A little email hit all Fairfax employees’ in-boxes at 10am this morning and it contains some pretty big revelations from CEO David Kirk, not least just how big a role online media is set to play in the future of Fairfax.

That, and the news that the country’s two biggest broadsheets are set to follow in the footsteps of the UK’s The Guardian and The New York Times by becoming a narrower broadsheet.

Crikey understands that The Age‘s editor Andrew Jaspan will return Monday from a two week international trip during which he studied narrow format broadsheets overseas.

Here are the highlights from Kirk’s email:

  • …size does matter, and it is time to give our readers what they keep telling us they want: a slightly narrower broadsheet so that they can spend more time with our newspapers. We intend to move to a narrower broadsheet format for the SMH and The Age in 2008. We are not moving to tabloid size, or to become a compact; but our new broadsheets will be narrower and more reader-friendly. While our metro papers will have a new size and format, the content will be retained…we are taking a careful look at the successful narrower broadsheets around the world, with particular attention to the current size of The New York Times.
  • …the way forward is to aggressively position Fairfax Media for a future defined by our becoming a fully integrated digital media publishing business. That means our newspapers have to be stronger, our internet businesses have to be stronger, and that what we produce for publication is fully shared across platforms in an integrated fashion. This means that our working processes – editorial, advertising, and production – need to change and become integrated across media.
  • …At One Darling Island, online and print editors will be working on newsdesks across from each other. There will be a massive multimedia wall that will bring the world to our newsroom and connect us with the world. Editorial decisions will be made with print, internet and mobile options available. Video will be a bigger part of what we offer online.
  • All of this is an extension of what we already do today but the degree to which we substantially integrate editorial processes will be the key to our success. The time is therefore right to strengthen The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald by a proposed integration of production staff – but not reporters or photographers – at both mastheads.
  • As a result, we propose to introduce across Herald Publications a 7-day rostering and production structure for subediting, design and graphics. This will greatly streamline production and achieve greater quality and efficiency.
  • We will be consulting with staff and the MEAA as required by the EBA about the proposed changes over the next week, and if the proposal is implemented we will undertake a voluntary redundancy program for Herald Publications production staff, in the range of 30- 35 FTEs. Reporters and photographers will not be part of the proposed redundancy program.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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