Over 100 of News Corp’s regional and community titles will no longer produce print editions and instead move to digital-only formats. In addition, 14 titles will cease to exist.
There are reports this amounts to over 500 job losses.
The restructure comes after talks with Australian Community Media’s (ACM) Antony Catalano to buy some of News Corp’s papers fell over.
In April, the media company said it was temporarily suspending 60 community print titles in the wake of COVID-19 and plunging advertising revenues. Very few of these titles are now returning.
“Three Sydney community titles, Wentworth Courier, Mosman Daily and North Shore Times, which are distributed in the city’s most affluent suburbs, will resume print editions,” News Corp said.
News Corp said it had undertaken a comprehensive review of its assets and observed consumers shifting to online news sources.
The titles which will cease to exist completely include news brands across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
In Victoria, the Leader titles disappearing are: Manningham, Preston, Diamond Valley, Heidelberg, Sunbury Macedon, Progress and Northcote.
The Rouse Hill Times in New South Wales is also getting the chop, along with the Northside Chronicle/Bayside Star, North-West News, South-East Advertiser, Southern Star, Bribie Weekly Quest titles in Queensland. South Australia is losing the Messenger Coast Plus.
In addition, the following regional titles will stop producing print products, and instead provide news online.
Queensland: Mackay Daily Mercury, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Gladstone Observer, Bundaberg News Mail, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Gympie Times, Sunshine Coast Daily, Queensland Times, Warwick Daily News, Central and North Burnett Times, Central Queensland News, Chinchilla News, Dalby Herald. Gatton Star, Noosa News, South Burnett Times, Stanthorpe Border Post, Western Star, Western Times, Whitsunday Times, Whitsunday Coast Guardian and Bowen Independent, news from the towns covered by the Atherton Tablelander, Northern Miner, Post Douglas & Mossman Gazette and Burdekin Advocate will continue to appear, as it does currently, under the regional sections of the Cairns Post and Townsville Bulletin.
News South Wales: Tweed Daily News, Ballina Advocate, Byron Shire News, Coffs Coast Advocate, Grafton Daily Examiner and Lismore Northern Star; Northern Territory – The Centralian Advocate.
The community titles getting the chop, but maintaining a digital presence are:
Melbourne Leader titles: Stonnington, Mornington Peninsula, Knox, Whitehorse, Monash, Northern, Whittlesea, Maroondah, Moorabbin, Mordialloc Chelsea, Moreland, Lilydale and Yarra Valley, Frankston, Bayside, Caulfield Port Phillip, Cranbourne, Greater Dandenong, Moonee Valley, Maribyrnong, Wyndham;
NewsLocal in NSW and ACT: Fairfield Advance, Penrith Press, Macarthur Chronicle, Blacktown Advocate, Canterbury Bankstown Express, Central Coast Express, Hills Shire Times, Hornsby Advocate, Liverpool Leader, Manly Daily, Northern District Times, Parramatta Advertiser, Inner West Courier, Southern Courier, Illawarra Star, Wagga Wagga News, St George Shire Standard, Canberra Star, Newcastle News, Blue Mountains News, Central Sydney, South Coast News;
Quest in Queensland: Albert and Logan News, Caboolture Herald, Westside News, Pine Rivers Press, Redcliffe and Bayside Herald, South-West News, Wynnum Herald, North Lakes Times, Redlands Community News, Springfield News;
Messenger in SA: Messenger South Plus, Messenger East Plus, Messenger North, Messenger West, Messenger City, Adelaide Hills and Upper Spencer Gulf.
The changes are effective from Monday 29 June.
News Corp’s Australian executive chairman Michael Miller said the portfolio review highlighted that many of its print mastheads were challenged, and the double impact of COVID-19 and the tech platforms not remunerating local publishers had made them unsustainable publications.
“COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing. Despite the audiences of News Corp’s digital mastheads growing more than 60 per cent as Australians turned to trusted media sources during the peak of the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, print advertising spending which contributes the majority of our revenues, has accelerated its decline,” Miller said.
“Consequently, to meet these changing trends, we are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving and to strengthen our position as Australia’s leading digital news media company. This will involve employing more digital only journalists and making investments in digital advertising and marketing solutions for our partners.”
Miller noted the scale of today’s changes, both in terms of how the business is structured and the resulting job losses, were significant.
“These initiatives are significant. They will involve fundamental changes to how we operate our business but they are necessary. Together with senior executive and editorial appointments announced recently, they will enable us to be more effective in driving further success in the growth areas News Corp is excelling in such as digital advertising products, solutions and subscriptions and will embed a more collaborative way of working to maximise our sport and news coverage, hyper local digital subscriptions and the success of our all-important weekend editions,” he said.
He thanked the staff who would be leaving the organisation.
“They have provided News with invaluable years of service. Their passionate commitment to the communities in which they live and work and their role in ensuring these have been informed and served by trusted local media has been substantial,” he said.
Despite the doom and gloom, Miller was keen to spruik News Corp’s local journalism credentials and digital achievements.
He noted more than 375 journalists will be covering regional and community news and information, with the majority living and working in regional Queensland.
He’s confident, he said, that digital subscriptions off the back of local news will continue to increase.
City-based titles, Miller noted, will now double down on their state focus, to fill the void left by today’s changes.
“At the same time, News Corp’s major mastheads in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide – The Courier-Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and The Advertiser – will now become more state focused with increased regional content and will partner with our regional and community local titles in their states to ensure we deliver compelling journalism to Australian consumers regardless of where they live. Subscribers wherever they live will now have access to the best of News Corp’s local, regional, state, national and international news, sport, features and columnists,” he said.
He also said News Corp’s simplified structure would make it less complex for partners, which would lead to better results and greater innovation.
The organisation’s commitment, he said, is still strong.
“News Corp remains committed to Australia’s regions and communities and the initiatives we are implementing today represent a detailed, considered strategy to ensure we will better serve our journalism to Australians who live outside its major cities.
“News Corp and its employees also will retain at their creative core their passion for championing, and advocating for an ever improving Australia. As our country emerges in coming weeks from the lockdown enforced on us by the threat of COVID-19 into a ‘new normal’, we will ensure these values that separate News Corp from other media companies are even stronger than ever.”