Fairfax Media – Trading Up???

As an unintended postscript to last week’s comment on the FT, which referenced the Australian Financial Review, Fairfax Media is reported to be selling its stake in the New Zealand on-line auction site, Trade Me. While this will dilute Fairfax’s digital revenues, it will strengthen the balance sheet by reducing debt. According to some analysts, the Trade Me growth rate had started to decline, so Fairfax is probably selling at the peak.

Fairfax is also said to be appointing a couple of senior consultants to help develop a digital growth plan, as part of the overall strategy to address declining advertising sales.

Some data that will no doubt form part of this strategic review are the sprawling list of Fairfax assets, and the latest Fairfax Metro Media Audience Report (references below).

First, there is an opportunity to rationalize and consolidate the portfolio of assets, to yield better value from Fairfax news content and other IP, either by smarter integration and aggregation by market demographic, or improved functionality and customization by distribution channel.

Second, the Metro Media Audience Report confirms the decline in the year-on-year print audience, and reveals that visitors spend less time on the websites, with a significant drop in views for monthly video streams. At the same time, there has been an exponential growth in app downloads, mobile page views and unique readers, but probably not at a rate to offset falling print circulation or attract new advertisers.

It is highly likely that building on the initial success of its tablet apps, Fairfax will look to enhance and monetize the app offerings via localization, customization and better content curation to engage readers, especially its younger audience and the emerging “prosumer” demographic of tech-savvy users.

REFERENCES:

Fairfax publishing, app and on-line assets (as at July 2012):

http://fairfaxmedia.com.au/our-assets/PublicationsListfor2011.pdf

Fairfax Metro Media Audience Report (as at October 2012):

http://fairfaxmedia.com.au/shareholders/301112_FMMAROct.pdf