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Panpa Bulletin : November 2011
2x1 Versatility The proven performance, versatility and value of the single-width Magnum press are available in customized heatset, coldset, UV and hybrid configurations running at up to 70,0000 cph. www.gossinternational.com Goss International, Unit 16, 35 Dunlop Road, Mulgrave, Victoria 3170, Australia +03.9560.1666 Back to his roots Garry Linnell is one of Australia's best known print journalists. His sacking as editor of the Daily Telegraph surprised many and now he's at arch-rival Fairfax Media as National Editor. He speaks to SOPHIE TARR The Bulletin: You've started your career at Fairfax Media's Melbourne title The Age in 1982 -- but you've been away from Fairfax Media for a decade. When it comes to publishers, can you come home again? Garry Linnell: It's a different company to the one I joined in the 80s. When I walked into the news- room on my first day, there were bell-shaped telephones, I had a chipped old wooden desk, there was an old typewriter -- and an ashtray. Now, I've walked back into a com- pany that's got this fantastic-selling app for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, it's been described as a world leader in tablets. So, what are you doing at Fairfax? I'll be throwing my ideas around everywhere; even into food and wine, because I'm passionate about that. I'm meeting weekly with editors of those areas. I'll be looking at strategy, and how and where we publish to best suit the audience. We have to become more audience- focused. Will any other editorial sections be coming under a national leadership? Not at this stage -- I've got more than enough to do, especially with the magazines. Our weekend maga- zine is the flagship for feature writing but we don't really have a visible on- line presence. So when I find a new editor, I expect them to explore new ways of changing that. Features are quite close to your heart because you won a Walkley Award for feature writing . . . I love great writing. I've been talk- ing to some of the business writers about some of the pieces I'd like to see over the coming weeks and months. I think Fairfax has a repu- tation for two things: independent journalism and good writing. Last time you were working for a na- tional readership was as editor-in-chief of the [now-defunct ACP magazine] The Bulletin. Have readers changed since then -- their demands, their tastes? There is no typical reader any- more. The market keeps fragment- ing. You can almost see it happening by the month now. They are want- ing different information at different times of the day. There is still a ter- rific market for newspapers, despite the doomsayers. There is still an appetite in the market for magazines and long-form journalism. Tablets may well be the great saviour for newspapers. At this stage no one knows. I've been saying to everyone since I've come back here, there is a bit of uncertainty in their roles, and how we're setting up my role. Well, you know what? Uncertainty is the norm in journalism now. Who do you think is getting the print and digital mix right? I don't think anyone is. Everyone is experimenting and going off in different directions. In all of our sections, except for magazines, we are going to be think- ing digital-first. We've been up-front with people about that. There is no game plan but you start with your audience -- where are they, and what do they want? We know online audiences disappear after 5pm. People have left their cubicles, they're in cars, on the train platform, but not online. Then in the morning they want their quick fix, and by 8am, we're watching traffic soar. So given all that, what role will you be playing in Fairfax's eventual move to paid digital? One of the things that [Metro Me- dia CEO] Jack Matthews has asked me to do is help champion transfor- mation of the newsroom. It's not a physical transformation so much as a state of mind. Rather than thinking, 'that story is great for the paper,' it's going to be, 'that story is great for which audi- ence -- and when and how should we get it out there? It's all about the time of day, and who we're targeting. Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood has said that when it comes to paid online con- tent, there is no real first-mover advan- tage. Do you think that the fact that The Australian, the only broadsheet outside the Fairfax stable, has just launched paid digital subscriptions will offer you an advantage? We can sit back and watch. The great advantage comes in sitting back and seeing what happens, and then you can move quickly. There is no doubt we have to get people to pay for some content. But show me a model that is working consistently, that has replaced the revenues from the old newspaper model. There's a @GarryLinnell parked qui- etly on Twitter. Does that belong to you? It might be mine. I think I signed up about two years ago, and I've got 60 or 70 followers, and I haven't once tweeted. Doesn't that make you feel great? It's fantastic. And I probably will say something some day. I think Twitter is a conversation, and when I get the time I might join it. It's dangerous to have really strong views on different media forms at the moment. Three years ago, we didn't know we'd have the iPad, or that reporters would be filing from it. We didn't know five years ago that there would be a Twitter. Eight years ago we didn't know there would be a Facebook. That's how quickly the world has changed. Garry Linnell . . . 'Fairfax has a reputation for two things: independent journalism and good writing' www.panpa.org.au 8 | NOVEMBER 2011 | The PANPA Bulletin