Tonight's short piece was triggered by a story in the Australian Financial Review suggesting that Daniel Petre may cease his connection with Fairfax over internal strategic disputes in the digital arena. For those who don't know him, Petrie is one of the most experienced people in Australia's digital sector.
One of the key disagreements cited was the decision to roll the regional mastheads into a combined Australian publishing operation. This, Petrie apparently argued, was a competitive error. I argued just the same thing at the time it happened. Those involved didn't understand market segmentation.
We are down track now and we can begin to see some of the effects.
One side effect, minor but annoying to me, is that I now have no single source for following through the various former Rural Press papers across Northern New South Wales. I have to spend more time. A more important effect is homogenisation. If you look at each regional site in isolation, they offer more. When you look at them together. you can see the commonalities.
At this level, they have lost something. Their use of Facebook, by contrast, is much better and has a local content.
Homogenisation is moat apparent with the metros. Fairfax has just introduced pay, so you only get so many page views before being locked out. Because I use the SMH so much, that happened to me. So I went searching. Then I found with certain key mastheads that I could get the same stories because they were all the same! The only thing that I couldn't find somehow were the very specific Sydney metro stories.
What we are talking about is actually brand destruction, the replacement of multiple mastheads appealing to different audiences by an increasingly common product. I don't think that's very sensible in commercial terms, nor is it necessary. Still, I suppose that it's easier to run.