Sunday, September 30, 2012

It Was the Crap, Stupid. It Still Is

ON RADIO NATIONAL this morning there was an extended report on what went wrong at Fairfax, the gist being that the company stuck its head in the sand while Internet ads ate its lunch. No doubt that observation is valid, but it is only a partial explanation, as the broadcast comments of a former head of the publisher’s online unit establish beyond doubt. Apologies for not taking down the speaker’s name (Higgins?) or the direct quotation, but the Billabong’s toaster had just set off the smoke alarm and it was very difficult to catch the finer details. What he said is still worth paraphrasing because it points to the bigger problem that has driven Fairfax to the very brink of death.

All Mr Unintelligible’s approaches to management, all his urging that the Web was the future, fell on deaf ears, he lamented. There he was, blazing a trail into the e-future and eager to do wonderful things, and the bosses simply would not listen.

And those wonderful things that were achieved, what were they? He did not mention it, but one notable innovation was the promotion of Margo Kingston and the original Wed Diary as the faces of Fairfax’s presence on the Internet, and we all know what that produced: The Jews run the media, the Bali bombing was not terrorism but an exploding gas bottle, Australia was helping to liberate Iraq because it wanted access to the Yank’s anti-gravity machine, unflushed toilets are saving the planet. They were just some elements of Fairfax’s addled bid to make its bones on the Web.

When you get past the bitter griping about an ex-employer’s lack of vision, the fact remains that Fairfax laid itself low by packaging crap in industrial quantities, both in pixels and on paper, and promoting those who could not tell the difference. It is that simple.


  1. The Old and Unimproved DaveSeptember 30, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Of the consequences of Fairfax's scribbling in general, and of Kingston's in particular, one is reminded of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám :

    "The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it."

  2. . ."the fact remains that Fairfax laid itself low by packaging crap in industrial quantities,. ."
    Spot on Professor although you should have mentioned it was/is leftist crap, the canker that together with political correctness is vastly retarding our western civilizations.

  3. You forgot the bit about Webdiary totally expending its budget on bold tags and going bust as a result.

  4. People talk about the plunging share price of Fairfax yet only seem to want to comment on the recent months.

    However if you look at the long term graph, Fairfax was doing reasonably well right up to late 2007 when things first started to go down.

    The speculation here, without any hard numbers to back it (hey, if it is good enough for Global Warming(tm) then it's good enough for me... :P) is that Fairfax readers are never happier then when they are annoyed at the state of Australia.

    Come the 2007 election, Little Kev was PM and all the little lefties were out singing Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and there was no longer evil to report in The Age and the SMH. Hence they were forced to print the 'good' of the new ALP government and it seems either the readers suddenly got embarrassed to discover what their political heroes do for a living or the permanently angry common or garden Leftie no longer found enough within the paper's pages to give them just the right level of indignation required to enjoy their morning latte.

    Just a casual theory of course but I do find the date of the first Fairfax share slide rather interesting.

    1. I think you're right MudCrab. Just wondering if there is any correlation with the uptake of internet with that period. Also, what about sales of the weekend SMH? It seems to have been total crap when I was in Sydney in 2006 but was ok in 2003.

  5. Smoke alarms can be very distracting, Prof. They have a particular affinity with me. I only have to look at them and they complain loudly, especially if I am doing anything with heat and/or flame at the time. So I do appreciate your dilemma.

    It matters not that you neglected to commit to paper the name of the speaker. Mr. Unintelligible sounds quite appropriate from the gist of his argument as you recount it. Thanks for your succinct concluding paragraph as to the real issues. There was just no market for their manure.

  6. I heard some of this on the Monday early morning repeat. Memorable for me was the recollection of the Fairfax muckedy-muck who waved a copy of the SMH at a board meeting and said words to the effect of "Don't tell me that people will buy cars off a website!"
    For added effect he slammed the paper on the table.
    Where is that man now? Hanging out with Dick Rowe, perhaps.

  7. The man waving the paper was one Roger Corbett, at the time a member of the board and now it's illustrious chairman.

    The same one that required Gina Rinehart's prospective representative to the Fairfax Board sign the charter of independence. Something which, by all accounts he himself has not.