News shift for Fairfax Australia

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 07:44 19/06/2012
fairfax stand
Fairfax Media has announced major changes to its Australian operation.

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Fairfax's flagship Australian newspapers may allow people to read up to 20 stories online each month for free before insisting they pay, The Sydney Morning Herald says.

The trans-Tasman media giant announced plans to put content generated by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age behind a paywall from next year, as part of a raft of initiatives designed to save A$68 million (NZ$86m) a year and reposition it as "an increasingly digital business".

The company's New Zealand arm said it had no plans to follow suit, saying stories would remain free on the internet here.

Fairfax also said it would axe 1900 of its more than 10,000 staff, close two printing presses and print the two Australian newspapers in a "compact" rather than full broadsheet format.

Fairfax New Zealand chief executive Allen Williams said none of the redundancies would be in New Zealand. Williams said Fairfax had no plans at present to move New Zealand titles to a compact format or to introduce metered pay walls on its websites here.

The shift in audience from print to online was driving the changes in Australia, he said.

"We haven't seen the shift to digital away from print as they have. Our plans will be governed by the needs of the New Zealand market and its readers and advertisers."

Fairfax also announced yesterday that it had sold a further 15 per cent stake in Trade Me, raising A$160m and reducing its shareholding to 51 per cent, but said it intended to retain its majority shareholding.

Investors responded positively. Fairfax shares were up 7.4 per cent at A65c in late-afternoon trading on the ASX. Trade Me shares rose 5.6 per cent to $3.76.

Trade Me chairman David Kirk said the sale was a positive step for Trade Me shareholders.

Australian media forecaster Ross Dawson said the Australian layoffs suggested newspapers would "essentially die in Australia within the decade", but he believed publishers such as Fairfax could survive. Fairfax NZ

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- Taranaki Daily News

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