Fairfax’s New Zealand arm has announced it will close or sell 28 mastheads.
Stuff today briefed staff on plans to reduce its portfolio of smaller community and rural titles. About 60 staff could be affected.
A statement said the company was working through the detailed plans for each individual title. Further briefings with staff and communities will be held over the coming weeks.
“We appreciate that this process creates a level of uncertainty for some people and we will move as quickly as possible to provide them with clarity,” Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said.
The company would continue to focus on its digital platforms, Stuff and Neighbourly, as well as its various new ventures to drive revenue.
“The Stuff business is delivering strong digital revenue growth, benefiting from the growth of our new business ventures,” Ms Boucher said.
“This is providing some offset to ongoing print advertising challenges. However, we need to continue to act decisively in transitioning our business model into an increasingly digital business.”
Fairfax’s New Zealand media revenue fell 4.5% to $160 million in the six months ended December 31, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation sank 24% to $20.7 million. Of that, print advertising sales dropped 15% to $77.2 million, while print subscriptions slipped 4.3% to $48.8 million. Digital revenue jumped 33% to $24.2 million.
“We have enormous confidence that Stuff is heading towards sustained growth as its digital business continues its strong momentum,” Fairfax group chief executive Greg Hywood said in a statement. “We have acted decisively to bring this forward, and are announcing today a plan to exit around 35% of our New Zealand print publications through sale or closure.
“The rationalisation of these smaller community titles and free inserts will deliver additional ebitda contribution over a full year and bring forward the time when increases in digital revenue outweigh declines in print.”
Fairfax has written down its New Zealand mastheads to just $175.2m as at June 30, 2017 from as much as $1.12 billion when the one-time Australian family-owned media group purchased the business from Rupert Murdoch’s Independent Newspapers Ltd in 2003.
Fairfax had planned to merge its New Zealand business with NZME, but was blocked by the Commerce Commission over fears the resulting public interest loss of media diversity outweighed the economic benefits of the deal. That decision was upheld by the High Court, although the media companies have since sought leave to contest that decision in the Court of Appeal.
The full list of titles affected: Avenues; Waikato Farmer; Admire Marlborough; NZ Dairy Farmer; Discover Magazine; Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook; Admire Nelson; Hastings Mail; Christchurch Mail; Napier Mail; The Tribune; Kaikoura Star; Invercargill Eye; Auto Xtra; South Canterbury Herald; Clutha Leader; Waiheke Marketplace; News Link; Wairarapa News; Queenstown Mirror; NZ Farmer; Waitaki Herald; Canterbury Farmer; North Waikato News; Central District Farmer; Rotorua Review; Otago Southland Farmer; Ruapehu Press. NZME