Fairfax consults on Nelson Mail newspaper future

Sinead Boucher, group executive editor for Fairfax NZ.

Sinead Boucher, group executive editor for Fairfax NZ.

Fairfax is moving to cut production of a second regional newspaper - as company bosses warned would happen when its bid to merge with NZME was denied earlier this month.

On Monday, as its Australian parent company mulls a takeover offer, the New Zealand business began consultation with the Nelson community on the future of the 150-year-old Nelson Mail newspaper.

A future model model could include printing the paper three or four mornings a week, complemented by a daily email newsletter, the community print titles, and the Stuff and Neighbourly websites.

Fairfax Media group executive editor, Sinead Boucher, said: "We have been very open about the need for change in our business model. The change we believe needs to happen reflects the modern ways people are choosing to get their news, and the need for better and more targeted ways for advertisers to reach our audiences."

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She said making changes to a title that had been part of the local community for more than 150 years was not done lightly.

The move comes less than two weeks after market watchdog Commerce Commission ruled out a merger between Fairfax (whose publications include Stuff, the Sunday-Star TimesThe Dominion Post and The Press) and NZME (owner of The New Zealand Herald and about half the country's major commercial radio stations) on the grounds that it would concentrate media ownership to an unacceptable level.

Fairfax bosses warned then that it would need to reduce the number of papers it printed, along the lines of changes made this month in Marlborough.

"Further publishing frequency changes and consolidation of titles is an inevitability," Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said at the time.

From May 1, Fairfax's Marlborough Express newspaper was reduced to publishing three days a week in favour of more online news daily. Four editorial jobs were lost.

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The Commerce Commission considered the possibility that newspapers would only be published once a week if it rejected Fairfax and NZME's merger, chairman Mark Berry said.

But he said it had decided that even if all weekday newspapers folded, that would be preferable to allowing the merger. That was taking into account the power the merged company would still have, particularly over online news. 

Across the Tasman, American private equity group TPG has made a $3 billion offer to buy the entire Fairfax Media group – revising an earlier, lower, offer to increase the price and include the New Zealand business.

Fairfax said the TPG-led consortium, which includes Canada's Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board, had offered an all-cash deal at a price of A$1.20 a Fairfax share for all of the media company.

The board was reviewing the revised bid, it said.

 - Stuff


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