In a shock move embattled publisher Fairfax Newspapers is to close down its two main metropolitan print sites – Tullamarine and Chullora – as part of a broader plan to become a ‘digital first’ media group.
Fairfax will shed 1900 jobs and save $235m a year as a result of the closures and other measures. It will continue to publish its newspapers in print, although the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald will change format to tabloid.
Tullamarine and Chullora will print their final copies in two years’ time. The Age and the SMH will be printed at Fairfax’s four regional print centres. Tullamarine was opened less than ten years ago, Chullora is similarly a modern print centre.
And there may be more bad news to come for the newspaper sector, within the next few days rival newspaper publisher News Ltd is expected to announce that it will chop upwards of 1000 Australian staff. Newspaper publishers here and around the world have struggled to deal with the twin forces of the GFC and the widespread uptake of the internet.
Fairfax has seen its share price collapse over the past five years, dropping down by 87 per cent to just 60c, although it jumped by five per cent on news of the restructuring.
Fairfax will focus its energies on becoming a digital media group. It will introduce a paywall for its websites, which are currently largely free. It According to the restructuring plan, moving to a digital-only model was not currently economical for the company, but Fairfax has retained the option of closing its print business if advertising and circulation ‘declined materially’.
Fairfax says it is responding to a dramatically changing media landscape, its CEO Greg Hywood says, “Reading patterns have changed and they are not changing back.”
For the print industry the woes of the newspaper publishers compound the rate of change that is now reaching bullet-train like speed, the Fairfax announcement coming just days after Heidelberg said it would not be participating in PacPrint next year, and just weeks after two of the country’s best regarded print companies – Sema and Sands – hit the skids.