FAIRFAX Media has unveiled a plan to transform its regional and rural publications into a powerful network that will deliver an even better news and advertising service to Australian communities.
The changes will affect more than 150 newspapers and websites across every state and territory over the next 18 months.
They are aimed at ensuring Fairfax remains the most trusted independent source of news and information in the communities it serves.
Fairfax, publisher of the Bombala Times, outlined the plans on Thursday to hundreds of staff in its Australian Community Media division.
Staff were told that while the transformation would result in a flatter, more regionally based management structure, the strong local character of its publications would remain.
“Fairfax has a long and proud history of delivering news to regional Australia,” division director John Angilley said.
“We will not waver in that commitment.
“New technology is changing the way we all consume information and media companies are making major changes in their businesses in response.
“The changes we have announced will allow us to deliver a better news service to our regional and rural communities and will put our publications on a sustainable footing for the future.”
As part of Fairfax’s results announcement, the company told the Australian Securities Exchange that the changes were expected to deliver savings of around $40 million a year by 2016.
But Mr Angilley said the focus of the plan was not on closing newspapers or leaving markets.
“It’s more likely that we will see some limited consolidation of papers – as we have already successfully done in a number of markets – where there is significant overlap of readership or where it makes business sense,” he said.
The plan will bring together a number of previously separate arms of Fairfax, including Fairfax Regional Media, Agricultural Media, Fairfax Community Media, Canberra, Newcastle and Illawarra.
The Australian Community Media division will be structured into six areas: ACT and NSW South; NSW Central; Newcastle and Hunter; North Coast NSW, Queensland and Northern Territory; Victoria and Tasmania; and South Australia and Western Australia.
The new structure allows greater sharing of services such as technology, human resources and finance and working together across the group.
“Local news and content and sales capability remain at the heart of our business and will remain well resourced,” Mr Angilley said.
“We will have a smaller management layer and there will be other staffing changes as we implement.
“No decisions have been made yet about changes to any of our newspapers or websites – it remains business as usual.”
Mr Angilley said Fairfax would be working closely with its staff and local communities as the changes were progressively introduced.