The Nelson Mail will take two big steps out of Nelson over the coming months, and despite the spin, the fault isn’t with the industry, but with its Australian owners’ bad decisions.
Fairfax, owners of the Mail, The Leader and stuff.co.nz, is proposing to print the Mail just “three or four” days a week, down from its current six.
It has also announced that it will close its Nelson printing press in late July.
Fairfax have tried to spin its “new publishing model” for Nelson as a “refresh”.
It isn’t. It’s a short-term cost-cutting exercise, while they try to figure out how on earth it can survive.
The move comes just months after the Marlborough Express was shrunk to three days a week and as 125 journalists are set to be cut from Fairfax papers in Australia.
What Fairfax’s announcement on Monday morning didn’t acknowledge is that its poor decisions have led them to where they are today.
The reason the Mail has struggled in its last 10 years, after 140 years as probably the most influential business in the region, is that it was abandoned by Fairfax.
Its “digital first strategy” meant its local stories went onto the Stuff website first, meaning those who bought the paper were made to feel like mugs – they paid for something that everyone could get for free the day before.
This has decimated its circulation and is the reason why you will find hardly any local advertisers, compared to even five years ago. Advertisers need eyeballs.
Fairfax thought by boosting Stuff, advertisers would follow them there. They haven’t. Google and Facebook suck up most of the digital advertising, leaving Fairfax in a lose-lose situation.
After years of putting their website first, it’s now too late to save their paper. The circulation is too low; the staff are too few.
In short, its business model is in disarray.
The saddest part of it all, is the number of good people who have been forced out the door of the Mail over the past 10 years. First it was the sub editors, then designers, accountants, middle management, classified staff and now the printers.
All that’s left to cut are the reporters and sales staff.
These people didn’t deserve to lose their jobs and it certainly isn’t their fault, or the fault of those still there.
It’s a shame that the Mail, once proudly locally owned, was sucked into the Fairfax vortex of mismanagement.
But don’t let Fairfax’s demise fool you into thinking print is dead. It isn’t.
Nelson Weekly, the city’s locally owned newspaper, has just recorded its biggest ever financial result and the next 12 months are forecast to be even better. We’re taking on more staff and expanding into new areas.
As a truly local paper, with local owners, we’re dedicated to our city and to telling the stories of our region. This isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s how we go about our business every day of the week. Weekly staff members pour their energy into every edition. The future for newspapers is bright, if you do it properly.