Falling circulation and ad revenues means smaller newspaper books and far smaller print runs, and Crikey hears the News Corp’s 20-year-old printing plants are struggling to cope with the changes.
We’ve heard all sorts of whispers about what’s going on in recent days and decided to put them to News Corp. One source told us the company was in the middle of a $30 million upgrade of its print facilities, but News Corp dismissed that out of hand, with a spokesman saying it was “simply not true”.
More persistent are rumours that News Corp and Fairfax are in discussions about some sort of collaboration on printing and distribution — the Oz reported on talks about doing just that last month.
Crikey is told the talks have been helped along by the fact that News HQ in New York is reluctant to fork out serious dough for upgrades at the moment. Despite their fierce rivalry, there’s already some measure of cost-sharing going on — News Corp has for a few years printed Fairfax’s Financial Review in Townsville, for example. It’s understood any further tie-ups would be along these lines — splitting production runs, particularly in the regions, rather than having Fairfax and News Corp jointly operate printing facilities.
Last year News Corp’s Melbourne printing plant (at Port Melbourne) announced 19 redundancies shortly after it stopped printing mX. Every reduction in output terrifies the staff there — large printing plants are most productive when at full capacity. We hear the News Corp print rooms are now convinced News’ capital city daily tabloids will cease publishing daily at the end of next year. That isn’t too far off what Fairfax is reportedly considering. Of course, News Corp is far more committed to print than Fairfax, but that doesn’t mean head honchos couldn’t change their minds, and quickly.
We intend to stay on top of this, so if you’ve heard anything, do get in touch.
Update: Thursday May 19
A News Corp spokesman says:
“Yesterday Crikey published the rumour that News Corp Australia may cease publishing its daily metro titles at the end of next year. This is untrue.”