Timing is everything in business and over the years Barry Colman, who has been publishing the National Business Review for 24 years, has shown that he has a deft touch. And, given the state of the newspaper trade at the moment, he may have just shown it again, selling the publication he bought from John Fairfax & Sons for $1 in the late '80s to current chief executive Todd Scott, who will be the sole shareholder.
In the NBR, 64-year-old Colman, who's thought to have some serious health issues, said "the time was right for the move following extensive restructuring of the business in the last four years to meet the rapidly-changing media market".
"NBR’s aggressive online strategy and the creation of New Zealand’s first major subscriber paywall had allowed it to maintain its elite 100,000-strong business readership base while positioning it for future growth" (more recently it has been offering company-wide online subscriptions for $249 a quarter, a world-first which, according to a June story, has been a hit).
Around the world, weekly titles like BusinessWeek, Time and Newsweek are tanking and have been for a while, despite their best efforts online. And the numbers for NBR's print edition have been consistently falling. But there are some glimmers of hope, with paywalls for the likes of The Financial Times and The Wall St Journal working well, primarily because, like the NBR, they offer content that's either being paid for on the company credit card or is seen to help readers in their jobs.
All the current staff are being retained in the new deal and Colman will remain as a consultant and retain some elements of the NBR stable, including the legal publication Capital Letter.
As it says on the NBR:
Colman scrapped the daily format in favour of NBR’s traditional, award-winning Friday weekly one and restructured its production and distribution while moving head office from the capital to Auckland.
With its fortunes restored, NBR enhanced its brand with major arts sponsorships, including $2 million to date as the naming sponsor of the NBR NZ Opera Company.
Meanwhile, NBR has won numerous major editorial awards for its investigative journalism over the last two decades.
A former journalist, Mr Colman founded Liberty Publishing in Hamilton in 1977 with a community newspaper.
The company grew rapidly and went on to establish the nationwide Property Press stable, the first pictorial real estate publications in the country.
Property Press was sold to Kerry Packer’s ACP Media in 2001.
And here's Colman being interviewed by Russell Brown on Media7.