Free financial advice from News Corp? Eureka Report‘s new financial product continues to raise eyebrows, not least at News Corp. Staff were yesterday sent an email from News Corp chief operating officer Peter Tonagh informing them that Eureka Report‘s new low-cost superannuation offering, Brightday, was “launching soon” with a “major marketing campaign to support it” starting in January. The spruiking has already started — Brightday will offer a staff discount to News Corp employees, and its team will be visiting the News Corp bunkers in Holt Street and Southbank to run “free online educational seminars for staff though-out the year, so everyone has the opportunity to learn more about self-managed funds”.

Media companies with diverse interests always run the risk of those interests distorting coverage. But the particular concern with Brightday is that it will lead what is still largely a media company, News Corp, to gaining an interest in the financial services sector, which has a history of dodgy practices uncovered, in part, by the journalists at News Corp. Indeed, even Alan Kohler, one of Eureka Report‘s founders and biggest stars, has been critical of financial advice in the past. This year he has repeatedly called for the banning of commissions to financial advisers, saying a ban was essential for ensuring the end of a “corrupt practice that has cost consumers billions of dollars and lowered trust in the entire financial advice industry”.

Brightday may well be little money-earner for News Corp. But will this affect the tenor of its coverage? Crikey asked Eureka Report‘s managing editor James Kirby and Kohler about this earlier this month, and they insisted it wouldn’t. As Kirby put it, his role was to “run Eureka’s editorial”. “I am not involved in Brightday, I am not on any committee, I have no KPIs relating to it. It’s as simple as that. It is a spin-off from Eureka, in which I have no role.” Kohler said the same, and added that Eureka Report was an investment publication to which Brightday was a natural spin-off. “The way News Corp sees it, Brightday provides people with a way to action things they find on the Eureka Report.

But some, even within News Corp, remain sceptical. — Myriam Robin

Why the SMH ran that front page. Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir has responded to criticism of the paper’s front page on the SMH website yesterday afternoon, after his paper (along with stablemate The Age) ran a picture of stricken cricketer Phil Hughes cradled by his teammates after he was hit by a cricket ball in a Sheffield Shield match on Tuesday. While similar images graced the front pages of every metro daily in the country, the SMH‘s was arguably the most intrusive, clearly showing the face of an unconscious Hughes and the distress and anguish of his teammates. Taking the backlash seriously, Goodsir penned this open letter to readers, acknowledging the sensitivity of the situation, with Hughes at a vulnerable moment that could be distressing to readers. But he said the photo “demanded to be published”:

“Often, those images display scenes we all wish had never happened, such as Hughes’ tragic felling. But the deeply moving reaction of the other players, and the umpire — and how their reactions speak to us more broadly about the positive aspects of the human condition at times of utmost grief — merited the image’s publication.”

Online revenues save paper losses. The MailOnline, now one of the most visited news websites in the world (and especially in the UK, US and Australia), lifted advertising revenues 46% to 62 million pounds (around $114 million) in the year to the end of September according to the annual results of its owners, the Daily Mail and General Trust. That almost offset the fall in advertising and sales revenues at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday papers.

The Daily Mail and General Trust reckons the strong growth in digital ad revenue for the MailOnline will continue to help offset the fall in print ad revenues. The company is looking for a 29% increase in ad revenues for the free news site, to 80 million in the current financial year (close to $150 million). The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday reported a 5% decline in total revenue to 536 million pounds (almost $1 billion). Print ad revenues fell 5% while circulation revenues dropped 4%. Total ad revenues across the Mail businesses hit 252 million, up 4% on the previous year, or 9 million pounds. The 46% jump in MailOnline ad revenues was equal to 19 million pounds, so it added a net 10 million pounds to group revenues. MailOnline revenues were 2 million pounds above the company’s target for the year.

The company didn’t give a breakdown as to where the growth occurred, or revenue by market. Operating profit at the two papers and the MailOnline rose 13% to 73 million pounds, or around $134 million. So without the booming website revenue, the group would have done it tough and reported a sharply lower profit. But that didn’t stop group debt rising 30 million pounds to 603 million pounds at the end of September, or 1.5 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. A rift in Ferguson …