Stuff to close or sell 28 mastheads

Stuff has announced a plan to close or sell some of its community and rural newspapers, with 28 mastheads set to be affected.

Those 28 mastheads make up 35 percent of its print publications and 60 jobs could be affected.

According to Stuff, the company is working on plans for each of the titles and consultation with staff would occur in the coming weeks.

Included in the 28 mastheads is Waikato Farmer, Admire Marlborough, NZ Farmer, NewsLink, Napier Mail, Rotorua Review, Ruapehu Press and Invercargill Eye.

This news comes alongside Fairfax Media reporting its net profit, after tax, for the six months to end of December reached A$38.5 million, a 54 percent drop on the prior corresponding period.

In New Zealand, Stuff’s operating profit fell 24 percent to NZ$21 million. According to Stuff, that represents a decline of 15 percent after the impact of the one-time items and its investment in internet provider Stuff Fibre were excluded.

In its coverage of the results, Mumbrella included commentary from Fairfax Media chief executive and managing director Greg Hywood about the local side of the business, and he said the company had confidence in Stuff’s digital longevity.

“We have enormous confidence that Stuff is heading towards sustained growth as its digital business continues its strong momentum. We have acted decisively to bring this forward, and are announcing today a plan to exit around 35 percent of our New Zealand print publications through sale or closure. The rationalisation of these smaller community titles and free inserts will deliver additional EBITDA contribution over a full year – and bring forward the time when increased in digital revenue outweigh declines in print.”

While the announcement of the planned closures and sales is making headlines across media today, suggestions of the move came when the Commerce Commission declined the proposed NZME and Fairfax merger early last year.

At the time, Hywood said the decision would see it place a greater focus on cost efficiency.

“Moving to the next stage of our New Zealand publishing model will involve reshaping how we deliver our journalism to local communities. Further publishing frequency changes and consolidation of titles is an inevitability.”

Earlier this month, NZME and Stuff announced they would seek leave to appeal the High Court ruling that upheld the Commerce Commission’s decision.

Further suggestions of a change to its print offering came at the end of last year ahead of the rebrand to Stuff. Chief executive Sinead Boucher told StopPress that 2018 would see it move its whole Monday to Friday portfolio to a compact size.

“The move to compact is mostly a reader-driven approach because the one piece of feedback we’ve consistently had from readers is them asking when we’re going to make the paper smaller. We’re probably one of the last publishers to move our paper into the compact spread. The weekend paper will stay broadsheet because that’s a different experience… We’re taking it as a chance to not only change the size but also to reimagine the paper.”

The sales and closures are expected to happen in the next six months.

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