There are new roles at Nine Entertainment for Alex Parsons – returning after a spell running CarAdvice – and journalist James Chessell, but it’s the man they are replacing who’s been making headlines.
Chris Janz is leaving after four years running the Fairfax metro publishing business Nine acquired in 2018, and some work before that on a project for then-chief executive Greg Hywood, building a future for it in a period of intense gloom.
Tim Burrowes – whose book Media Unmade has just been published – tells the story of Janz’ clandestine role as head of Fairfax’s ‘blue team’, those who would create a ‘Fairfax of the future’ which would (and did) take the reins in 2017.
With the benefit of hindsight, two problems are obvious – that the task of ‘keeping on, keeping on’ didn’t create much in the way of an inspiring product, and that the ‘blue’ project, when launched wasn’t given time to flourish before Fairfax was sold.
Having heard Janz speak at overseas conferences on a couple of occasions – when content is frequently less closely edited – I’d always been impressed by the passion he brought to the industry, though I’d be wary of the trust he was then showing in tech giant “partners”. Lately he had run Nine’s negotiations with Facebook and Google following the news media bargaining legislation.
It’s probably to his credit that the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are still being published six days a week – or at all – having escaped a period when bookmakers were literally taking bets on their demise. There’s a question now about how Nine may proceed, as its top management becomes increasingly TV-focussed (for lack of a better description).
Mike Sneesby – who got the chief executive role Janz had been hoping for – focussed on the future in his statement and has kept his profile high since.
But will that be enough, as Nine’s metro business – shorn of its regional stablemate – continues to face the same intense competition which stymied all its growth ambitions of recent decades?
Janz – who has latterly been chief digital and publishing officer – leaves later this year, with the progress made – “particularly at the Herald, The Age and the Financial Review… now among the world's strongest news businesses” – on his CV. We look forward to seeing what’s next for him.