Axe falls on Fairfax computer titles

Leaked press release says final editions in July; hints IDG may announce a new licensee.

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:

Media Release
17 June 2013
Fairfax Magazines resign technology title licences
 
Fairfax Magazines will resign the licences, owned by IDG, to publish technology titles Computerworld, Reseller News and PC World early next month.
 
The decision has been made to close the print and websites of the titles under the Fairfax banner as the wider group adapts to changes driven by the current economic climate in publishing worldwide.
 
“As much as we regret having to make this tough decision, we believe it is in the best interest of our long-term success as a producer of quality content for New Zealanders,” says Lynley Belton, Fairfax
Magazines general manager.
 
“With change comes opportunity, and we are looking at ways to increase our technology presence across other Fairfax channels as the business adapts.”
 
Staff are being consulted about their options to remain within the company, but it does look likely that job losses will occur.
 
“We are proud to have been associated with all three titles for the last seven years and would like to thank staff, both past and present, who have contributed to quality IT journalism during that time,” says Belton.
 
All subscribers will be contacted and refunded for issues they will not receive.
 
The final date of publication are: Computerworld July 1, Reseller News July 5 and PC World July 1. IDG plans to continue serving the New Zealand market with its global brands and products, and will announce its plans shortly.
 
"The announcement is very unfortunate news for the IT sector as a whole, with Computerworld having been a part of our industry for over 27 years," Insititute of IT Professionals NZ CEO Paul Matthews told NBR.
 
"While it is possible the titles might be picked up by someone else, it’s looking likely that this is the end of an era," Mr Matthews says.

"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.

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