Archive for August, 2009

The Oz tells Fairfax readers to Think Again

August 31, 2009

THE AUSTRALIAN has announced a multi-million dollar relaunch campaign in an effort to boost readers, take on Fairfax, and position itself to benefit from the imminent “upturn” in fortunes for newspapers.

The national broadsheet will use the slogan “Think. Again.” to invite readers into the improved newspaper, which will feature new sections, an increase in content from the Wall Street Journal, more puzzles, TV and arts coverage, and a redesigned Weekend Australian Magazine.

A promotional campaign will run across free-to-air and pay TV, radio, online, outdoor and in News Ltd’s print titles featuring an impressive array of Aussie personalities endorsing The Australian, starting this Wednesday.

Editor Paul Whittaker told PANPA the timing of the investment coincides with a turning point for the conditions under which newspapers are operating.

“Companies have to position themselves for the upturn, which appears to be underway now,” he said.

A new features section called “A Plus” will be launched, featuring an extended games section, and more arts, entertainment and TV listings and reviews.

Mr Whittaker said A Plus is a deliberate challenge on Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The broader appeal of A Plus is about “giving Fairfax readers an excuse not to read them,” he said.

Arts coverage will be state-based, giving readers a localised perspective of what’s on.

There will be a second page of Wall Street Journal coverage added to the business section, as well as more world news including a stronger focus on high-quality world commentary from the WSJ, the New York Times and other sources.

In addition to the Weekend Australian Magazine revamp, the weekend Review section will be transformed into a separately stitched and trimmed insert.

The editor-in-chief of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, said: “We are investing significantly in more content relevant to our core demographic. The latest audit figures prove The Australian’s sales are strong and performing exceptionally well in comparison with all other major daily newspapers. The time is right to build on this market advantage and from it leverage further sales.”

The likes of Ray Martin, Tetsuya, Gerry Harvey, Peter Cosgrove, Grant Hackett, Tim Horan, Collette Dinnigan and Phillip Adams will appear in the promotional campaign, asking potential readers to “Think. Again.” about what issues matter to them, according to a company statement.

Mr Whittaker said the message also meant people should reconsider The Australian and what it offers as a product.


SPH makes 161 years of news digital, searchable

August 28, 2009

OVER 160 years of Singapore news will soon be available at the click of a button thanks to a new collaboration between Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and the National Library.

The project, called NewspaperSG, will make editions of the Straits Times from 1845 to 2006 fully searchable in a digital format.

So far, records up to 1982 have been digitised, with the rest due early next year. 10,000 people used the service in June.

It costs three cents per minute to browse the archives in libraries, plus S$1 to print a page, and 50-word article previews are available for free online at

SPH publications have featured editorials promoting the service. The Straits Times interviewed a tour guide who used NewspaperSG to add background and colour to the part of her tour route that went past a graveyard. The archives helped her find out who was buried there, and other anecdotes.

The New Paper featured a biographer who found out his subject, Singapore’s deputy prime minister Goh Keng Swee, had won a consolation prize in a newspaper limerick contest at age 14 – a tidbit Dr Goh himself probably didn’t remember.

Most libraries in other parts of the world digitise only material older than 70 years, after copyright lapses, The Straits Times article said.

New editor for The Sun

August 28, 2009

Can you imagine being editor of the “best paper on the planet”?

That’s how Dominic Mohan of The Sun feels about his new job, after being promoted from deputy editor following the departure of Rebekah Brooks.

Ms Brooks was recently appointed CEO of News International, opening the door for Mr Mohan’s appointment.

“I believe The Sun is the best paper on the planet. It is a privilege to take over as editor and I cannot wait to get started,” Mr Mohan said in local media.

Mrs Brooks said: “Dominic has been an outstanding leader at the paper, supporting me with energy and enthusiasm. He has an unrivalled understanding of what makes the paper tick and a real grasp of what makes a great Sun headline.”

PANPA announces Awards finalists!

