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Innovate or die, says struggling media giant

News, 18 May 2017
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SYDNEY: Fairfax Media is in an "innovate or die" situation according to a senior executive, as the company undergoes further restructuring to stay afloat in challenging times for Australian print media.

"It's a real case of innovate or die," said Matt Rowley, the company's chief revenue officer for Australian metro publishing, in comments reported by AdNews.

"If you look at the ways [Fairfax] could go, there's only one way it's going to end and we know we can't go in that direction."

Fairfax Media, which owns some of Australia biggest news titles, has been under fire in recent weeks after laying off more than 200 journalists over the year as part of an aggressive restructuring. Journalists went on strike for seven days in protest of the latest round of redundancies.

As well as restructuring, Rowley revealed internal changes the company is making including overhauling its product and CMS.

"In the design of that, we've gone right back from scratch and literally said 'what are the drivers of how people want to engage with news media?' and started from the ground up," he said.

Comments by Greg Hywood, CEO of Fairfax Media, in front of a Senate Committee inquiry, underlined the scale of print media's challenge in Australia: he revealed that advertising revenue for publishers had halved in just five years.

Fairfax would have been forced out of business had the downward trend continued, he added, noting that 85% of Fairfax's revenue used to come from advertising and only 15% from its subscriber base. Today, it's a 50/50% split between the two.

Hywood also lashed out at publicly-funded media such as ABC for "undermining" commercial media's sustainability.

"The ABC is creating additional pressure on local commercial media by aggressively competing with the same audience that commercial media rely on, by providing online content for free [so] undermining our ability to create a sustainable model," he argued.

"We believe the biggest threat to quality journalism in this country is unprofitable local media companies."

Data sourced from AdNews; additional content by WARC staff

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