Filled with sad and frustrating stories and chronicling extraordinary mismanagement of a once-great company, STOP THE PRESSES! How greed, incompetence (and the internet) wrecked Fairfax by Ben Hill is an excellent book. It takes us through the history of the company, the impact of the internet and extraordinary mismanagement from the top down.
STOP THE PRESSES! also looks at what’s next. The Billionaires’ Playthings chapter is a must-read fort anyone interested in democracy in Australia and in the future of good journalism in Australia.
This is an excellent book. I highly recommend it.
Reading STOP THE PRESSES! I found myself recalling my own experiences dealing with Fairfax. Through my software company I have been involved with people at Fairfax for over thirty years. In the first ten years Fairfax people were arrogant yet clear in decision making and action. In the next decade they appeared scared. In the last ten years then have looked incompetent.
I sold my distribution business six years ago. In the years since, as a retail only newsagent, Fairfax has done nothing to increase single copy sales. This is frustrating as it has ignored a unique retail network run by people who did want Fairfax to succeed.
I have been particularly interested in their approach on cover price. As the relevance and quality of the print product has declined they have increased the price they charge for it. Nuts!
On specific Fairfax products themselves. In my own home town, The Age is a small shadow of itself. Each day it is running old news, news I’ve read online or on my phone already. The people putting the newspaper together have not come to grips with the need to publish in print different content to what we can access online, they are not embracing the print medium in a compelling way.
Fairfax was the first publisher in Australia to sell space in page one of its newspapers with the stuck on ads that I often complain about. Their preparedness to see an ad that covers their own brand or headlines for page one stories was evidence, years ago, of them giving up on their brand and giving up on news.
Note: I was sent a review copy by the publisher.