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Fairfax Media Exploits Digital as the Newspaper Saviour

19 Apr 2012

Fairfax Media's metropolitan masthead newspapers were last month hit by a sharp fall in the value of advertising booked by media agencies, as the company gradually abandons its reliance on print as a source of revenue and a measure of its performance.

As reported in The Australian the company's share of media agency bookings, which account for about 85 per cent of all advertising expenditure, fell 18 per cent year-on-year in March in the metro market across titles, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, compared with a market drop of 11 per cent.

News Limited, publisher of The Australian had a decline of 9 per cent, according to financial booking data compiled by Standard Media Index.

Across the January to March period in the metro market, Fairfax's share of bookings was down 19 per cent, against a market decline of 13 per cent, while News was down 5.7 per cent. As Fairfax's share of bookings falls sharply, it is pushing readers and advertisers to digital versions of its papers.

"Our strategy is to provide advertisers with the best solution regardless of platform," said Ed Harrison, commercial director, Metro Media at Fairfax Media. "The March SMI digital revenue figure is simply wrong. We grew in excess of 20 per cent and continue to outperform the whole online display market."

The Australian last month reported that Fairfax Media was using a new measurement system from the Audit Bureau of Circulations to try to offset what could become a confusing message for advertisers, as it embarks on a drive to cut costs and quit low-yielding sales of its metropolitan mastheads.

The company is offering the SMH and Sun-Herald's education subscribers the opportunity to swap their print subscription for a digital edition.

The moves are borne out of a rise in Fairfax's share of digital bookings, up 18 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, while its newspapers were down 23 per cent. But March was up just 1 per cent.

The total national newspaper category fell 15.4 per cent year-on-year in March.

Source: The Australian

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