August 26, 2009

FINALISTS for the 2009 Newspaper of the Year have been released today by the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association.


The awards focus on newspapers, websites, photography, marketing and excellence in print and production. The Newspaper of the Year awards gala night will be held at the Sydney Masonic Centre on September 10.

Newspapers from across the Asia-Pacific region entered the awards this year with a stronger presence from South-East and North-East Asia.

A total 35 judges in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia and New Zealand have now made their decision.

PANPA chief executive Mark Hollands said: “Our overseas judges have all commented on the high standard of the entries and the overall quality of newspapers and journalism in this region.

“The quality of entries is generally accepted as the best-ever by our regular judges. The entries underscore the vibrancy and professionalism of the newspaper industry – in print and digital.

“The awards come down to the quality of our people – and there is no doubt they are among the very best and most innovative in the world.”

For more details –
Mark Hollands, chief executive, PANPA: + 61 2 8338 6300

*Finalists have been selected from closeness of scores. ‘Highly commended’ awards are based on judges’ personal
recommendations and will be announced on the night.

Fairfax sees light despite recording loss

August 24, 2009

FAIRFAX Media chief Brian McCarthy says the publisher is positioned “wonderfully well” to benefit from a recovery in the advertising market, after announcing a net loss of A$380 million for the year to June 30.

The negative result occured due to one-off impairments of A$664.3 million. Those costs aside, net profit after tax was A$226.7 million – down 40 percent from the previous year.

Revenue was down 10.6 percent to A$2.6 billion, partly because of a significant drop in advertising earnings, particularly in metropolitan mastheads. EBITDA was A$605 million, down 27.2 percent.

Click here for Fairfax Media’s 2008/09 Financial Year statement

Trading in the first seven weeks of the new financial year indicate that the worst is over in terms of plunging ad revenue, although the upturn has not yet started, the company said.

Mr McCarthy said the operating conditions in fiscal 08/09 were the worst he had experienced in his 33-year history in the industry.

“When you take [the financial conditions] into account, our performance in relation to other media suggests we’re up there with the rest,” he said.

Mr McCarthy said Fairfax had reduced its staff force by about 1,000 people, or around 9 percent, in the last year – a ratio he said was equivalent to other media companies in recent times.

The redundancies – which came from a spread of different departments in the business – contributed to the one-off items that caused the company to post a loss.

Mr McCarthy predicted that a vast majority, but not all, ad revenue would return as conditions improved. Employment advertising would be the first to return as the financial climate improved, he said.

The former Rural Press boss, who has been in charge of Fairfax since December last year, said there was no “bag of tricks” for boosting revenue, outside of the cyclical upswing.

The company would continue to invest in its digital properties, including the new NationalTimes – set to launch in September.

Mr McCarthy and over 50 senior managers will meet for a two-day, 3-5 year strategic planning session next month. Submissions were welcome from Fairfax staff for consideration at the summit, he said.

Fairfax elects new deputy chairman

August 21, 2009

FAIRFAX Media have a new deputy chairman in the form of Roger Corbett, who has been on the publisher’s board since 2003.

“Roger Corbett is one of Australia’s finest business leaders,” Fairfax Chairman Ron Walker said in a statement.

“Corbett’s appointment is part of our ongoing board renewal program for the future direction of our company,” Mr Walker said.

Mr Corbett, a prominent businessman, also sits on the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Fairfax will announce its full year financial results on Monday.

APN profit drops, CEO says outlook is brighter

August 21, 2009

APN News and Media has posted a net profit of A$33.6 million for the half-year to June 30, down 53.3 percent from A$71.9 million in the same period last year.

The publishing giant, which has newspaper, radio and outdoor properties in Australia and New Zealand, has been hit by falling advertising revenues in a tough economic climate, but chief executive Brendan Hopkins told AAP there were better signs on the horizon.

“Overall, in both Australia and New Zealand many economic indicators are now turning positive, however, there has been a lag in that sentiment converting to sustainable revenue growth,” Mr Hopkins said.

