Content & Channels


Bye bye Fairfax
February 24, 2009, 10:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In a previous post I wrote about the siege mentality of newspapers and was in turn berated for being negative. Its not because I think they are Luddites or incompetent, its because I believe in the value of professional journalism and the diversity of opinion news services provide. Although we live in the age of the citizen journalist, the vast majority of news that is vital for our society is initially reported by professionals either on their work or personal platforms.

In the last few days Fairfax has announced a $365 million loss, much of it coming from its masthead print publications. In response Fairfax CEO Brian McCarthy said “For now, we have battened down the hatches and we will ride this storm out.” My question is, does McCarthy believe that the downturn in print is wholly attributable to the current economic climate? I think not; to me this sounds like a siege mentality of a company that hasn’t come to grips with the shifting media paradigm. And above and beyond this minor fact, battening down the hatches has never been a smart business strategy in any sector (read more about this here in a post i wrote on the bhlog). But what can be done?

If newspapers want to survive they have to start looking at ways to to increase the value of their inventory- content; and an easy way to do this is through scaling.  One publisher that is  going forward and trying to use the new environment to their advantage is the New York Times. They have released their second API: TimesPeople which allows users to scale the Times’ content via third party applications and channels. I don’t think the Australian market is currently sophisticated enough for this kind of application to gain traction with individual users, but there is definitely potential for a similar API to be disseminated on commercial platforms. It would be nice to see them at least attempting to do something like the Times so we know they are not going to quietly disappear into the night.

I truly hope Fairfax does not disapear, but with a ‘batten down the hatches’ strategy I am not optimistic that they will turn to innovation to transform the storm into an opportunity.

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