverage of the Victorian bushfires.

I want to personally acknowledge and thank everyone involved in our coverage of the Victorian bushfires. When things are really tough, we produce some of our best work and this is profoundly evident this week.

Across our company, our editors and senior managers worked together to provide the leadership that enabled us to deliver such outstanding coverage around the country.

I particularly want to acknowledge and salute the reporters and photographers who put their lives at risk to bring us the stories and images.

Some of our colleagues worked for several days without a break and others worked on even though they personally or their families had suffered tremendous loss.

Among those most affected at News are Gary Hughes from The Australian and Marion Taffe from mX. Gary and his family lost their home of 25 years but immediately went to help others nearby. Gary’s first hand accounts this week in The Australian and online have been extraordinary.

Marion was at work on Monday when her sister called to tell her they had lost their cousin, his wife and their two young children. They were about to evacuate and didn’t make it out of their driveway. Marion’s story published this week is heartbreaking.

Eight of our Leader Newspapers in Victoria are in fire ravaged areas. staff at six Leader titles worked around the clock and extended their deadlines to provide the latest coverage for their communities early this week.

The families of a number of Leader staff have lost everything in the fires.

This is a very traumatic assignment for many of our people. Please know we will give you any assistance you need and counselling is available.

An event of such devastating tragedy and relentless intensity has required us to collaborate between mastheads in ways that are very hard to achieve on a breaking news story of this magnitude and duration. It is a model for how we should deal with any major story of national interest in the future.

Our coverage in print and online was led from the newsroom of the Herald Sun. With great co-ordination, it was supported by The Australian and our newsrooms in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, which sent reporters and photographers to help, edited sections or moderated and packaged content that was used by all mastheads.

With so many involved it is inappropriate to single out people. But, I also want to applaud the work of our online editors and staff and News Digital Media. Up to today, our network of news sites has generated 157 million page impressions.

I am also proud of the many other forms of support from around the company among which The Geelong Advertiser’s appeal on Tuesday raised almost $140,000. HWT’s ribbon campaign has been a great success and as of last night 6,500 people have ordered photos of Sam the Koala with the help of volunteers who manned the phones to deal with demand.

All of these proceeds are being added to the $1 million pledge made by News Limited on Monday.

Thank you
John Hartigan

Fairfax chief realistic at digital forum

February 13, 2009

THE Fairfax Digital-sponsored “Media 09 – Annual Forecast for Digital Media Professionals” – began this morning with an address from Brian McCarthy, chief executive of Fairfax Media.

He gave a grim but realistic picture of the media industry, citing falls in his own company’s share price by 60 percent but stating that a similar falls had hit so-called “media high-flyers” such a Seek, the job-search site..

On a much brighter side, he said new circulation figures released yesterday had shown that newspaper print sales had increased 1.5 percent compared with five years ago.

”It’s the corporations that have the problems,” he said. “Debt has become the new four-letter word.”

“Media is still producing excellent products.”

He said his own company was well positioned to handle the future economic challenges. “Content is king – I know this is an line but I still believe it to be true.”

Mr McCarthy said The Age’s sales had increased 5 percent during the bushfire coverage of the last week. It’s website had had 1 million video views and traffic had increased 50 percent on its website.

Success would come from strong integration between online and print. “In Sydney and Melbourne we dominate the news – full stop,” he said.

“But we have to pay attention to the cost line, constantly driving efficiency and innovating to grow new revenues.”

Mr McCarthy said he had been “around long enough” to know the downturn would not last forever. “We are all in the same bucket,” he said, referring to all media companies – new and old alike. “This is only a short-term thing. One day it will turn upwards again.”