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News Corp's bid to sell regional and community titles falls over


News Corp’s attempt to sell its regional and community titles – which include the Messenger newspapers in Adelaide – has failed, with the media giant now looking at “alternative structures” for its Australian newspaper group.

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News Corp said today it had failed to reach agreement on the sale of the portfolio of more than 100 regional and community newspapers in negotiations with Australian Community Media (ACM), run by media veteran Antony Catalano.

The company will now focus on a restructure of its business to focus the company on “maximising digital and growth opportunities”.

The move leaves the future of Messenger newspapers in doubt.

News Corp suspended printing of 60 community newspapers, including Messenger suburban titles on April 1, in response to the COVID-19 economic shock.

Messenger’s future has been under a cloud for some time, with the company cutting back titles, resources and print distribution in recent years.

In a note to staff today, News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said the talks with ACM had failed to result in a sale.

“In recent weeks we have been undertaking a review of our Australian portfolio and structures and have had discussions with the most logical acquirer of our regional and community titles,” he said.

“Those discussions have not resulted in a transaction and we are now considering alternative structures to best focus News Corp Australia on maximising digital and growth opportunities.”

The company’s national newspaper, The Australian, reported today that points of contention in the negotiations included the sale or lease of News Corp printing plants and the mastheads that would be included in any deal.

News Corp’s community news focus has shifted in recent years to single-journalist digital-only titles, designed to drive online traffic and subscriptions – in contrast to Messenger’s free model, which was traditionally built on wide print distribution.

After trialling the method interstate, it introduced two such titles in South Australia – in the Adelaide Hills and the Upper Spencer Gulf.

One of the masterminds behind that strategy, John McGourty, was today appointed national editor of News Corp’s community masthead network – one of a raft of editorial appointments made today.

Miller said McGourty’s appointment “acknowledges his success in establishing digital only local news mastheads and driving editorial subscriptions through hyper local news”.

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