How Fairfax's 'easy' elevator chats with Google build business

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As Fairfax Media works with Google on programmatic advertising and explores cooperation on subscriptions and data, the Australian publisher has reported growing digital and non-print revenue share.

The Australian publisher presented detail to yesterday's Macquarie Australia conference, and has told the ACCC that relations with Google have improved in recent months, with a more co-operative approach to content creating more opportunities. Its metro digital and non-print share of revenue had grown from 28 to 35 per cent in four years.

Chief executive Greg Hywood told the Macquarie conference that its "world-first" partnership with Google maximised the value of its audience and advertising inventory to drive higher CPMs on programmatic sales.

"This partnership is indicative of the developments in the industry that will help sustain publishing earnings into the medium and longer term," he says.

At WAN-Ifra's Publish Asia conference in Bali last week, Fairfax metro newspapers managing director Chris Janz had urged cooperation with Google as an alternative to "butting heads". He said Fairfax had explored a number of business models, "some aligned to us, others not".

"It's fashionable to blame Google for the industry's woes, but that's lazy," he said. "Nothing will change that way."

Publishers should have been reassessing their business models, and were "partly to blame" for their woes. Fairfax had been "open to chats" with a range of parties including the social media giants, and the cooperation on programmatic announced in January was a product of that. In effect, Google sells inventory that Fairfax was not viably able to sell itself, freeing the publisher to spend more time on "high touch" direct business.

"We wanted to shift the way we work, which meant embracing programmatic - a shift from 'hard-sold' to really simple to work with. The transactional element of the sale is more automated, meaning we have more time for conversations with larger advertisers... which in turn is growing our digital advertising."

Janz told the Bali audience that Google - which was also a sponsor, with its own breakfast briefing for delegates - "loves our quality inventory" and had made themselves "really easy" to talk to. In Sydney, routine weekly meetings were also easy, involving taking the lift from level four to level two of the building both occupy.

The two were also working together on subscriber experience and product development as part of "deep conversations" with specialists.

Janz urged Publish Asia delegates to start a conversation - "butting heads is unhelpful".

"It's in Google's interests for us to thrive," he said.

In its submission to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's inquiry into digital platforms, Fairfax says its relationship with Google has improved in recent months, with a more co-operative approach to content creating more opportunities for the media sector. The publisher says Facebook is still much less willing to engage with news publishers in pursuing commercial partnerships.

Fairfax has advised that group revenue fell by one per cent during the first 17 weeks of the second half of 2017-18, with its metro division revenue about two per cent lower than the same period of last year.

Pictured: Fairfax metro media managing director Chris Janz

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