A seven hour plane journey wasn't distance enough for Fairfax Media's Mike van Nierkerk to feel comfortable a out putting dollars on the extent of his company's advertising sales success at brisbanetimes.com.au.
"Rupert Murdoch might be sitting out there," he told a questioner at WAN-Ifra's Online Media Asia conference in Singapore today (writes Peter Coleman). He'd asked Fairfax management in advance and been knocked back.
"We're making good money and will break even ahead of the budgeted five years," he says.
Van Nierkerk told how the company had set up sites in Brisbane and Perth - where it does not have print editions - in the face of the "big worry" of aggressive competition from rival News Limited.
"Whenever we do anything, they will come back very strong... as we know from experience in the Melbourne Sunday market, 20 years ago", he says.
Fairfax's Brisbane operation started with 12 multiskilled journalists and part of it's success has been that they are young and "plugged into the local scene". A site for Perth has followed, with the site modified with the benefit of experience gained in Brisbane. This meant a slight move upmarket on on "non trashy" entertainment.
Brisbane and Perth are doing "actually very well" with traffic well ahead of plans and The Pertg site overtaking that of local daily the 'West Australian' within six months. Another benefit has been that the developments have given Fairfax a national news team, van Nierkerk says.
They have also brought more readers and expanded the total market. Having a big news organisation contributed to the sites' success allowing local journalists to concentrate on publishibg local content fast.
The WAN-Ifra event continues tomorrow and Friday.