'Bidders' from the West up the ante as former Fairfax is split

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Is Seven West a serious bidder for the former Fairfax Australian Community Media division - or is it being mentioned only to drum up interest in the sale as TV rival Nine looks to divest bits in which it has no interest?

The network owner and publisher of the West Australian and a portfolio of consumer magazines was named this week in a report by News Corp's The Australian. News itself and former Domain chief executive Anthony Catalano are also named, as well the private equity funds previously mentioned.

We haven't asked if this is true, and wouldn't expect a meaningful answer. GXpress once asked whether Seven would ever bid for Fairfax Media itself, and was told "only from the liquidator".

Marketing website Mumbrella says it understands Seven is "not particularly interested" but runs the story alongside one about the aspirations of Anthony De Ceglie, newly-appointed as senior editor with responsibilities across all of Seven West's West Australian Newspapers brands. Back to Perth via time with News - which he entered via the local Sunday Times, before it was sold to WAN - his immediate priority is to launch a paywall for the West Australian, a prerequisite apparently before WAN can use content it buys from News on its websites.

Publishers are also finding that local content - as simple as putting a reporter into a neighbouring district - drives subscriptions, a reality no doubt News has in mind with its Redlands Community News launch.

The situation highlights the bind when newsmedia companies are sold. Nine seems to be hanging onto the Fairfax metros, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, but getting rid of the Canberra Times, numerous other mastheads - there are 160 in total - and possibly the print sites which are part of the same division.

Former Fairfax ACM mastheads complement geographically, those which News picked up from APN in Australia, some of which - having been picked over - are also for sale. News is also named in its flagship national daily as a potential buyer and while we'd like to believe that this could not happen... it just might.

It would be good to think that De Ceglie's arrival in Perth signals more than an interest in digital monetisation and content, and that Seven might assert its logical role as a national, rather than just a regional publisher. And there... is that a pig in the sky, just passing my window!

Peter Coleman

Pictured: Some of Seven West's publishing brands

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