Friday, 07 June 2013 09:34

Fairfax in Kiwi IT news bloodbath Featured

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The New Zealand IT media scene has been rocked by Fairfax Media’s probable decision to close all its local IT news titles, including Computerworld NZ, PC World, and Reseller News.

Fairfax is by far the biggest publisher of IT titles in New Zealand. The closures have not been confirmed by Fairfax, but are common knowledge – and a major subject of discussion and controversy – among the small Kiwi IT publishing fraternity.

Industry online newsletter IT Journo reports that “a source very close to the titles said ‘nothing is finalised’ and they understand a decision is due within a fortnight. However, the source added that they are ‘not expecting any salvation to come along’.”

The titles Fairfax is reported to be closing are all licensed from US publisher IDG Communications, which publishes Computerworld and related titles in dozens of global markets. IDG licensed them to Fairfax in 2006 because it was having trouble making money in New Zealand.

That is still the case, said the IT journo article, quoting an unnamed source. “Something drastic would need to be done should Fairfax Media management in New Zealand decide to sustain the titles or if IDG was to re-license the titles to another publisher.” The article also said that replacing print with online was considered but rejected.

Other sources have confirmed to iTWire that the story is true. Fairfax has refused to comment. One senior Kiwi IT journalist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was told the information in confidence, said that “lots of Kiwi IT journalists will be looking for work soon.”

The story has also run in Kiwi business publication National Business Review, with many of the same details. NBR said a senior IDG executive had recently visited New Zealand to discuss the licensing deal.

NBR reports that Computerworld New Zealand, which was once commanding NZ$50,000 in advertising revenue, now often had only a single ad.

If confirmed, it will be a major blow for IT publishing in New Zealand. The country’s small size makes the economics of any publication a difficult prospect, especially trade journals. Many Australian and other international publishers have attempted New Zealand editions, only to be defeated by the country’s lack of critical mass in many areas.

If all these publications close this leaves Fairfax with only one IDG title, CIO, which is the successor of MIS New Zealand. Fairfax acquired that title around the world when it bought Australia’s Strategic Publishing Group in 1999.

The market is now open for specialist IT media house Techday in NZ, which publishes two monthly magazines -  IT Brief and The Channel. Techday also publishes a number of IT focused websites and newsletters under the Techday banner in NZ.

"It's a shame for the people involved, as they're experienced journalists and true professionals," Techday founder and publisher Sean Mitchell told iTWire. "It's a tough space in NZ and any new licensee of the IDG brands will struggle to make the mastheads work after license fees have been paid.". Mitchell said May 2013 has been one of Techday's largest revenue months ever. "We can see this trend continuing," he said. Especially if most of his competitors cease to exist.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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