“Market sentiment remains cautious but some encouraging signs are beginning to emerge.”

Mr Hopkins said he considered the overall results, as disappointing but “satisfactory” in the challenging financial climate.

New Zealand publishing earnings have already recovered to push ahead of where they were at this stage last year, Mr Hopkins said.

APN’s flagship website in New Zealand,, was another success story. “The site is now profitable and users, page impressions and revenue all continue to grow strongly,” Mr Hopkins said.

APN’s first half revenue was down 18.8 percent to A$520.2 million in the first half, while earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) dropped 43 percent to A$78.8 million. The company did not pay an interim dividend.

Mr Hopkins said it was too early to predict whether trading conditions would improve enough to allow the Independent News and Media-owned APN to meet the A$100 million annual net profit (after one-off items) target it set for itself in May. It had predicted at the same time that it would reach around A$40 million by the half-year mark, but the net profit before one-off items fell 10 percent short at A$36.1 million.

Brendan Hopkins will speak about the state of the industry and his company’s strategy at Newspapers: The Future Forum in Sydney on September 10.

Look in the Mirror to make money from websites

August 20, 2009

BRITAIN’S Daily Mirror has further developed its online niche strategy by launching celebrity gossip website, drawing praise from a local executive who sees topic-based sites as the future of online media.

The new website is an extension of the Mirror’s 3am celebrity column. The newspaper recently launched, a standalone entity aimed at the UK’s legion of football fans.

News Ltd’s Simon Holt, whose win in the 2008 PANPA Hegarty Prize allowed him to take a global study tour, believes niche websites such as the Mirror’s pair are crucial for publishers to make money from online content.

His theory is that “verticals” – or specific topics of interest – should be kept separate from each other online in order to build communities.

“The race is clearly on to capture communities of interest,” Mr Holt said.

“There is a clear feeling in the global media that the first website to gain the loyalty of a mass niche market will be most likely to succeed long-term.

“And if we work on the theory that the vertical with the biggest fan base wins, celebrity gossip and football are right up there.”

Mr Holt believes the Daily Mirror could have picked two winners with the celebrity subject matter.

“The celebrity gossip market is in huge demand. It is perhaps a shame that it took someone like Perez Hilton to prove to everybody that there was mileage in a site which focuses on a niche.”

Building the community around the content is only half the battle, according to Mr Holt, of Sydney’s Cumberland community Newspaper Group.

“They might attract millions of users with the latest innovative functionality, but the true litmus test will be to see whether they can effectively monetise the sites. It will be interesting to see how they decide to best engage clients with their user base.”

Mr Holt will present at Newspapers: The Future Forum, PANPA’s key industry event for 2009. Attendance is free for PANPA members.

Icy expedition made Marian a winner

August 19, 2009

SYDNEY Morning Herald journalist Marian Wilkinson has been recognised at the Eureka awards for scientific study and journalism, presented annually by the Australian Museum.

Ms Wilkinson, the SMH’s environment editor, picked up the Eureka Prize for Environmental Journalism, for work done for her newspaper, the website, and also the ABC’s Four Corners programs. She shared the award with the ABC’s Neale Maude, Kate Wild and Ruth Fogarty.

The group combined to create The Tipping Point, a multi-faceted report on global warming conducted in the Arctic.

The Eureka website describes the group’s “hazardous journey to the Arctic, during the summer ice melt, to communicate the enormity of what is happening and the urgency of the challenges we face”.

Hard to swallow: Chapter 11 for iconic mag

August 18, 2009

ICONIC magazine Reader’s Digest is facing bankruptcy as it strives to tackle debts of over US$2 billion.

Bloomberg reports Reader’s Digest Association Inc. will likely file a Chapter 11 to reduce the debt by 75 percent by giving creditors a share in the business. The move would only affect the US operations of Reader’s Digest.

In a similar case to the Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, the publisher underwent a leveraged buyout two years ago that burdened it with a heavy debt. As advertising revenue dropped, the debt became unmanageable.