Axe falls on Fairfax computer titles
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UPDATE / June 17: NBR ONLINE has obtained a copy of a press release Fairfax will shortly send on the closure of NZ PC World, Computerworld NZ and Reseller News.
The final Fairfax-licensed issues of each publication will be in July. The statement says there will be job losses - indicating a tighter situation than the closure of the Independent, when reporters were reallocated to a busiiness reporting hub.
The press release says IDG - the multinational publisher behind the titles - will continue to serve the New Zealand market. And a source close to negotiations tells NBR there are four parties interested in picking up the local licenses to PC World, Comptuerworld and Reseller.
However, the fact Faifax plans to keep CIO magazine - the stable's cash cow, by dint of its associated events business - limits the appeal of the other titles.
Another disincentive: NBR understands IDG takes a flat cut of revenue from licensees, rain or shine - not an attractive proposition when the titles face a loss-making period of rebuilding.
The press release reads:
"The editors, journalists and others involved in these publications over many years have done a great service to our industry and these publications will be sorely missed."
Fairfax in talks with staff on possible closure of computer titles
May 31: Fairfax Media is in talks with staff over the possible closure of its stable of computer publications, NBR ONLINE has been told by two people immediately familiar with the matter.
NBR understands the bi-weekly Computerworld and Reseller News, and the monthly magazine NZ PC World will be closed altogether (rather than moved online-only, as has been the case with some computer titles).
A fourth, CIO magazine, will be kept on.
Computerworld, Reseller News and PC World staff have been in consultative talks with Fairfax Magazines general manager Lynley Belton. The GM told staff Fairfax has run all possible models, including online-only publishing but no scenario looked workable.
The four titles are licensed from US publisher IDG Communications, owned by billionaire Pat McGovern.
NBR understands the CEO of IDG's International Publishing Services unit, David Hill, who handles licensing negotiations, was recently in the country.
"Fairfax decided it can't carry the losses any longer. So we're talking about the possibility of the titles disappearing in New Zealand completely," a person familiar with the negotiations told NBR. A second source, who had viewed an internal email sent to staff yesterday, corroborated the story.
CIO would be kept on because it was still making money from events, which include its annual conference pending in June. The magazine targets chief information officers at large organisations.
NBR understands Fairfax is required to give IDG Communications three months' notice on the termination of its licensing contract, but is looking to negotiate a swifter exit.
Fairfax group executive editor Paul Thompson tells NBR, "We are not in a position to comment at present. We are carefully working through some issues with those titles and will make decisions in due course."
Computerworld, PC World and Reseller news editorial and advertising staff are not answering their phones, and have gone dark on social media.
On May 21, Fairfax NZ acting general manager Andrew Boyle said the company was undergoing a wide-ranging restructure which was likely to lead to redundancies among its 1800 staff. A hiring freeze has been in place for most positions since November. In June last year, Fairfax announced a plan to lay off close to 2000 of its 10,000 staff.
IDG New Zealand rode the tech boom duriing the 1990s, with around 50 staff at its height and millions in revenue. At its peak, PC World had close to 20,000 paid subscribers; it's total circulation was recently reported as 7754. Computerworld, which at its height could pull in $50,000 a week in ad revenue, now has a handful of ads per issue. Titles and events across the group were hit by the dot-com bust and the internet's increasing impact on readership and advertising yields.
IDG passed the New Zealand license to its titles to Fairfax Business Media Australia in 2005.
At the same time, a business title in the stable, Unlimited, was sold to publisher Julie Gill. A subsequent restructure saw the titles brought under Fairfax's New Zealand operation, and Unlimited brought back into the fold. Earlier this year, Unlimited was made online-only. Ms Gill departed for an IDG job based in Europe. (Unlimited's complicated history began in 1998, when it was set up as a joint venture between IDG Commmunications NZ and NBR Publisher Fourth Estate Holdings; IDG bought out Fourth Estaste a couple of years later)
The general consensus among ex-staff was that Fairfax Business Media Australia lacked the focus of the fully-owned, computer publication-only IDG Communications (which also benefited strongly from the contribution of market research wing IDC, which has remained under full IDG ownership). Fairfax NZ, which had never sought the titles, had less commitment again.