There’s more than musical chairs and career advancement to a string of appointments announced by News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan today. Notably, the evolution of flagship national ‘The Australian’ gets a boost with the creation of a new role for Richard Freudenstein as the paper’s chief executive.
While Chris Mitchell, who has overseen the editorial expansion of the newspaper since 2002, continues as editor-in-chief, the new appointment is seen as opening the way for ‘ambitious expansion’ of the paper through the creation of a separate corporate division.
Recent months have seen a re-invention of the daily, with time and money spent on both content and appearance. A marketing campaign urges former and non-readers to ‘think, again’ about the paper.
Media writer James Chessell says the restructure comes after a period of strong circulation and readership growth: “The move will position ‘The Australian’ for further growth in print and online, as well as through emerging digital platforms such as smartphones and electronic readers, at a time when the media group is looking to charge for online content,” he says.
Freudenstein heads News Digital Media (and will continue to do so) and is a British Sky Television executive, “highly regarded” by Rupert Murdoch, and Chessell says the appointment will fuel expectations that he is in line for further senior roles within the company.
The new division moves the title from Nationwide News (and the old MATP group) and are expected to see it lead News Limited’s move into paid online content.
Hartigan said the move reflected "the significant expansion of our ambitions" for the 45-year-old masthead, including double-digit growth targets for revenue, profit and online traffic.
"We intend to not only grow circulation and readership of the print version, but significantly broaden the reach of its world-class journalism online, on mobiles and on new platforms," he says.
It is suggested the changes will also give ‘The Australian’ greater flexibility in negotiating its printing and distribution arrangements with News Limited's other state divisions.
Nick Leeder is leaving his role as chief operating officer of News Digital to become Freudenstein’s deputy at ‘The Australian’. The paper’s daily and weekend editors, Paul Whittaker and Nick Cater, continue in their roles, and the senior editorial and commercial team remains unchanged.