It’s safe to say Chris Janz didn’t choose a career in the news media industry; it found him before he was old enough to know better.
“I was printing a neighbourhood newspaper and scheduling my own TV bulletin before I hit double digits,” said Janz, who recently left his position as chief digital and publishing officer at Nine to become a media advisor on digital transformation. “I’ve always loved news and the business of news.”
That passion has served him well, and INMA recently caught up with him to learn more.
INMA: What did you learn in 2020 that helped guide you in 2021?
Janz: The seemingly impossible is possible. Last year, the Australian competition regulator released a groundbreaking report into the dominance of Google and Facebook in the digital advertising market and the effect that had on the sustainability of journalism. It shone a spotlight on a problem few genuinely understood and suggested practical solutions to ensure the viability of the news industry without imposing an undue burden on the digital platform business model.
Subsequent negotiations saw significant new partnerships. The resulting public good can’t be overstated … more journalists will be employed, with a particular focus on investigative and enterprise reporting. We will look back on 2020 as a year that changed the trajectory of investment in news.
2020 also confirmed the resilience of our people. With their lives turned upside down in a week, few skipped a beat. They continued to produce inspiring work despite incredibly challenging conditions.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Janz: Any job interview is a two-way street. It’s important to have a supportive but challenging boss; you’ll perform better and enjoy the work much more.
INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Janz: Personally, seeing my kids grow up. Every day they surprise me … generally in a good way! Professionally, testing new ideas. We work in such a dynamic industry that it's important to keep testing and learning.
INMA: What is your best piece of advice on work/life balance?
Janz: Taking time out improves your work performance, whether it’s a holiday away or some time with family or friends during the week. Planning that time is critical, as it generally won’t happen spontaneously.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media — and what did you learn from it?
Janz: When I joined Fairfax six years ago, the company planned to exit print within a year. My brief was to build a future for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and the Financial Review in a digital-only world. While the plan made economic sense, it was conceived with a heavy heart: It would’ve meant an end to a daily habit so critical to a loyal community in Sydney and Melbourne. I also believe the true influence of print is often understated.
At the same time, the future of the business — digital — was also challenged. Digital subscriptions had stalled and digital advertising was heading backwards at a concerning rate.
Our team went about challenging the thinking and conceiving a plan that would not only sustain print but return it and digital to growth. It meant changing our approach across the business, from product and tech, subscriptions, and advertising to our newsrooms.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?
Janz: The result of that project. We returned every revenue line — print retail and subscriptions, print advertising, digital advertising, and digital subscriptions — to growth. That allowed us to increase our investment in journalism for the first time in years, hiring both new cadets and experienced voices. We put both our journalism and the consumer experience at the centre of the business, fueling further growth.
INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Janz: You are only as good as your team. Great people inspire you and challenge you to be your best. Luckily for our industry, so many talented people are drawn to the mission of journalism.