Is The End Nigh For The SMH And The Age Print Editions?

Is The End Nigh For The SMH And The Age Print Editions?

There’s been enormous industry speculation that Fairfax may soon stop printing its weekday editions for some time and now its CEO, Greg Hywood, has done little to quash the rumour.

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Speaking at the Macquarie Investor conference last Friday in Sydney, Hywood told attendees that the business was looking to print less newspapers and focus more on a 24/7 digital focus.

Although not specific in detail, many believed that the end of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald weekday print editions could come as early as 2017. It’s widely understood that the Saturday and Sunday editions of the newspapers are still good money spinners and aren’t under threat. Hywood told the conference that 65 per cent of the company’s revenues come from its weekend editions.

That said, some commentators believe the loss of the weekday editions would seriously harm Fairfax’s broadsheet brands and editorial integrity and there’s nothing to say the weekend editions would remain profitable in an ever-changing media landscape.

Hywood said that the print editions (including The Australian Financial Review) had a “future sustainable, profitable publishing model” despite falling circ and ad revenues.

Mr Hywood told the conference (his comments published on Fairfax websites): “We have a path to the future but we wanted the market to understand that that path was de-risked.” Investors have been concerned that if financial conditions for publishing worsen Fairfax could face massive costs to close down its publishing operations, in a worst-case scenario.

“It should surprise no one, and certainly not us, that the seven-day-a-week publishing model will eventually give way to weekend-only or more targeted printing for most publishers. People have accused us of being too pessimistic about print – perhaps it’s more a case of being too honest for their liking. We prefer telling it like it is and planning for it,” Hywood said.

In the past, it is believed Fairfax and arch-rival News Corp have proposed sharing print facilities to save on costs. However, the idea appears to have never got any further than a thought bubble.

Hywood also told the conference that Fairfax would continue to invest in parts of the business  that weren’t necessarily news focused. They included its real estate sections and its new tradie site Oneflare.