BRW magazine goes digital only

Fairfax Media (ASX: FXJ) has announced that it will stop printing BRW magazine from December, but will offer BRW content free online.

The Australian Financial Review (AFR), owned by Fairfax, reports that BRW staff were told of the move at lunchtime today, by Fairfax group director of business media, Sean Aylmer. The AFR reports that Mr Aylmer told staff in an email that the move was part of the transformation strategy of Fairfax Media.

“Fairfax Media is focused on quality content and working with audiences to ensure they receive our content in a way that works for them,” he said. The last print edition of BRW (which stands for Business Review Weekly) will be published on November 28, after which BRW content will be available free online. That may appear to be an odd move and is in contrast to pay-walls to Fairfax’s other sites, including The SMH, The Age and the AFR. Fairfax may adopt a paywall in future for BRW content, if there is sufficient demand from the public to make it worthwhile.

BRW staff have reportedly been told that they are able to participate in the group’s voluntary redundancy program. Last week Fairfax announced that as many as 45 journalists would be made redundant under the scheme. Fairfax also announced the closure of the magazine in The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), the magazine in The Age, and the AFR’s Capital magazine.

Newspaper publishers around the world are struggling to come to terms with massive falls in circulation and sliding advertising revenues, as the world transitions to a digital age. Many have taken the step of charging for content online, limiting free content or offering exclusive content to subscribers, or all of the above strategies, in an attempt to resurrect revenues.

News Corporation (ASX: NWS) recently split off its traditional media assets, with TV, cable and entertainment assets being listed in a new company Twenty-First Century Fox (ASX: FOX). News Corp retained the traditional newspapers, book publisher HarperCollins and a 50% share of Australian pay-TV operator Foxtel. Telstra Corporation (ASX: TLS) owns the other 50% of Foxtel.

Foolish takeaway

The move to digital format-only for BRW was bound to come at some stage. Fairfax has previously admitted that at some future date, it is likely to be a digital only business, across all its products and mastheads. The question for shareholders is when will Fairfax’s digital businesses make up for the declines in its traditional print businesses.

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in Telstra.

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