Nine shedding local papers, printing

New Fairfax owner Nine Entertainment (Nine) is selling off Australian Community Media and Printing (ACM), which is responsible for 160 local titles around the country.

Nine CEO Hugh Marks had indicated the company will be focusing on national advertisers after purchasing Fairfax, seemingly signalling the death knell to the regional-based sales teams of ACM. The company’s HY results have officially confirmed that Nine is seeking a buyer for ACM, and that it expects to sell the business within the next 12 months.

Spruiking ACM on its website, Nine notes, “Australian Community Media & Printing is a leading rural, regional and agricultural newspaper and digital media business reaching more than five million people per month. Australian Community Media & Printing’s more than 160 regional publications and community-based websites include Newcastle Herald, The Examiner, The Border Mail, The Courier and Illawarra Mercury along with approximately 130 community-based websites. Australian Community Media & Printing's portfolio of agricultural publications includes The Land, Queensland Country Life, and Stock and Land.”

While there was talk of rival News Corp selling off its community newspaper division, it cooled off once the Fairfax/Nine merger came to light. News Corp confirmed to Australian Printer this morning that it had no immediate plans to sell its own regional titles.

A spokesperson from News Corp says, “The relationship between a newspaper and its readers is most visible, and arguably, most important in regional and small communities. It is a responsibility we take seriously, and are committed to keeping.”

As for how the printing arrangements, partially shared with News Corp, will continue, neither Nine nor News Corp could confirm with Australian Printer prior to publication.

The former Beresfield print site, sold by Fairfax, was producing Australian Community Media (ACM) titles, which were then transitioned to sites in Tamworth and North Richmond in NSW.

Fairfax print work produced at Ormiston was transferred to News plants in Murarrie, Yandina, Warwick and Townsville in Qld, with some being moved over to Fairfax’s site in Tamworth.

ACM had a difficult half, with the Australia-wide drought affecting both agricultural and regional markets and publications. Revenue declined by eight per cent and EBITDA dropped by 42 per cent to $21m for the half.

Nine has also indicated it will sell New Zealand division Stuff, attributing $340m of revenue between it and ACM on its HY report.

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