An omen of doom? Has Fairfax Media started preparing for the day when it drops some or all of its weekday editions of The Sydney Morning Herald? In Saturday’s edition of the SMH, the first column from Elizabeth Farrelly appeared, shifted from her long-established Thursday paper spot. Farrelly writes on urban affairs, planning and is popular with core Herald readers in the eastern suburbs, inner west and lower north shore. Her columns on Thursdays generate huge responses from letter writers and posts on the Herald website.

And, yesterday, the first column from Mark Kenny, Fairfax Media’s chief political correspondent (the SMH and The Age), appeared in the Sun Herald in Sydney. Now that could be just for the July 2 federal election, but there was no sign of it being temporary in yesterday’s paper. It is the first time the chief political correspondent has had a regular column in the Sun Herald. As well, the Sun Herald has expanded its Sydney social coverage with a double-page spread moved forward in the paper — instead of the ratty looking half- or three-quarter page coverage, which has been the case for the past year or more.

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Now this all might be co-incidental with a new editor at the Sun Herald in Liam Phelan, who penned a short note to readers explaining the changes. But they are also the type of move that a media company would make when it is starting to get readers’ attention about the attractions of the weekend edition or the Sunday paper, and starting moves to close weekday editions. Moving the popular Farrelly to Saturdays tells us the Thursday edition of the SMH is in trouble with Fairfax Media management as they plan the shutdowns. That will help make closing the low-selling Thursday paper a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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In the March audit, the Thursday edition of the SMH was the lowest selling of the Monday-to-Saturday papers with 95,693 copies sold. That was less than half the 191,728 copies of the Saturday paper sold. No wonder Farrelly jumped at the chance to move to Saturdays. The Sun Herald sells less than 200,000, but is essential to Fairfax’s property future with a large Domain lift-out full of Saturday auction results and associated stories. — Glenn Dyer

This is not a story. Speaking of omens, this Age front page may look like an investigation into reality dating shows, but it isn’t. It’s an ad, for UnREAL, a new TV series airing on video streaming service Stan about just that topic (as the back page, where interested readers are told to look, reveals) …

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The Sydney Morning Herald today has the same thing.

Wrap-around advertising obscuring the front page at Fairfax papers has been a controversial topic with some journalists, but others, like Canberra bureau chief and federal editor Bevan Shields, take a more pragmatic view …

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The real front page — splashing with the latest in Victoria’s CFA saga — is revealed below the wraparound. — Myriam Robin

Scoops don’t pay the bills. The success of the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists in bringing about the revelations of the Panama Papers has not insulated it from the financial realities of modern journalism.

The New York Times reports the non-profit organisation is feeling the same pinch as much of the industry, non-profit or otherwise, and has had to make drastic cutbacks.

This includes cancelling the contracts of three journalists who helped co-ordinate the Panama papers project, leaving a further three positions unfilled and moving out of its Washington offices. The consortium’s parent organisation, the Center for Public Integrity have had long standing financial issues and itself laid two senior investigative journalists in May. The centre is expected, despite the Panama success, to raise $9.3 million this year, down from $11 million last year.

As the article notes, the consortium’s issues represent a blow to those hoping that non-profit, co-operative models such as ICIJ — which co-ordinated 400 journalists across 70 countries to pore over the massive leak of documents from corporate services provider Mossack Fonseca — represent the future of successful investigative reporting as traditional models break down. — Charlie Lewis, Crikey intern

No readership rise for paywall-less Sun. The folly of the decision by Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks (News UK’s CEO for a second time) to put The Sun behind a paywall continues to be exposed, even though the paywall was ended late last year, freeing up content in the Murdoch clan’s key UK mouthpiece. The latest National Readership Survey, which combined the print and website readership figures for Monday-to-Saturday papers (but not Sundays) shows The Sun had flatlined in the past year — unchanged as the seventh most read UK national daily, as a rise in website readers offset a sharp plunge in print readership.

The Sun finally dropped its online paywall in November last year. A decision taken by Brooks (who introduced it in August 2013). In both cases the driving force behind the decisions was Rupert Murdoch, News Corp’s chairman. In March this year, ComScore gave The Sun 2.8 million readers a month on desktop (up from 1.8 million) and 2.9 million per month on mobile (up from 2.3 million), so on that metric, the decision to drop the paywall has paid off. But the increase on desktops and mobile merely cancelled out a large fall in readers of the actual print editions of the paper — from an average of 13.750 million in the March period last year to 10.755 million in the same period this year.

The biggest beneficiary of The Sun moving to a paywall was the Daily Mail and its free website, MailOnline. They were second in 2013 behind The Sun and moved to No. 1 when the Murdoch/Brooks decision to introduce the paywall had The Sun’s website traffic plunge 62% in a matter of months. — Glenn Dyer

Mad in Menzies. How much should editorial staff be able to control the placement of political ads in newspapers during an election campaign?

As the Xenophon-backed independent against Kevin Andrews in the seat of Menzies, I had an interesting experience last week with News Corp’s The Manningham Leader.

I negotiated hard with the Leader sales representative and agreed to pay $20,000 for package of four full-page ads in June — provided they all appeared on page 4 of the widely read weekly paper.

On Tuesday last week, Leader Newspapers editor-in-chief John Trevorrow, an old colleague of mine at the Herald Sun, signed off on this ad for page 4 of today’s edition, after some minor changes such as adding the question mark after “Fake Liberal” and labelling it “advertisement”.

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Alas, this decision was reversed on Thursday and the ad was bumped to page 20 due to the provocative nature of the content.

Rather than bleat about political interference on what is an aggressive attack ad, I have copped it sweet and my campaign team is putting the finishing touches to a more positive full-page ad that will run on page 4 of next week’s edition of The Manningham Leader.

Discussions are continuing about what sort of discount News Corp will give for agreeing to charge $5000 for a page 4 advertisement which appeared on page 20. — Stephen Mayne, Crikey founder

Farewelling The Greatest.

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Front page of the day. Australia’s east coast holds its breath …

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As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

Liz
North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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