Something Happened: How Dan Nolan Would Run Fairfax

If you’re at all interested in the state of media in Australia you probably would have heard that Fairfax has laid out a new strategy for how it is going to survive in the age of the internet.

They’re changing to a tabloid format to save paper, people are getting fired left, right and centre, they’re concentrating on digital properties.

Being an arrogant narcissist to the point of psychosis, I read over all of the reports on the Fairfax situation and decided I could do better with next to no knowledge of the news industry, the structure of these companies or how to actually make money online. So here you go, here’s what I’d do if I ran Fairfax.

In this age ink on paper is stupid. Scrap it. Go digital, go digital fast. Cut the linkbait bullshit and cut it now. Selling your soul per thousand viewers is considered de rigeur in the industry, but when you run out of soul those eyeballs get scarce, fast.

For a business built on trust, showing your users how much contempt you have for them isn’t a winning strategy. Scrap the dead tree. Turn off the mills overnight, fire the workers and take the business of putting ink on paper and summarily execute it.

I know, I know what will we read over our afternoon schooner at the local RSL? Your phone or your iPad and if anyone looks at you funny you’ve got something far sturdier than a newspaper to clock them with.

Fairfax has profitable radio properties. Radio is going to continue to be profitable as long as baby boomers strive for immortality through Medicare. Use this to cross-subsidise core news. Focus on core content, cede the bullshit to others, leaving Fairfax time to focus on regaining their audience’s trust.

Sport in print is the one area all journos run with a straight bat. If the usual cliquey bullshit that infects the rest of the paper infected those pages, the audience would be gone. Learn from that.

You’ve got to earn the title of fourth estate, no more favours to mates or politicians, play it straight or get out of the sandpit. The analog profits are gone. Get that into your head. Downsize your properties accordingly. Your largest fixed cost is human capital, cull it. Cut until you have a team that can build good content that people will be willing to pay for.

In terms of the cull, lifestyle columnists and ‘feelings’ types should be dragged out and given a bullet to the back of the head, if only to turn the doomsday clock a few ticks back from midnight.

Get out of the business of ancillary ‘newstainment.’ Fairfax, you are terrible at it and it’s destroying your credibility. Fire everyone involved.

If you want to expand recriminations, take Elizabeth Farrelly and shoot her out of a cannon or something. If you’re not interested in invoking the ire of the NSW police just give her an open word document and tell her it’s a blog. Based on her writing it’ll take about 20 years for her to figure out that she’s been duped. 20 years is appropriate because it’s the amount of time it has been since anything she has written has been relevant.

Another thing, find the bright spark who decided you should put auto-playing videos on every Fairfax story and bring them to me. After a few days locked in my storage unit with myself, a blowtorch and a belt-sander they should be somewhat closer to paying back a bit of the overwhelming karmic deficit they are in.

Create something of value and the Australian public will reward you. Or you’ll fail at it like most giants trying to adjust to a new ecosystem but hey, Schumpeter’s a bitch and we can’t all be winners.

Dan Nolan
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