Fairfax continues on path of editorial fusion with appointment of new Auckland chief editor

After a restructure of the editorial department last year, experienced editor and journalist Garry Ferris has
been appointed to a new role that will see him overseeing all of Fairfax’s print and digital
products in Auckland, including the Sunday Star-Times and the Sunday News.

Ferris, 44, is from New Zealand and has held a number of senior editorial roles in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. He was editor and editorial director of the Mountain Scene community newspaper in Queenstown from 2004 to 2010 alongside editor-at-large (and now ‘chief newshound’) Phillip ‘Scoop’ Chandler. He has also worked at The Press and Otago Daily Times. 

Most recently he was in Queensland with News Limited, including a stint as deputy editor of Brisbane’s Sunday Mail. He also spent eight years in Sydney, initially working for The Australian during the 2000 Sydney Olympics before moving on to The Daily Telegraph.

In his new role, which was created after a restructure that saw the departure of Sundays editor-in-chief Mitchell Murphy and Sunday Star-Times editor David Kemeys, he will lead the 100-strong Auckland newsroom
that services the Sunday titles and a stable of community newspapers and
websites, as well as providing Auckland coverage for the wider Fairfax group.

“Garry has worked at a senior level for daily
papers, community papers and on a Sunday title, and has a passion for
high-quality journalism,” says Fairfax Media group executive editor Paul Thompson. “This is an exciting appointment. Garry is ideally
equipped to take on the challenge of leading our team in Auckland.”

Bringing all these strands together is a tough gig. And the harried print media environment makes it even tougher (the value of Fairfax New Zealand’s mastheads was cut by 80 percent recently, both Sunday papers charted circulation declines, the size of online audiences vs. digital revenue being gained is still out of whack, and there’s a continuing barney in Australia over Fairfax board control). But this role is what acting comms and marketing manager Nicola Igusa says is all part of “making sure the content is working, regardless of how people want to read it”. 

And, in a release, Ferris, who starts on 4 February, seemed confident about his new role. 

“It is the dream newsroom – two
iconic mastheads we all have grown up with on a Sunday morning; a clutch of
community papers that are the heartbeat of our biggest city; and a website
bringing us the news we need to know every day,” says Ferris. “The business of newspapers is ever-changing but in
the newsroom our role remains the same: to produce great journalism—and be
first with it. Our challenge, then, is to deliver those stories to our readers
when they want it, and on whatever platform they choose.”

In the latest readership and circ figures, The Sunday Star-Times, was down across the board, registering an overall decline in readership of 14 percent year on year, going from 540,000 to 466,000 readers in an average week. It also registered a 14 percent decline in circulation in the past year to 134,956. Not surprisingly, its newspaper inserted magazine Sunday followed suit, losing around 80,000 readers to reach 409,000. The Sunday News also charted a decline in average net paid circulation, down 17 percent from 49,684 in 2011 to 41,397 at the same time last year. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XUQfyfLVi0According to a Fairfax release at the time, the result reflected a tough market in Christchurch, where readership fell from the high levels achieved in 2011 after the earthquakes. Population decline in Christchurch also had an impact. But, like magazines, the papers are playing up the engagement factor and Fairfax said the Sunday Star Times remained the country’s most engaging Sunday newspaper, with readers spending on average 49 minutes reading each week (The Herald on Sunday was the only paper in the country to chart an increase in both readership and circulation in the latest round of figures). 

On the marketing tip, there’s still no official word about who’s running the marketing and communications team following the sudden departure of Sandra King last year. Igusa wouldn’t comment on whether or not King will be returning, but it seems unlikely after this long. And after Y&R decided to resign the trade account late last year, she says an official announcement is set to be made on its new agency next week (it’s thought to be working with The Collective and Naked). 

Fairfax is also bolstering its business content on stuff.co.nz with the addition of Unlimited magazine’s content to BusinessDay, which ”allows readers access to stories in the format and time frame that meet their
needs, giving them the opportunity to get more out of Unlimited”. 

“It’s an exciting move for Unlimited to
have a greater reach online through stuff.co.nz. The additional digital
platform allows us to reach engaged business readers every day,” says Caitlin
Sykes, Unlimited editor.

As of September last year, Unlimited’s average net paid circulation had fallen to 1,379. 

According to Fairfax’s gloat sheet: 

  • Stuff BusinessDay reaches 435,000 monthly business readers, which makes it New Zealand’s most read online business section. 
  • Stuff’s business audience is 36% larger than the nzherald.co.nz’s business section. 
  • Stuff BusinessDay readers are 86% more likely to have participated in work purchase decisions in the last 12 months. 
  • Stuff BusinessDay readers are 2.5 times more likely to have participated in work purchase decisions of more than $100,000 in value in the last 12 months. 

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