Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

Last week wasn’t a good one for Fairfax. The company made headlines for the wrong reasons with a profit downgrade on the back of sluggish advertising revenue. But there was even worse news for Fairfax buried in this story from the Online Press Gazette“Guardian staff will file for the web first”:

From next week Guardian journalists are to embark on a “landmark” change in the way they work by publishing all news stories on the newspaper’s website up to 24 hours before they come out in print.

The change will initially affect only foreign coverage, then City journalists. However, it could later spread across the paper.

Although Guardian Unlimited, the paper’s website, has its own staff of around 100 journalists producing website copy throughout the day, stories written for the newspaper have previously been published for the internet en masse at around midnight on the day of publication.

You’ve got to feel for Fairfax CEO David Kirk as he tries to figure out how to deal with the online competitors who are siphoning off his hugely profitable newspaper classified revenue streams and jeopardising the commercial viability of Fairfax’s entire business model.

Having ignored for so long the threat posed by the migration of advertisers online, Fairfax has worked hard in recent times to beef up its online presence. The figures for its websites – which are looking increasingly tabloid – are promising, but Fairfax is still predominantly focused on the daily dead tree papers and staff are being dragged kicking and screaming to file for the Fairfax websites.

Meanwhile Fairfax online advertising looks unlikely to replace the money being lost in classified advertising, and the company is yet to come up with a business model that will turn its online advertising into a commercially viable revenue stream. Some media watchers are starting to speculate that the path to salvation could be a merger with another waning business, Channel Nine.

Could two waning businesses turn into a positive? Doing those sums could be a nightmare.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey