It has been a spluttering, slow start for the Paul Henry breakfast show and the ratings should be ringing alarm bells at MediaWorks.

Simulcasting the TV3 show with RadioLive is a bold experiment and chief executive Mark Weldon deserves credit for taking a commercial risk. But the TV show has had a dismal start and there are no immediate signs that the risk is paying off.

Read also: Tough calls coming for TV3's Mark Jennings

The show's best hopes must be in radio. After years in which it marked time with Marcus Lush in the morning on RadioLive, MediaWorks Radio is finally taking on ZB's Mike Hosking and National Radio in the morning.

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We won't know until the next radio ratings in September whether Paul Henry is having an impact, but even if the broadcaster does make a difference, it will be a long haul.

Newstalk ZB is a powerful brand, especially in Auckland, and the signs are that Henry is a niche product. The added complication is that the need to cater to TV undermines the radio side of things, and that both offer a similar, conservative "pull up your socks" message that has limited mileage with the young.

Paul Henry's TV ratings are abysmal - especially in its target market. Last week the show attracted an average of 13,600 viewers in the 25-54 age group. TV3 found out with Sunrise - its failed morning TV experiment from October 2007 to April 2010 - that the breakfast TV audience is tiny.

Breakfast is dominant among those people who do watch TV in the morning, and there is no guarantee that there is a mass audience wanting to follow Henry.

Breakfast is better resourced, slicker, and attracts three times as many viewers.

It's not my cup of tea, but in comparison the Henry TV show feels tepid and 10 years out of date. Henry can't let loose with his usual arsenal of manufactured outrage, lest it frighten off his already-tiny TV audience.

The additional costs for the TV part of the broadcast are not overwhelming, but you wonder if it is undermining Henry's chance of making a fist of the radio show.

Fairfax shakeup hits 180 staff

180 roles will be disestablished with the company, and 160 people have been told to reapply for their jobs, suggesting a net loss of 20 positions.
180 roles will be disestablished with the company, and 160 people have been told to reapply for their jobs, suggesting a net loss of 20 positions.

As many as 180 editorial jobs are up in the air after Fairfax Media NZ meetings with staff yesterday.

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That is about a quarter of its 700 editorial staff.

The 180 roles will be disestablished, and 160 people have been told to reapply for their jobs, suggesting a net loss of 20 positions - though Fairfax has not spelt things out in such detail.

It is the latest round of restructuring at Fairfax, which dominates the newspaper market south of Taupo and whose titles include the Sunday Star-Times, Dominion Post, Waikato Times and the Press.

Read also: 160 Fairfax staff asked to re-apply for jobs

All traditional media companies are being hit by upheaval, given changes in the way people consume media, fragmentation of the audience and as advertisers consider digital media. But Fairfax - especially its Australian operation - has appeared the hardest hit.

The company delivered an obtuse statement after yesterday's meetings and accentuated claims that the new structure would be more efficient, but avoided addressing the potential loss of positions.

Sinead Boucher, group executive editor at Fairfax Media, says under the latest restructuring, teams in its proposed "Modern Newsroom" structure would be digital-centric and built around audiences and content - not specific products or mastheads.

"The proposal is not about reducing headcount. We are boosting our reporting capability in small and large communities, and by streamlining our print-focused production processes, increasing the ratio of content creators from just over half to almost two thirds."

Fairfax spokeswoman Emma Carter said: "We're actually proposing to boost the number of reporters across the country through the new structure, and there is no headcount reduction overall."

The latest New Zealand moves coincide with a report from across the Tasman, in Fairfax's own Australian Financial Review, which last week tipped another round of editorial layoffs at Melbourne's Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. Formally, the company has said there are no current proposals for cutbacks.

The ABC media programme Media Watch has detailed a series of problems at Fairfax publications, including the same stories being run twice in key mastheads such as the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Illawarra Mercury in Wollongong.

All media companies are initiating big changes to develop new business plans. Over at NZME., publisher of the Herald, there has been a raft of appointments to digital roles, alongside the convergence of the print and radio businesses.

Central to that NZME. convergence will be NZME. Radio and the Herald vacating their separate buildings and moving into new premises in Victoria St West.

Senior editorial changes at the Herald include the pending departure of editor in chief Tim Murphy, who is being replaced by Shayne Currie, and the promotion of Herald on Sunday editor Miriyana Alexander, who has taken over as editor of the Weekend Herald as well.

Associate editor Jeremy Rees is leaving NZME. to manage community papers at Fairfax.

Alongside convergence, and the ubiquitous focus on digital media, the big question remains the future of a paywall for nzherald.co.nz, to boost revenue and reduce the dependence on advertising.

Meanwhile, at MediaWorks, it is understood that Oaktree Capital management has boosted its former 77.8 per cent stake and now has 100 per cent, though MediaWorks declined to confirm the change and Companies Office records had not been updated.

But it is understood that the internal purchase does not trigger substantial payouts to the board and the chief executive, Mark Weldon.

MediaWorks is implementing a strategic change at the same time that it is being prepared for sale - complicated by some shambolic administration of its news and current affairs operation. Oaktree, and indeed, potential future buyers, will be unconcerned by scuttlebutt about low morale among staff under the current regime, at least as long as viewer numbers are stable.

But the debacle over the axing of Campbell Live is damaging. A lot rests on the performance of high-cost local initiatives such as Dancing with the Stars, MasterChef and a new drama set for 5.30pm.

MediaWorks radio operations remain a safe port in a storm. The company that will be marketed for sale - be it through an initial public offering or a trade sale - will be essentially a radio operation with a bit of TV added on. But investors might also be concerned about the drastic loss of institutional knowledge at the TV operation.

(The Herald is owned by NZME., which owns Newstalk ZB.)

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