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Panpa Bulletin : February 2007
PANPA Bulletin February 2007 NEWS 7 BY JACK BEVERLEY News Limited launched mX, the free commuter daily already successful established in Melbourne and Syd- ney, onto the Brisbane market on March 5. With an initial distribution of 40,000 cop- ies each weekday afternoon, the 28-page, full-colour tabloid has raised mX’s national circulation to more than 250,000, making it Australia's third largest daily. According to a report in The Australian a few days before the new paper’s launch, News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan said mX had established itself as a “lively, informative read” in Sydney and Melbourne. “This is an exciting publishing frst for Brisbane - a free afternoon paper, appeal- ing to young, energetic professionals and students - demographics not traditionally drawn to to newspapers,” he said. The launch of mX launch is an early move in a turf war industry watchers believe is about to erupt in Queensland between News Limited, which dominates the market, and Fairfax Media. The introduction of mX to the Brisbane market has always been part of News Limited’s long-term planning schedule and the offcial News slant on the launch is that it has nothing to do with countering any move against its highly proftable Queens- land operations. Brisbane has been awash with specula- tion – some of it wild, much of it well-based – about the looming clash between the two major Australian publishing rivals. Generally accepted is the belief that Fairfax Media, which has registered the Brisbane Morning Herald as a title, is well advanced with preparations to launch a Brisbane-based internet site. Where opinion splits is on how Fairfax, keen to bolster its presence outside of its long-established bases in NSW and Victoria, will move. Will it confne its foray, initially at least, to a low-cost, low-risk expansion of its slick Fairfax Digital operations– or simultaneously launch a “weekend” newspaper? Free distribution of a locally-printed edition of Fairfax’s Sydney Sunday paper, The Sun-Herald, has been interpreted as an indication that the attack will be broader- based, despite CEO David Kirk having made it clear in December that there were no plans “in the short of even medium term to launch a new newspaper in south-east Queensland.” “We would be going up against an es- tablished incumbent in a mature market,” said Kirk. A well-informed report published by The Australian named former Queensland Times and Illawarra Mercury editor Mitchell Mur- phy as being in charge of the on-line thrust into Queensland. A poaching raid by Murphy on APN’s Ipswich-based Queensland Times , accord- ing to business writer Michael Sainsbury, nabbed editor Daniel Sankey, winner of PANPA’s 2004 Patrick Hegarty Award, along with deputy editor Phil Lutton and news edi- tor Conal Hanna. Staff from other regional newspaper, including the Sunshine Coast Daily and the Bundaberg News Mail, were also poached. Fairfax has always made it clear that it is keen to expand its internet operations, with Adelaide and Perth the other target cities. CEO David Kirk signalled an “aggressive” approach to developing the digital opera- tions when he announced the company’s frst full half-year proft of $142 million. A one-off item – the $13.2 million sale of it share in carsales.com.au – brings the underlying net proft down to $121.4 million. Unveiling the interim results, Kirk revealed that revenue at the online division had grown 34.7 per cent to $61.2 million in the six months to December 31, and increased on all its news and classifed sites. . Australia’s online advertising market, including the profts from search engines, broke through $1 billion last year and, if its continues its trajectory, is expected to be the country’s third medium after newspa- pers and television by the end of the year. Fairfax’s move into Adelaide – again a low-cost operation – has already been made, with the joint launch of a property magazine and development of a website run by the South Australian publisher of the Independent Weekly, a weekend newspa- per established in 2004. Development of real estate listings from local estate agents, who place most of their advertising with News Limited, is the primary objective of the low-risk Adelaide move. Under the joint venture arrangements, South Australian property listings appear on a new website, in.domain,com.au, which links to Fairfax’s main property site, domain. com.au. The online advertisements are also being published in a newly-launched 20,000 run Saturday colour magazine, produced by the Independent Weekly. The strategy for breaking into the highly competitive Perth market, where there is already ferce website rivalry between West Australian Newspapers, a late starter in the game, and News Limited’s Sunday Times, is not yet clear but also appears to involve a concentrated attack on the real estate sector. Fairfax Digital has been advertising for a WA Business Development Manager “to be responsible for building strong relationships with all levels of the real estate industry.” February 19 was the cut-off date for ap- plications. As part of its determination to exploit the digital market, News Limited has cre- ated a new senior position “to oversee the expanding operations” in News Digital Media – a chief executive offcer of the media division, which takes in NEWS.com. au, FOXSPORTS. com.au and MOSHTIX.com. au.The appointment, effective from April, has gone to Michael Robinson, a former group director of Fairfax classifeds and associate publisher of FBM magazines who most recently has held the position of general manager of Fairfax Business Media Announcing the appointment, News Digital Media chief operating offcer Nick Leeder, who only joined News in February 2006 from Fairfax Digital where he worked for eight years, said Robinson would be bringing a strategic vision to the position of chief executive offcer. “He brings a blend of editorial sensibilities and commercial experience to this newly created role and has a strong understand- ing of both print and digital media,” said Leeder. “He is also a very experienced general manager, boasting skills which will help bol- ster the team we have in place already.” News launches mX in Qld Brisbane has been awash with speculation – some of it wild, much of it well-based – about the looming clash between the two major Australian publishing rivals.
November December 2006