News Corp to suspend print editions of 60 local newspapers as advertising revenue slumps

Manly Daily, Wentworth Courier, Brisbane News and Mornington Peninsula Leader among titles to move online amid coronavirus fallout

News Corp Australia will stop printing 60 of its local newspapers next week, including the New South Wales title the Manly Daily, which has been in print since 1906.

Dozens of job losses are expected to follow as the community papers – which reached six million people a month – were already under financial strain before the coronavirus hit the advertising industry.

The move came days after Rupert Murdoch’s Australian newspapers warned of “inevitable” job cuts and forced staff to take leave.

The executive chairman of News Corp, Michael Miller, said the decision was brought on by the collapse of the real estate and entertainment industries which halted the papers’ main revenue stream.

“The suspension of our community print editions has been forced on us by the rapid decline in advertising revenues following the restrictions placed on real estate auctions and home inspections, the forced closure of event venues and dine-in restaurants in the wake of the coronavirus emergency,” Miller said.

I’m gutted about the news that NewsCorp are suspending printing of community papers. My 8 years reporting for Leader were just incredible and the people really still rely on their local papers. #localnewsmatters

— Emily (@emilybwebb) April 1, 2020

“During this unprecedented time it is imperative that we reduce costs while continuing to keep the community informed and doing all we can to retain jobs. The print suspension will allow us to assess the shape of the market itself and future conditions, taking into account how the coronavirus situation unfolds in the coming period.”

In a note to staff Miller did not rule out redundancies at the titles across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

“In coming days the direct managers of affected staff will discuss the impact of this suspension with individuals and teams,” Miller told staff in an internal email.

The Manly Daily has been in print since 1906.
The Manly Daily has been in print since 1906. News Corp will now stop printing the newspaper. Photograph: Michael Safi/The Guardian

The community newspapers that will stop printing include the Brisbane News; the Central Coast Express Advocate; the Mornington Peninsula Leader; the Moreland Leader, the Northcote Leader, the Preston Leader and the Stonnington Leader in Melbourne; and the Manly Daily, the Blacktown Advocate, the Inner West Courier and the Wentworth Courier in Sydney. The community and regional newspapers have been a training ground for journalists for generations.

Miller said the mastheads would continue to publish digitally but did not specify whether all the local reporters and photographers for each title would remain on staff or whether printing would resume after the crisis is over. It is highly unlikely the presses will start up again, sources said.

Readers can access a free 28-day digital subscription which gives access to the community titles as well as the metro mastheads the Herald Sun, the Daily Telegraph, the Courier-Mail and the Advertiser.

Miller said News Corp was not winding back on local news and would be “increasing and developing its community coverage”.

In all its statements about cutbacks since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the company has pointed the finger at the refusal of digital platforms to pay publishers to use their content.

Greens media spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young urged the communications minister, Paul Fletcher, to give regional publishers access to the $40m regional and small publishers’ jobs and innovation package.

“Every day that passes without action from the minister is another day it gets harder to save these essential local media outlets and the jobs of local journalists,” Hanson-Young said.

“Regional Australians deserve to know if their local newspaper and radio station which is the lifeblood of many communities, is going to survive through this crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen an unprecedented surge in audiences for news websites and TV news, with the top 10 news websites up by 54% on the previous four weeks.

But the disappearance of advertising revenue as consumer spending sharply contracts is leading to daily layoffs across the industry.

Contributor

Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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