Fairfax Magazines New Zealand, publisher for some of this country's biggest titles, is inviting staff to go on to a nine-day fortnight so it can avoid job losses.

Staff were told yesterday but it was not linked to a Standard & Poor's surprise move to downgrade Fairfax Media's credit rating.

Fairfax Magazines New Zealand staff have until the end of next week to decide whether they want to take part in the Government scheme that subsidises them for some lost income.

Fairfax Magazines produces high-profile titles such as TV Guide, NZ House & Garden, Cuisine, Sunday magazine and the recently purchased NZ Life & Leisure.

General manager Lynley Belton said the scheme was voluntary for staff and if it accepted for the scheme, Fairfax Magazines had until July 1 to adjust work practices.

FAIRFAX DOWNGRADE

Fairfax Magazines is not alone among media companies stung in a dramatic advertising downturn. All media are having to adjust.

But corporate management at Fairfax Media in Australia faced another disappointment yesterday when Standard & Poor's lowered long-term corporate credit and debt ratings for the media company to BB+ from BBB-.

The decision adds $10 million to the interest bills for Fairfax in the coming financial year.

Standard & Poor's said that this and another rating action reflected ongoing deterioration of Fairfax's advertising earnings.

Earlier this week, Fairfax warned its fiscal 2009 underlying earnings would fall by 27 per cent to about A$600 million due to a sharp deterioration in advertising revenues.

Chief executive Brian McCarthy was quoted as saying that while disappointed by the Standard & Poor's downgrade, he was confident Fairfax would weather the economic conditions.

DEGRADING

Exiting Sunday Star-Times About Town columnist Bridget Saunders says it will be a relief to turn up at social events now without people feeling "scared of her". Although she said it was only people who did not know her that feared her.

Saunders - who announced her departure last week - said she was focused on writing books about "unpleasant debilitating and degrading sexual experiences - one about women and one about men".

The books were being handled by an Australian-based agent whom she preferred not to name. Saunders' departure comes after the appointment of new Aussie editor Mitchell Murphy at the SST - who was not as enamoured with Saunders' style as his predecessor Cate Honore Brett.

It is understood the SST had approached Saunders' arch rival Rachel Glucina, gossip columnist of the Herald on Sunday, but she opted to stay after the HoS matched the offer.

The SST has taken the unusual step of advertising for a gossip columnist on Trade Me and is adopting a new style.

This week SST staff were sent a memo. "About Town is taking a new approach to things and is stepping away from the gossip column for a while and instead is going to feature just social pictures! This means that without the writing content the pictures are going to be bigger and better than ever!" said staffer in charge Olivia Hemus.

SKIMPY POUCHES

It is rare for a chief executive to appear in an advertising campaign for his brand. But Air New Zealand's Rob Fyfe needed no convincing to have a cameo appearance for the latest campaign wearing just body paint and a skimpy pouch.

"He was happy to take part straight away," said Craig Whitehead, the creative director of the airline's retail ad agency, Colenso.99.

Whitehead believes the ads - which aim to counter rival Jetstar - have been a success. With its nude theme the agency had monitored blogs and commentary and by mid-week was happy that the tone was about right.

There must surely be great publicity value for the body-painted CEO, especially considering that Fyfe has such a big profile in the business world.

Launch of the ad coincided with a Fairfax Business Day "poll" on its Stuff website last week where Fyfe was named New Zealand's "hottest" businessman. Whitehead said this was coincidental.

NOTHING TO HIDE

The body paint TV commercial is built around an earlier print campaign featuring a pilot with a bare bottom. Whitehead says the body paint ad is part of a "tactical" campaign - with the theme "nothing was hidden" compared to the Jetstar pricing structure.

I would argue that it still had a branding element to the campaign - and branding has been an area where Colenso.99 sister agency Colenso BBDO has held sway.

Notably the Fairfax Business Day "poll" included managing director of Colenso BBDO Brent Smart among Fairfax nominees for hottest businessman. Smart could be excused if he was relieved he did not beat his biggest and most important client on Business Day's hot list.

SAATCHI WELLINGTON

Peter Jackson has body-snatched Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington general manager Cameron Harland to head up his Park Road Post production company in Miramar. Park Road Post works on Jackson movies but also aims to attract work from other productions. He will replace another former Saatchi employee, Aimee McCammon, who is stepping down from the role. Saatchi's Wellington agency has been on a roll, winning the entire Defence Force business. The Wellington agency has also picked up a large project for the Electricity Commission as well as the CCS Disability Action business. Before his Saatchi role Harland headed Lowe Advertising.

YOUNG EXITS

Eric Young has stepped down as editor of SkySport magazine and has been replaced by Doug Golightly from Sky. Industry insiders say that Sky - which contracts publication through Fairfax Magazines - had found the magazine a bit intellectual for its taste, a source said.

It is understood that Young's approach was seen as too highbrow and intellectual and Golightly will bring it more broad (downmarket) and more allied to the Sky Sports channel.

Bizarrely Sky declined to say who was the editor of the title.

Young has recently taken up a column with the Sunday Star-Times.

XT LAUNCH

Telecom re-emerged as a marketing force with the Michael Mizrahi light show launch for its XT Network this week.

Telecom must have spent loads of cash on the computer-generated coloration of the Auckland Town Hall - which drew gasps from prospective customers and media hangers-on at the Telecom launch party.

It's not so much that the Telecom marketing is good - which it is, but that it used to be so bad.

Chief executive Paul Reynolds says Telecom adopted the idea after the success of the Christmas Tree at Auckland's Victoria Park last year. There is a sense that Telecom is "coming out" into the market after years of being tucked away. There is a bit of catch up with arch-rival Vodafone's hype which dominates with teenagers, especially in Auckland.

HOLMES TRUTHS

New Zealand Herald editor Tim Murphy has hit back at radio critics for last Saturday's coverage of the Jan Molenaar siege. The Weekend Herald's lead headline said "Gunman dead" before there had been an official statement from police. Murphy described commentary on Paul Holmes' Newstalk ZB Saturday morning programme as "people without a clue jumping to the wrong conclusion and bizarrely criticising a news organisation for getting the facts right and first".

Holmes, media commentator Wendyl Nissen, and Richard Griffin were all critical but most truculent was the political commentator John Pagani. The National Radio commentator Denis Welch suggested that the Herald had taken a punt Molenaar had died.

Asked for comment, Murphy rejected the claim: "We don't take punts. We were convinced by good reporting and excellent sources that the fact of his death was right, and it was. The Saturday morning police obfuscation was unfortunate and the radio commentary was journalism's equivalent of the blind misleading the blind," Murphy said.

FLY ON WALL

Campbell Live had also said on Friday night it believed Molenaar had died. And most media newsrooms try to succeed in being first with the news.

But competition can be tough and journos jealously guard their leads, insights and contacts.

A TV3 news staffer tells the story of a Friday flight to Napier.

A producer for the TV One Sunday programme on the flight was enthusiastically planning the show with a TVNZ colleague and revealing details of the coverage. She noticed a Campbell Live reporter on the flight and turning to her neighbour asked: "You are not in the media too are you?"

"Well yes," said the chap who had earlier relayed TVNZ plans to TV3.

"I'm with Campbell Live and 60 Minutes."