Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Brisbane Morning Herald?

... Or the Brisbane Times?

The Oz is reporting Fairfax will launch an online product in Queensland early next year.

Apparently it's a done deal. The Brisbane unit will act as a bureau for Fairfax as well as running a news web site against News Ltd's Courier Mail.

South east Queensland is a dynamic growth region and one Fairfax has been eyeing for a while, so it's no great surprise.

The Oz piece speculates that Adelaide and Perth are also on the cards, and maybe they are. But it's a fact that the Brisbane operation is closest to launch.

Fairfax has wanted to cover the west for a long time, but you'd have to question the value of chasing a market the size of Adelaide.

Perth is an interesting case, particularly given News' efforts there this year. One of the overlooked media stories of 2006 has been Brett McCarthy's initiative in turning the Sunday Times print operation into a daily news site via Perthnow. It's a unique achievement and makes any brand new Fairfax effort there that much more difficult.

Crikey had a few words to say on the subject today: "Will the sites be subscription-based, will they rely solely on online advertising or will there be a combination of both? Where do they see the ads coming from?"

Subscription based sites would be the height of stupidity, and Fairfax isn't stupid. As to where the ads are coming from - well, that's not particularly mysterious. But how a sales team that's already stretched is going to service clients in these new markets - now, that's a question worth asking.

Crikey contacted Mike van Niekerk, Editor in Chief of Online at The SMH and The Age but he offered no comment. "All I can can say at this stage is that there are communities in this country who are desperate for alternative local news and information," said Niekerk. "If and when Fairfax Media has an announcement to make about serving those communities we will let them know."

Despite his coy statements Mike's little empire is about to expand, sort of. If only he could get access to the product development budgets then he'd really have something to talk about. Of course, Fairfax Digital isn't silly enough to let that happen. Instead the commercial dynamo Pippa Leary maintains the real power over Fairfax Digital products whilst Mike is merely allowed to project the illusion of glory.

No comments: