The last few days have seen a huge amount of news and commentary about Australia’s two largest media companies. Last week both Fairfax Media and News Limited made announcements to combat the decline in print revenue by putting digital at the centre of their strategy. In both cases the companies are streamlining their organisations with associated job losses (1900 announced by Fairfax, numbers to be confirmed by News Ltd).
Fairfax announced that they will move to a tabloid format for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and close two printing presses. The key digital impact is a digital first strategy with a pay wall to be erected around content (using a metered content model) and a centralised newsroom. The theory is that this allows Fairfax to cut manpower costs and charge to access content while continuing to earn online ad revenues as the metered pay wall still allows content to be found online by non-paying users.
Fairfax‘s online content is currently free. Successful examples for paid content include financial publications such as The Financial Times and The Australian Financial Review where the content is targeted at specific users who are willing and used to paying for valuable content not found elsewhere. The New York Times also provides an example of a metered content model; they reportedly have 454,000 paid digital subscribers accessing their global news and insight. The challenge for Fairfax is to replicate these models for content that is currently free (and available elsewhere for free) and limited to defined metro areas.