Recent and dramatic changes in the Australian media landscape have left Chris Janz optimistic.
Janz, the managing director of publishing at Nine, witnessed the late-2018 acquisition of the country’s second-largest newspaper publisher, 187-year-old Fairfax Media. When Nine Entertainment Co. (the country’s second-biggest free-to-air TV network) acquired Fairfax, the move effectively positioned both entities for continued profitability by pooling assets, reducing costs, and streamlining management.
The year before, the Australian government changed the country’s media ownership laws, abolishing restrictions preventing companies from owning newspapers, television, and radio stations in the same city, as well as a “reach rule” that prevented a single TV broadcaster from reaching more than 75% of the population, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (with which Fairfax/Nine has an investigative co-producing arrangement).
The merger resulted in a A$4 billion company, the country’s largest locally owned media company, second only to News Corp in size and impact. It also meant the Fairfax name was relegated to Australia’s history after nearly two centuries, as well as the sale of 160 regional newspapers. For now, it appears that the main mastheads — Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and the Australian Financial Review — will continue as usual in both their printed format and online.
Janz, who recently joined INMA’s board of directors, is optimistic not only about the structural change he is a part of, but also about digital subscription growth and the revenue it represents. Fairfax’s 2018 Annual Report cited growth in digital subscribers of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and the Financial Review to 313,000, which supports the belief that consumers are increasingly willing to pay for “trusted news and insights.”
Janz is proud of Nine’s growth in earnings and Nine Publishing, as well as those from subsidiary holdings such as commercialview.com (a commercial property portal), caradvice.com, and Stan (its subscription-video-on-demand service). In 2018, Fairfax saw growth in the SVOD, in which Nine now has 50% ownership. Stan has “more than 1.1 million active subscribers and delivered 72% subscription revenue growth while controlling operating cost growth at 23%,” according to the annual report.
After such an eventful 2018, we wondered what Janz was focused on this year. So we asked:
INMA: What is Nine’s biggest idea/initiative for 2019?
Janz: Our mastheads recently merged with Australia’s leading television broadcaster to form Nine, the country’s largest locally owned media company. Our portfolio includes the most-read masthead (The Sydney Morning Herald), the top-rated television network (Channel 9), the country’s No. 1 radio station (2GB), and the leading local SVOD service (Stan).
We are continuing to grow our investment in local content while exploring the reader, viewer, and advertiser benefits of such a broad cross-platform network.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of at this moment?
Janz: After many years of structural change, we have grown the earnings of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Australian Financial Review for five consecutive halves.
Print advertising, print subscriptions, and retail, digital advertising, and digital subscriptions revenue are all growing, giving us the confidence to invest more in journalism. Over the past 12 months, we’ve hired more than 20 editorial trainees and we’re in the process of hiring more than 20 new production staff.
INMA: What do you see as the big opportunities in 2019 and how are you taking advantage of them?
Janz: Our core readership has long recognised the importance of quality, trusted media. Over the past year, new audiences have also seen the value of our journalism and are supporting us with their time and money.
We are committed to investing in our products and journalism to offer the best value to our loyal readers, with heavy investment in differentiated news such as exclusives and investigations. This is already paying dividends with double-digit growth in our digital subscription revenues.
INMA: What keeps you up at night?
Janz: I’d love programmatic buying to recognise the benefits of context and investment in quality content. Our business spends more than A$1 billion/year on content, delivering massive benefits to the Australian media industry and broader economy. Yet we often compete with Web sites that invest next to nothing. Brands spend considerable time and money to build trust.
It’s important they don’t delegate their reputation to machines that don’t consider context and associate their content with objectionable or illegal material.
INMA: What did you learn in 2018 that is guiding your leadership in 2019?
Janz: Anything is possible!