Archive for October, 2009

US results stun rest of world

October 29, 2009

AMERICAN newspaper circulations have registered a shocking result.

Sales fell 10 per cent from April to September, compared with the corresponding period last year.

The previous six-month survey showed a drop of 7.4 percent.

Falls have come largely from the closure of newspapers, a dramatic drop in free copies to hotels and airlines distributed by USA Today, and a general malaise amid the US recession.

Now, 44 million newspapers are sold in the US each day – the lowest figure since the 40s. In the past four years, sales have edged down between 2 and 4 per cent.

An ad revenue collapse, with falls year-on-year of up to 30 percent, has been a large contributor, forcing titles to close or reduce in size.

The biggest tumble among the major titles came at the San Francisco Chronicle –a victim of substantial cutbacks in all areas and under constant threat of closure from its owner, Hearst. It shed 25.8 percent of its daily sale.

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Metro moves into $A110m offices

October 29, 2009

A NEW era is about to begin for staff of Melbourne’s iconic broadsheet, The Age.
Their new $110 million building was opened yesterday by Victorian Premier John Brumby, and staff will begin moving in at the end of next month.

The offices are magnificant – a far cry from the current building, which had to be among the most outdated newspaper offices anywhere in the region.

Media House, which took two years to build, has been leased back to Fairfax for 25 years by builder Grocon.

It will accommodate all Fairfax’s assets in the city – its newspapers, including Fairfax Community Network publications and the Melbourne bureau of the Australian Financial Review – plus magazines, Fairfax Digital and radio stations 3AW 693 and Magic1278.

The journalists should all be in the new building by December 14, while the commercial areas move at the end of November.

Chairman Ron Walker, who hands over his post to Roger Corbett in two days, said he was proud to have been involved in the project “brick by brick”.

It is an architectural landmark for more reasons than dominating the
Collins St entrance to Melbourne’s thriving Docklands commercial and entertainment precinct.

The building stands on four steel pillars, each weighing 75 tonnes.
They were put in place between live electric cables used for the city’s train system.

The building itself was constructed over the top of the rail lines and did not once disrupt services.

Mr Walker said this element of the construction made Media House a unique achievement.

During the project, not 30 minutes was lost to a workplace injury or industrial action, he said.

Media House has seven stories – with the radio stations taking the top floor.
Designers have allowed for 1239 workstations. It has only 109 bike racks but maybe that is because the building is next door to a the Spencer St train
station – a major transportation hub.

In terms of green credentials, Media House has a 5-star rating.

Fairfax will reduce its carbon emissions from its offices by 36 percent, cutting the electricity bill by a third.

SPH dominates magazine results

October 29, 2009

SPH Magazines has retained its lead position in Singapore, according to the Nielsen Media Index.

Her World stayed on top in the women’s magazine category with a readership of 196,000. The readership for Men’s Health has jumped from 70,000 in 2008 to 105,000 following a redesign. Young Parents topped the parenting magazine category.

SPH Magazines is a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings, publisher of the Straits Times.

Murdoch makes first ‘premium content’ move

October 22, 2009

THE Wall St Journal is to launch a premium edition for its readers – the first tangible signal for News Corporation’s new online strategy to charge for content.

The newspaper is promising news feeds, data and analysis straight to the desktop and mobile devices as part of its “Professional Edition”.

The content will come from a mix of the Wall Street Journal, sister organisation Dow Jones Newswires and another allied business, Factiva – the global content database with more than 22,000 news sources.

It might be worth speculating that with the not-inconsiderable IT challenges overcome, other News Corp newspapers, such as The Australian and The Times, of London, could provide very similar services in their markets.

In Sydney for example, Dow Jones Newswires employees around 20 journalists who file copy to subscribers in the finance sector. They also have excellent coverage in the major Asian cities. Newswires has journalists in 84 bureaus around the world.

The power of Factiva should not be under-estimated. For those who have not used it before, don’t think Google. Google’s search is rubbish compared with Factiva’s utilities.

“This really is a new model for the delivery of high-quality business news for a sophisticated audience,”said Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of Dow Jones & Company and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.

“We are not imprisoned by a terminal and are thus able to produce a more contemporary Web-based news feed tailored to a sector, a company or an asset class. Readers will be able to create a virtual newswire and alert system that suits their specific business needs.

“It gives users a digital news library along with the world’s premier newspaper and newswire. No other business news organization in the world has the same range of products or depth of reader-ready knowledge.”

The Age gets tabloid taste, too

October 22, 2009

MELBOURNE’S iconic broadsheet, The Age, has converted its business section to a tabloid format – following a move three weeks earlier by its Sydney sister paper.

