Journalism: a charity case

The chief executive of Fairfax Media, one of two major news publishers in Australia, offered to relinquish half of his AU$804,000 bonus after the print-digital entity announced a $2.73 billion loss yesterday. Sadly, no one is even sure charity can save Fairfax, or Australian journalism in general.

This end of 2011/2012 financial year result announcement comes just two months after unsettling restructure plans were put into place at Fairfax, including 1900 job cuts over the coming three years – slashing about 20 per cent of its workforce.

Since then Fairfax newspaper printing presses have begun winding down operations.Days ago it was reported that 300 Fairfax journalists under the Metro mastheads, in different Australian cities, engaged in a stop work meeting to discuss their professional uncertainty.

Hywood defended the whopping financial loss, arguing that underlying performance of Fairfax showed that the company “has a sound and diversified” business. Admitting, however, that the results reflect a challenging environment.

Mumbrella posted an excerpt of Hywood’s statement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX):

“Fairfax Media has a sound and diversified business, as shown in the underlying results we have reported today. These results reflect a challenging trading environment. We continue to drive significant change through the business, consistent with our strategy, and we are responding to a stressed economic environment.”

“The cyclical downturn worsened during the 2012 financial year, while continuing structural change is affecting our Metro Media Division. Fairfax has worked hard to respond to these conditions. At the half year we formally announced the Fairfax of the Future program to transform our business. We subsequently expanded and accelerated that process.”

“Despite the tough times, Fairfax is a company that is committed to growth and committed to innovation. We are investing across our digital businesses, which grew revenue by 20% this year. Digital advertising yields grew strongly as advertisers recognise the value of target demographics – the demographics that Fairfax sites attract.”

On the same day, Fairfax business columnist Adele Ferguson laid out the brutal reality for print news publishing in a feature article, saying the structural changes that are taking place within traditional media will eventuate in further losses for Fairfax in the years to come.

Ferguson concedes that while Fairfax is making difficult decisions to survive – restructuring, cutting 20 per cent of its workforce – it’s “early days” for the news provider who is working towards implementing a “digital first” publishing schedule.

The danger now is that private equity “predators” are watching Fairfax with a plan to break it up, Ferguson says.

Earlier in the month News Corporation announced a $1.46 billion fourth-quarter loss explaining that restructuring in the Australian publishing arm lead to significant writedowns.

 

Related:

*Mumbrella: Fairfax posts $2.7bn loss, media agency boss: ‘the newspaper sector is eating a massive shit sandwich’

*Adele Ferguson: ‘Fairfax weaknesses could attract predators’

*The Australian: News Corp makes Q4 loss of publishing writedown

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