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The CWD’s days are numbered

The CWD’s days are numbered

Local Fairfax owned printed newspapers The Central Western Daily and the Midstate Observer may soon disappear from our streets if recent news and speculation about Fairfax’s regional mastheads proves to be true. Both are part of Fairfax’s Australian Community Media network.

ABC News yesterday (August 15) reported - Newspaper publisher Fairfax has posted an annual loss of $63.8 million, in what is expected to be its last results before being taken over by Nine.

This is a sharp reversal from last year, when an $83.9 million net profit was reported by the publisher of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review.
Fairfax said this was largely due to $188.7m worth of losses after it wrote down the value of its regional news network Australian Community Media and the New Zealand digital news website Stuff.

The announcement of a merger between the Nine Entertainment and Fairfax has also added further to the speculation.

The question that is now being asked, is not if, but when newspapers in regional areas will disappear. This follows years of shrinking sales right across the Fairfax regional network. Newspaper sales have been dropping around 6% per year over the last 7 - 8 years in many regional centres like Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo and at the same time advertising revenue has been drying up at a rapid rate.

There is also a school of thought that cities like Orange would now be better served by a local independent publisher, rather than Fairfax.

In the online news service Crikey on July 27 it was reported - Country Press South Australia president Ian Osterman, who edits the indendently-owned The Courier in Mount Barker, told Crikey that Fairfax selling its country papers could be good for their communities.

“Fairfax has pruned staff and resources to its SA country newspapers to the bone, meaning they can no longer produce a product that is as attractive to advertisers and readers,” he said. “The difference in quality between the independent papers and the Fairfax publications is obvious. A few years ago it wasn’t.”

Osterman said the independent papers in SA were still profitable, and sometimes printed almost twice the number of pages as their Fairfax competitors where they were in the same markets.

“As a result, I see the possibility that this new media giant … may sooner rather than later come to the view that the ailing Fairfax country media arm is a non-core asset and sell it,” he said. “That may allow a new player into the space with the energy, enthusiasm and expertise to revitalise these struggling papers into what they were before.”

At this stage, Fairfax’s future in Orange is very much a matter of speculation but once the outcome of the merger between Nine and Fairfax is known, it is likely that changes will happen very quickly and suddenly. What those changes are likely to be, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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