In announcing the change, The Age spruiked the quality of the coverage and journalists who file to the ‘Business Day’ section.

It made little mention of the new format compared with the significant TV and newspaper marketing executed by the Sydney Morning Herald when it switched its business and sports sections to tabloid.

At The Age, its sports section has long been in tabloid format.

The tabloid section will feature a new column on page 2, called Collins & Spencer, (a reference to two main streets in the city centre) written by Mark Hawthorne.

The change means all Fairfax Media’s daily national business coverage – by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review – is in tabloid format.

How NYT boss breaks redundancy news

October 22, 2009

THIS is the memo sent to staff of the iconic New York Times this week about the impending redundancies in its newsroom. By any other newspaper’s standards, the Times runs a massive newsroom of more than 1000 staff – and that does not count the journalists, including editors, on section such as Business and its world-famous Op-Ed section. The memo comes from the executive editor, Bill Keller:

Colleagues,

I had planned to invite you to the newsroom and break this news in person today, but I’ve been hit by something that seems to be the flu. Though I strongly believe in delivering bad news in person, I don’t want to add insult to injury by spreading infection.

Let me cut to the chase: We have been told to reduce the newsroom by 100 positions between now and the end of the year.

We hope to accomplish this by offering voluntary buyouts. On Thursday, the Company will be sending buyout offers to everyone in the newsroom. Getting a buyout package does NOT mean we want you to leave. It is simply easier to send the envelopes to everyone. If you think a buyout may be right for you, you have up to 45 days to decide whether you will accept it or not.

As before, if we do not reach 100 positions through buyouts, we will be forced to go to layoffs. I hope that won’t happen, but it might.

Our colleagues in editorial and op-ed, and on the business side, also face another round of budget cuts.

In recent years, we’ve managed to avoid the disabling cutbacks that have hit other newsrooms. The Company has chosen to protect the journalism by cutting production and other business-side costs, and the newsroom itself has managed its resources frugally. These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world.

I won’t pretend that these staff cuts will not add to the burdens of journalists whose responsibilities have grown faster than their compensation. But we’ve been looking hard at ways to minimize the impact – in part, by re-engineering some of our copy flow. I won’t promise this will be easy or painless, but I believe we can weather these cuts without seriously compromising our commitment to coverage of the region, the country and the world. We will remain the single best news organization on earth.

I doubt that anyone is shocked by the fact of this, but it is happening sooner than anyone anticipated. When we took our 5 percent pay cuts, it was in the hope that this would fend off the need for more staff cuts this year. But I accept that if it’s going to happen, it should be done quickly. We will get through this and move on.

In my absence, Bill Schmidt and John and Jill have volunteered to take your questions this afternoon. Feel free to bring additional questions to me as soon as I’m back, or check with Bill Schmidt or John or Jill privately, or save them for the next Throw Stuff at Bill session, which is in a couple of weeks.

We often – and rightly – voice our gratitude that we work for a company and a family that prize quality journalism above all. I hope you know that the company and the family, and I, feel an equal debt of gratitude to all of you whose sacrifice and loyalty have kept us strong.

Like you, I yearn for the day when we can do our jobs without looking over our shoulders for economic thunderstorms.

Bill.

100 newsroom jobs to go at NYT

October 22, 2009

EIGHT percent of the newsroom are about to get their marching orders at The New York Times.

Even though the company’s financial performance has improved slightly since registering a $US74 million loss for the first 12 weeks of the year, the recovery is not coming fast enough. Advertising, in particular, has failed to bounce back adequately.

US media reports suggest staff have been shocked by the news. Executive editor Bill Keller has requested voluntary redundancies but warned if an insufficient number stepped forward, the company would make positions redundant.

AFP reported the Times said it would mail buyout packages to the entire newsroom – both union and non-union employees – tomorrow. Employees would have 45 days to decide whether to apply for a buyout – an American euphamism for a redundancy.

Speculation is focusing on The New York Times Co.’s 3rd quarter result, which is due out overnight. Profits so far this year show a fall of 42 percent – similar to other major publishers but a steep fall compared with most bluechip American businesses, even in this global recession.

Media reports also suggest positions are likely to go in Business and the iconic Op-Ed areas.

“These latest cuts will still leave us with the largest, strongest and most ambitious editorial staff of any newsroom in the country, if not the world,” said Mr Keller in a staff memo.

At the beginning of last year, NYT has 1332 editorial positions – the largest by far of all other newspapes in America, and dwarfing newsrooms of major newspapers in Europe and (of course) in this part of the world.

Since then, numbers have been trimmed back to 1250, and the staff across the entire company have accepted a 5 percent pay cut to help get the company through its difficult trading circumstances.

