July, when full-year results start coming in, is always a time of change at media companies. One of the first big changes to come out so far, as Crikey hit deadline yesterday, is the odd career move of Good Weekend editor Ben Naparstek. His jump — to head of editorial, online and emerging platforms at SBS — is surprising. Naparstek has made his mark in print editing, first at The Monthly, which he started editing in 2009 when he was just 23. While Fairfax group editorial director Sean Aylmer’s farewell referenced Naparstek’s “exceptional editing” of Good Weekend, few were entirely clear on whether Naparstek new position at SBS could really be described as a promotion. Fairfax scribes were quickly speculating on why he would jump from the magazine, or, indeed, whether he was pushed.
In media, the numbers rarely lie, and Standard Media Index figures for Fairfax’s magazines in June weren’t good. Year-on-year, Good Weekend‘s circulation has declined around 7% over the past year — in line with declines at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, into which it is inserted. But the ad spending monitored by SMI — generally believed to account for 85%-90% of the market — showed revenues at Fairfax’s magazine titles (Good Weekend is not broken out separately) had declined 40.3% in June 2015 compared to June 2014. That followed further declines in other months this year, and greatly outpaces declines at comparable magazine titles. Bauer Media’s magazines, for example, recorded the next largest declines, and their revenues were only down 23.9%.
Last week, when actress Caitlin Stasey was slamming Good Weekend for canning a feature with her after she declined a nude photoshoot, she tweeted that she’d been told the magazine was being “downsized”, meaning there was no space to run the feature. Crikey asked Naparstek at the time what could be meant by that — we didn’t receive a response to that question. It’s possible that Fairfax is considering somehow downsizing Good Weekend, and Naparstek didn’t want to stick around for that. — Myriam Robin