Fairfax kicks off restructures, starting at the top

  • Media
  • July 3, 2013
  • Sim Ahmed
Fairfax kicks off restructures, starting at the top

Fairfax Media New Zealand has kicked off its restructuring in earnest, starting with a shake up to its senior hierarchy and how different regions are handled.

The company is being split into three distinct regional groups responsible for business within their catchments, acting general manager Andrew Boyle tells StopPress. Northern will look after Northland, Auckland and Waikato; Central for Wellington, Manawatu, Taranaki and Hawke's Bay; and Southern for the South Island mastheads. David Penny will lead Northern (which also includes Fairfax's magazine business), Gerrard Watt heads Central and Barry Appleby takes charge in Southern.

The general manager role, chief financial role and chief technology role will continue the status quo.​

Amongst other key changes is the establishment of a group-wide chief operating officer role (yet to be appointed), with the three regional managers reporting into it. Sales and marketing have been split. Gareth Codd, the current Waikato Region manager, now heads the sales team as the commercial director. The marketing director role is still open and being hunted for, says Boyle.

Today's announcement is mostly limited to senior positions within the business. Wider job losses which were foreshadowed in May (see original article below) won't be known until around September.

"Now that we have the framework for our senior team in place we can start accelerating the thinking about how the rest of the business will look," he says.

"The decisions we're making today reflects a more integrated approach, especially with our commercial streams – which now all run into the chief operating officer."

The newly established role of product development director (with Nigel Tutt currently in the role, to be finalised later) will be responsible for securing new revenue streams for Fairfax and exploring different business models. Boyle says it will be up to the product development director to see if paywalls are viable for Fairfax in New Zealand.

Boyle says the new roles are effective as of 5 August.

Original: Fairfax New Zealand (which owns Stuff, The Dominion Post and Sunday Star Times) is undertaking a major structural review which will see job cuts in order to bring down costs in a tough advertising environment. In February, Fairfax Media (Australia and New Zealand) posted a 39 percent loss in profits from the previous year, raking in $83 million compared to $135.7 million the year before.

"It was clear to us since late last year that the ad market has been relatively weak. So like all media companies – in fact like all companies – we're looking for ways to respond to the pressure on our revenue lines," says acting general manager Andrew Boyle (who has the most pleasant tone this reporter has heard from someone talking about job cuts and restructures).

Boyle was appointed to the role in April, taking over the vacated chief executive chair left by Allen Williams.

He's unable to say how many of Fairfax NZ's roughly 1800 staff will be affected by the restructuring, as the company is still in early consultation with its business departments. However, he does expect it to be wide reaching including editorial, sales and operational roles. Pre-press (ad placing) and a contact centre run by Fairfax are also in the scope, he adds.

Feature writers, travel journalists and videographers and photographers will be looked at to make the publication of that content more efficient. Boyle is adamant despite the cuts, editorial coverage will not be affected – instead duplicated coverage will be reduced.

"At the end of all this we will remain the largest newsroom in the country and we won't compromise what we'll do for our readers," he says.

Fairfax started cost cutting measures late last year by more rigorously implementing a no replacements policy, says Boyle.

Paywalls

In an effort to stay in the black, Boyle says paywalls are being investigated for Fairfax NZ's online publications. Across the ditch, Fairfax is getting ready to roll out paywalls for its two largest papers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne.

"We're investigating quite actively what paywalls might mean. There's a lot of modeling and research work being done but I can't tell you a definitive time line for it or what it might look like," says Boyle.

Business heads are currently in the midst of planning the restructure and putting it into effect. Boyle says the first of these changes will be visible over the next two months, with the goal of having the initiative well underway by September.

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