Fairfax Media has moved to shore up its commercial ranks with the appointment of Melbourne publishing chief David Hoath to a new role as its ailing metro division’s chief operating officer.

In a jargon-spattered alert sent to Age staff this afternoon, and obtained immediately by Crikey, Metro CEO Jack Matthews revealed the position of publisher would be abolished and Hoath kicked upstairs to see “a renewed focus on ensuring our core print products … serve the needs of our audiences going forward”.

“The new COO role will play a critical part in the redesign and reinvigoration of our print mastheads. The COO role will also be responsible for the day to day running of the mastheads, including centralised circulation strategy and sales, manufacturing, distribution and facility management,” he said.

Hoath will oversee a five-person band of axemen to rein in costs across loss-making print mastheads The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the profit-making The Canberra Times as the media giant moves to digital. Three “operations directors” will be appointed in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, a “production director” will “manage Metro wide production activities across all geographies” and a “director of circulation and newspaper sales” will “continue to focus on profitable [contra unprofitable] circulation and distribution”.

Just six months ago, Hoath was given the green light to succeed Don Churchill as Melbourne Publishing CEO after acting in the role. There was speculation at the time that the looming appointment of Antony Catalano as CEO of the combined Fairfax Community Network-Metro Media tie-up would place pressure on Hoath to vacate “the cat’s” crib.

In other high-level appointment revealed today, Matthews said Gautam Mishra, a former Booz and Company management consultant, was now “strategy director for the Metro division” where he “will be responsible for the overall strategy for the Metro division and will provide guidance to each of the functional areas on their specific strategies”.

He went on: “Gautam will also lead our efforts to diversify revenues through new partnerships and investments and will continue to play a key role in the implementation of critical strategic projects for the Metro division.”

There is one final piece in the HR puzzle — a chief marketing officer, who will be named soon.

Last week, ex-Australian Financial Review editor Glenn Burge assumed the position of “executive editor, Metro” after a stint in the Siberia of special projects and Darren Burden was named “national editor” as CEO Greg Hywood lays down his blueprint to staunch unprecedented declines in the company’s profit and share price.

Read the full message …

Message sent on behalf of Jack Matthews, CEO Metro Media

Colleagues,

As part of the ongoing restructure of the Metro division today we are announcing two key appointments.

The first is the appointment of David Hoath as Chief Operating Officer, reporting to me. David formerly held the position of Publisher and CEO of Melbourne Publishing and prior to that was the Sales and Marketing Director for The Age. David currently serves on board of the Readership Works and also represents Fairfax at The Newspaper Works.

As outlined in both the Metro strategy and the Editorial Review, we will see a renewed focus on ensuring our core print products (Monday to Friday, Saturday and Sunday) serve the needs of our audiences going forward. The new COO role will play a critical part in the redesign and reinvigoration of our print mastheads. The COO role will also be responsible for the day to day running of the mastheads, including centralised circulation strategy and sales, manufacturing, distribution and facility management.

David’s experience in the complexities of print operations is vital in our evolution to an audience focused, cross-platform business. He understands the ongoing needs of our display sales business as well as having a strong track record in sourcing important new non-display revenues for Metro.

Five new roles will report to the COO. Operations Directors for Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra will be appointed to manage day to day masthead and sectional P&Ls. They will work locally with Editorial, Manufacturing and Distribution, as well as being the conduit for local (non-advertising) business opportunities. The Sydney Operations Director will also be responsible for the ongoing management of FCN-NSW.

A new Production Director role has also been created to manage Metro wide production activities across all geographies. This centralised role has also been created with a view to form a “state of the art” product hub for all Metro content, in line with the content hub outlined in the Editorial Review.

The final role reporting to the COO is the new Director of Circulation and Newspaper Sales. As we continue to focus on profitable circulation and distribution, we believe a centralised strategy and implementation plan is required. The objective is to build growth and sustainability in sales and subscription revenues underpinning the Metro business. Ongoing, this role will also be critical in the implementation of the new Masthead formats and the roll-out of bundled newspaper and digital packages with the introduction of digital subscriptions.

As a result of this appointment, the role of Publisher will no longer exist.

As part of this restructure, the ACT classified businesses, currently part of the Canberra Times, will move to the Marketplaces group under Nic Cola, consistent with the overall Marketplaces strategy. Ken Nichols has agreed to both manage Canberra Metro operations reporting to David Hoath and also manage ACT classifieds reporting to Nic.

More information on these appointments will be revealed by David in the next couple of days.

I am also pleased to announce that Gautam Mishra has been promoted to the role of Strategy Director for the Metro Division, also reporting to me. In this role he will be responsible for the overall strategy for the Metro division and will provide guidance to each of the functional areas on their specific strategies. Gautam will also lead our efforts to diversify revenues through new partnerships and investments and will continue to play a key role in the implementation of critical strategic projects for the Metro division.

Over the last three years Gautam has been intimately involved in shaping our strategy, including the initial Metro transformation and the creation of the Metro strategy that has been presented to all staff. First as Director of Strategy and then as the COO for Digital Media, Gautam has also been instrumental in the continued growth and expansion of our digital business – particularly with the launch of smh.tv and our expansion onto new platforms including Smart TVs.

More recently, Gautam has led the development of our audience segmentation model, the creation of the digital subscription model for our main mastheads, and the transformation of our business through the Fairfax Of The Future program.

Prior to joining Fairfax, Gautam worked for the global management consultancy Booz and Company in New York and Sydney where he advised businesses on a wide range of strategic issues. He brings a strong analytical and commercial lens to our business.

We are currently looking to appoint a Chief Marketing Officer. Once that appointment is made, the executive management team reporting to me will be complete.

Jack Matthews
CEO Metro Media

Peter Fray

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