Last week, the company chose to take off the market the Boston newspaper, The Globe, which it had threatened to sell.

The Globe is budgeted to make a loss of $US50 million this year even after making cuts to operating expenses of approximately $US20 million.

The New York Times had two potential buyers. However, the top bid was said to be in the region of $US40 million – even though the Times paid $US1.1 billion for the Globe in 1993.

Fairfax names Corbett as next chairman

October 14, 2009

ROGER Corbett has been named as chairman-elect of Fairfax Media.

Fairfax directors, who met at the offices of the Dominion Post in New Zealand yesterday, announced Mr Corbett, a former Woolworths chief executive, would replace Ron Walker at the company’s
annual general meeting.

Members of the Fairfax family have publicly criticised Mr Walker’s handling of the company, resulting in dissent between board members.

Mr Corbett is a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia board, and a director of Wal-Mart, one of the world’s largest public corporations.

Mr Walker said in a statement: “I am pleased the sucession of the new chairman has been settled and the Board renewal is now in progress, allowing me to step down on 30 October.”

Mr Corbett praised Mr Walker, saying: “Fairfax, like most companies, has challenges ahead, but the decisions taken in the last few years by management and the board have, I believe, put Fairfax in a position which is envied by media companies around the world.”

Previous media reports had Mr Walker undecided about stepping down, until he announced his decision to resign in a one-page statement to the media, saying: “I am very grateful to my fellow independent non-executive directors at Fairfax Media . . . for their encouragement and support.

“In view of the unfortunate developments of the previous few weeks, I have come to the view that in the best interests of our 52,000 shareholders and 10,000 employees, I should not seek re-election.”

Fairfax Media is the 15th largest media company in the world, publishing major newspapers in Australia and New Zealand.

Age trials a ‘mobile tale’

October 12, 2009

MELBOURNE newspaper, The Age, is to launch a 20-episode “tragi-comedy” by cult writer Marieke Hardy that is available on mobile phone only.

Editor Paul Ramadge said: “It will be quite riveting. Marieke is a wonderfully talented and immediately engaging writer.”

This is an experiment for The Age, as it wants to “gauge the story’s reception, get reader feedback, and further develop the ability to talk to Age readers in multiple ways”.

The newspaper is also holding reader feedback sessions to help it decide whether it should follow its sister newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, and convert its print business and sports sections from broadsheet to tabloid.

The mobile book, called the Vigilante Virgin, will be available each day at 7am (AEST) from October 12 to November 6.

Subscribers will receive, via a web link in an SMS, a chapter of the story. To subscribe to this Australian first in mobile books, simply text “Marieke” to 19700043.

The cost of subscription via SMS is $0.25, and $0.55 per instalment or message received. (Readers can opt
out at any time by texting STOP in an SMS reply). Subscribers can also follow Marieke Hardy on Twitter (http://twitter.com/MARIEKEHARDY) as she tweets about her daily instalments.

Ms Hardy is a writer, broadcaster, television producer and former television actress. She won a Bloggie award in 2008 for Best Australia/ New Zealand blog for Reasons You Will Hate Me under the pseudonym “Ms Fits”.

She has also written several episodes for the successful Australian television series “Packed to the Rafters”. She is a regular commentator for both The Age’s Green Guide and Frankie magazine.

New business mag hits streets

October 12, 2009

ON the day Australian interest rates went up, Adelaide’s daily newspaper launched a new business magazine.

A 40-page, full-colour magazine called SA Business Monthly (SA refers to the state of South Australia) will be published on the first Tuesday of every month.

The launch represents another significant product improvement by the daily newspaper, The Advertiser, under editor Mel Mansell and general manager Michael Miller.

The magazine has been launched with the support of the Department of Trade, Land Management Corporation and the commercial property sector, according to statement released by The Advertiser.
‘‘This significant development is an important addition to business coverage in The Advertiser and indicates how strong the business community is in this state,’’ said Mr Mansell.

Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that South Australia is leading the nation in an economic recovery following a contraction for the September to December quarter last year. Mr Mansell said this was due to the state’s prospering mining sector and increasing economic diversity.

Continued growth looked likely in other key local sectors, including defence, real estate and agriculture thanks to recent rains.

The Advertiser had invested in its business coverage to ensure readers were well informed and in a position to seize opportunities, he said.

SA Business Monthly would explore the key issues for the South Australian economy, the thoughts and plans of the state’s top business leaders with the journalistic aim of generating debate and breaking the news that matters most to the business community.

Earlier this year, The Advertiser launched new TV and entertainment publications and became the first newspaper in the region to publish separate front pages for their retail and home delivery customers.