Australia's Fairfax streamlines business, focus on digital

SYDNEY, April 4 Wed Apr 3, 2013 7:46pm EDT

SYDNEY, April 4 (Reuters) - Australia's Fairfax Media , publisher of some of the country's leading newspapers, said on Thursday it is reorganising its business into five divisions to streamline its structure, focus on digital content and cut costs.

The 172-year-old company will also shuffle its senior executive team, with the current head of its New Zealand operations, Allen Williams, to head up a new Australian Publishing Media division.

The media industry's old guard is struggling with a massive shift online, declining advertising revenues for newspapers and TV, and shrinking market share for free-to-air TV as consumers' choices multiply for news and entertainment.

The reorganisation is the latest step in a massive restructure programme unveiled by Fairfax last June when it said it would overhaul its top mastheads and slash around a fifth of its 10,000 staff over the next three years.

"The next phase of our transformation is to deliver the full potential of our Australian news, business, lifestyle and community media businesses," Fairfax Chief Executive Greg Hywood said in a statement. "Sharing expertise across sales, marketing and product development will give us the ability to deliver our journalism as efficiently and effectively as possible."

A spokesman said there were no further cuts as a result of Thursday's announcement.

Its larger rival, News Ltd, Rupert Murdoch-controlled News Corp's Australian unit, has also announced plans for a sweeping overhaul of its business that will include an unspecified number of job cuts.

Fairfax said the Australian Media Unit will incorporate The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Financial Review newspapers as well as the group's regional, agricultural and community titles.

Its Domain real estate business will be broken out into a separate unit and a group of other online businesses, including its dating service RSVP, will be brought together into a Digital Ventures Unit.

The Fairfax Radio and Fairfax New Zealand businesses remain unchanged from the previous structure.

Metro Media chief executive Jack Matthews will leave Fairfax following a transition to the new structure. Regional publishing head Allan Browne will also leave the company.

Fairfax controls around 30 percent of Australian newspapers, compared with News Ltd's 70 percent share, one of the most concentrated levels of media ownership in the world. (Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Stephen Coates)