• Print closures trigger growth of indie regional newspapers
It is only four weeks since the executive chairman of News Corp Australia Michael Miller revealed a major change of strategy for the publishing portfolio.
The bulk of the company’s regional and community newspapers were going digital, with some to close or merge.
Last Friday marked the final day that all those titles released their final editions. With most of the community newspapers already paused for Covid-19, last week it was largely the turn of the former APN Newspapers network to stop printing.
Staff at the various newspapers were saddened by the transformation or axing of their brands and/or print products.
Some displayed their anger at the company and its controlling shareholders. Some just wanted to celebrate their brands with their colleagues and remember what they had achieved over the years. Others were moved into action with plans for new brands to replace the titles they had just shut down.
When revealing the changes, Miller said:
“Over the past 19 months News has launched 16 new digital only local mastheads. In total we will now publish 92 digital only regional and community mastheads, each offering readers rolling coverage, electronic alerts and newsletters, richer audio and video content and deeper local sport coverage and community debate.
“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.”
The first of those new regionally-focus editions have started to appear.
The list of titles impacted is long:
News Corp’s major regional titles – The Hobart Mercury, NT News, Cairns Post, Townsville Bulletin, Gold Coast Bulletin, Toowoomba Chronicle and Geelong Advertiser – will continue to publish both in print and digitally.
The gaps in the Queensland market not now covered by print will be serviced with new regional editions of The Courier-Mail.
Queensland titles now existing as digital only are 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, Port 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.
Quest in Queensland has gone digital – 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.
There are no News Corp regional print titles remining in NSW with regional editions of The Daily Telegraph being distributed.
The following NSW regional titles are now digital only: Tweed Daily News, Ballina Advocate, Byron Shire News, Coffs Coast Advocate, Grafton Daily Examiner and Lismore Northern Star.
NewsLocal print products in NSW and ACT that have gone digital are 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.
In the Northern Territory The Centralian Advocate is now digital only.
The bulk of titles in News Corp Australia’s community portfolio – NewsLocal in NSW/ACT, Leader in Melbourne, Quest in Brisbane and Messenger in Adelaide are now digital only. Community print editions were originally suspended early in April because of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.
The community newspapers now digital-only news services 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 and Wyndham.
Messenger brands in South Australia who farewelled print are Messenger South Plus; Messenger East Plus, Messenger North, Messenger West, Messenger City, Adelaide Hills and Upper Spencer Gulf.
Staff anger bubbles over
Not surprisingly there has been universal disappointment about the print closures – from the people who had to convey the decisions to those directly impacted, from those who are able to maintain employment to those who get redundancy.
While some wouldn’t speak publicly about the closures, many displayed their disdain for the controlling shareholders with badges to messages frosted onto cookies and cakes shared by departing staff. Some of the language too fruity to print here.
News Corp hasn’t been talking about the numbers of staff involved, but some from the old APN Newspaper group estimate as many as 1,000 people from 11 newspapers.
All of the newspapers noted the transition to digital on their front pages as they celebrated their print highlights. Some staff noted the irony of the “We’re for you” banner displayed on the final front pages.
Don’t get mad…get even
Some people seeing a possible gap in the market are diving right back in with print products either recently or soon to launch. It’s fair to say profit isn’t the motivator, but rather an ambition to be a proprietor and to serve their communities. Not losing their house would be good, breaking even would be an achievement.
Some new titles appearing across Australia from independents include:
Naracoorte Community News
Yass Valley Times
Sports CQ (Central Queensland)
Richmond River Independent
Northern Rivers Heartland magazine
Southern Highlands Express
Ash Long’s The Local Paper network has expanded across Melbourne
Retailers and media say farewell
One of the best-looking newsagencies in New South Wales, The Foundry in Murwillumbah, posted this on Instagram:
The time has come. Today is the last day that we will hold a physical copy of our local Tweed Daily News and The Northern Star newspapers.
It is with a heavy heart that we thank you for the years of reporting and printed versions of your paper that has been at the forefront of our local news and a popular source of news for our customers. Your years of service has provided us with such fantastic historical references – for our building and for our town. Where else would we have sourced what was happening in Murwillumbah and surrounds from the c1900s if it wasn’t for the local stories being printed in our local papers? You will be missed on our newsstand!
ABC Radio Sunshine Coast shared memories from journalists at the Sunshine Coast Daily and the Gympie Times.