Antony Catalano says he wouldn’t have offered a $115m media commercial enterprise if he didn’t have a plan. But our most modern media wealthy person is reluctant to spell out just how he’ll flip one hundred sixty local and rural mastheads whose advertising sales has collapsed into a thriving media empire.
That was the question many have been asking closing week when the former Domain boss teamed up with the billionaire Alex Waislitz to shop for Australian Community Media from Nine Entertainment. They paid a fragment of the $3bn charge Fairfax Media paid for it in 2007, and it got here with a property portfolio worth $60m.
Much of rural and nearby print media, along with mastheads with a records of public interest journalism together with the Canberra Times, the Illawarra Mercury and the Newcastle Herald, are actually in his palms. The package covered 130 community-based totally websites and agricultural publications which includes the Land, Queensland Country Life, and Stock and Land.
The Cat, as he’s recognised in the industry, has an excellent music document in driving sales, in large part around the belongings marketplace in Sydney and Melbourne. The former journalist turned Fairfax’s Domain belongings pages right into a thriving profit centre earlier than he left the business enterprise to build his very own a hit property magazine and then returning to Fairfax to persuade Domain thru a $2.3bn flow.
But he has additionally weathered a tumultuous 18 months which saw him resign from Fairfax quickly after the glide handiest to stand allegations he ran a “boys’ club” at Domain, an accusation he rejects.
He jokes that he is now the focal point of high quality media memories and in high-quality demand after a “hurtful” duration of terrible press fuelled by way of enemies interior Fairfax.
He is aware of he wants to change the name of his acquisition however insists he won’t use his personal surname.
“I gained’t be calling the business ‘Cat B Fairfax’, that’s for sure,” he says in a reference to the preceding Rural Press proprietor John B Fairfax. Instead, he’ll discuss with personnel about a brand new name.
Can he rescue the enterprise as John B did while he stored Rural Press after Warwick Fairfax’s disastrous privatisation of the family business in 1987? The nearby communities the papers serve and the 1,500 personnel, which include 650 editorial employees, of Australian Community Media are truly hoping so.
Catalano says a credible information carrier is important to making the organization worthwhile. “I suppose news is very crucial because if we do it well no one else will do it better than us,” he says. “The metropolitan media is by no means going to have get entry to to the neighborhood information in those regions.
“As a patron I am interested by news that’s relevant to me and I’m interested in information at a country wide level. If whatever, we need to be capable of provide neighborhood information to the national media.
“For instance, if we are covering a big story, why wouldn’t the metro media take a feed from the Border Mail? The metro media are truely now not going to send someone to cowl it.”
Catalano says he’s going to develop revenue through a virtual enlargement of the in large part ignored titles however he hasn’t worked out how, and asks hypothetically, “How do you fund journalism?”
“I’m truly grappling with what the right version is for subscription for virtual newspapers” he says. “TV and radio you don’t need to pay for. I’ll be saying to the groups ‘as a neighborhood resident we want your assist as nicely’.”
He is looking at a subscription model, just like the loose-to-air’s streaming offerings, which collect reader records for targeted advertising instead of placing up a paywall.
“When I communicate about enlargement I am speakme approximately diversifying the business,” he says. “I can’t hire more human beings until we develop the commercial enterprise.
“Is the Border Mail going to return to its halcyon days? Absolutely now not. But can it, via a combination of newspaper, virtual and news alerts, have a broader target audience than it ever did? Absolutely.”
Catalano is upfront about the chance of a few pain and admits that a number of the titles won’t live on because they “make no feel”.
“It might be a lie to suggest that some groups won’t need to shut,” he says. “I don’t have any concept what they’re proper now. Over time things alternate. If you manufacture widgets and they don’t promote then, one of the widgets inside the variety will ought to be discontinued.
“Why would 10 reporters lose their jobs due to the fact one newspaper become draining the life out of the others? We must work collectively to ensure that we’ve got sturdiness.”
The Melbourne-primarily based Catalano, whose already massive own family of eight kids is about to turn out to be 9, has months before agreement on 1 July to nut out the detail. The transitional income agreements cowl intervals of six to twelve months and cover which content material management device to use, the fee structures, the operating structures and the destiny of replica-sharing arrangements with Nine Entertainment.
Morale improve wanted
He isn’t making plans on assembly everybody within the commercial enterprise however his communications method is a concern to enhance morale.
“There are ninety web sites,” he says. “I could ought to do one a day each day for the subsequent three months if I visited them all.”
Catalano says ACM made no sense as a part of Nine with its national income market however in his palms there may be an possibility to grow.
“What level of attention would it not have were given at Nine?” he asks. “It was better for Nine to dump it. It’s an amazing commercial enterprise for a person who wants to have a clear run at it.”
Catalano says the mastheads want some love after years of being at the lowest of the pile in a media empire in which the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age had been on the pinnacle. He is reluctant to mention the previous Fairfax chief Greg Hywood left out Australian Community Media however he does say the titles weren’t nurtured inside that structure.
“You have a look at a commercial enterprise and decide the priorities,” Catalano says. “ACM turned into low down the rating at Greg Hywood’s Fairfax. They got the eye they deserved in a massive enterprise but now I can study them intently.”
Plenty of capability
Catalano is obsessed on the potential eight million readers he has inherited and points to Boomtown, a advertising collaboration among Southern Cross Austereo, Win, Prime Media Group, Australian Community Media, Imparja and Grant Broadcasters to promote local media.
Boomtown is 1,000,000-dollar marketing campaign to sell neighborhood media inside the areas, in which 36% of Australians live however which handiest appeal to 10% of media business enterprise budgets.
“I wouldn’t be spending $115m with out a plan,” Catalano says. “With 8 million human beings you’ve got a big sales possibility. Deals like this don’t come along very regularly.
“There aren’t many human beings within the media – other than Hywood – who’ve had an opportunity to be paintings as reporters, in advertising, as a advertising director, as trendy manager of real estate,” Catalano says. “I even have had the variety and extraordinarily broad enjoy.
“I just like the fact I can tackle an article venture, a digital media challenge an advertising and marketing project, a circulate mission.
“It shouldn’t be a wonder to everybody that I’m here. I suppose it’s a good buy.”