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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s largest newspaper publisher, News Corp., announced on Thursday that most of its suburban and regional mastheads across the country will become digital-only next month due to the pandemic and… digital platforms sharing their content.
The executive chairman of News Corp. Australasia’s Michael Miller described the change which will take effect on June 29 as significant and said jobs would be lost. He didn’t say how many.
“COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing. Although News Corp. increased by more than 60% as Australians turned to trusted media sources during the height of recent COVID-19 lockdowns, print ad spend, which contributes the majority of our revenue, has accelerated its decline,” , Miller said.
Many print mastheads from News Corp. have been challenged and the dual impact of the coronavirus lockdown and tech platforms such as Google and Facebook not paying local publishers for content has made mastheads unsustainable, Miller said.
“These initiatives are important. They will involve fundamental changes in the way we operate our business, but they are necessary,” Miller said.
The changes affect 112 News Corp. publications, with 36 mastheads, or newspaper titles, to go. Their news would be published in the regional sections of other mastheads, he said.
Another 76 will survive online without print editions, the company said.
Paul Murphy, chief executive of the Australian Journalists’ Union – Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance – said he understood 150 editorial jobs would be lost.
“We’ve already seen over a hundred titles across the country shut down in regional areas and in local news coverage,” Murphy said. “It really underscores the scale of the crisis facing regional and local journalism in this country, which has been compounded by this pandemic.”
AAP Medianet, a company partly owned by News Corp., estimated that 620 jobs would be cut.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, head of state where the largest proportion of newspapers will turn, said it was a sad day.
“These are newspapers that have led campaigns leading to change to improve the lives of their communities,” Palaszczuk said.
David O’Loughlin, chairman of the Australian Local Government Association, which represents more than 500 urban municipalities and rural counties, described News Corp’s restructuring. as a blow to regional communities.
He doubted newspapers that remained in digital format would survive for long, saying the coronavirus had forever severed the link between local news and local advertising.
“Going digital-only is just one more step in the slow slide toward extinction,” O’Loughlin said.
News Corp. suspended the printing operations of 60 local newspapers in Australia in early April as advertising revenue disappeared due to the pandemic.
The government has announced that Google and Facebook will be forced to pay for news content in Australia.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the trade watchdog, will release draft rules in July for platforms to pay fair compensation for journalistic content misappropriated from the news media.
News Corp. publishes the best-selling newspapers in most of Australia’s largest cities.