Fairfax's NZ arm has announced it will close or sell 28 mastheads.

Stuff today briefed staff on plans to reduce its portfolio of smaller community and rural titles.

About 60 staff could be affected.

A statement says the company is working through the detailed plans for each individual title. Further briefings with staff and communities will be held over the coming weeks.


"We appreciate that this process creates a level of uncertainty for some people - and we will move as quickly as possible to provide them with clarity," Stuff CEO Sinead Boucher said.

The company will continue to focus on its digital platforms, Stuff and Neighbourly as well as its various new ventures to drive revenue.

"The Stuff business is delivering strong digital revenue growth, benefiting from the growth of our new business ventures," said Boucher.

"This is providing some offset to ongoing print advertising challenges, however we need to continue to act decisively in transitioning our business model into an increasingly digital business."

Fairfax's New Zealand media revenue fell 4.5 percent to $160 million in the six months ended Dec. 31, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation sank 24 percent to $20.7 million. Of that, print advertising sales dropped 15 percent to $77.2 million, while print subscriptions slipped 4.3 percent to $48.8 million. Digital revenue jumped 33 percent to $24.2 million.

"We have enormous confidence that Stuff is heading towards sustained growth as its digital business continues its strong momentum," Hywood said in a statement. "We have acted decisively to bring this forward, and are announcing today a plan to exit around 35 percent of our New Zealand print publications through sale or closure.

"The rationalisation of these smaller community titles and free inserts will deliver additional ebitda contribution over a full year and bring forward the time when increases in digital revenue outweigh declines in print."

Fairfax has written down its New Zealand mastheads to just $175.2 million as at June 30, 2017 from as much as $1.12 billion when the one-time Australian family-owned media group purchased the Kiwi business from Rupert Murdoch's Independent Newspapers Ltd in 2003.


Fairfax group chief executive Greg Hywood has been a fan of the New Zealand division's shift to a digital business, highlighting the strength of Stuff's user base and the potential offered by the Neighbourly website, which it took full ownership of in November.

Fairfax had planned to merge its New Zealand business with NZME, but was blocked by the Commerce Commission over fears the resulting public interest loss of media diversity outweighed the economic benefits of the deal. That decision was upheld by the High Court, although the media companies have since sought leave to contest that decision in the Court of Appeal.

The Australian company recognised another A$247,000 impairment charge on the New Zealand unit's intangibles, investments and property, plant and equipment, and wore redundancy and restructuring charges of A$3.7 million in the half. It also booked a A$129,000 gain on controlled entities and investments, Fairfax's accounts show.

Stuff's decline in first-half earnings included a $3.6 million provision for recalculating its Holidays Act entitlements, and investing $1.5 million in its Stuff Fibre telecommunications service. It also made a $2.6 million gain on the sale of an asset.

Fairfax's ASX-listed shares last traded at 66 Australian cents and have dropped 15 percent so far this year.

Full list of titles affected:

Waikato Farmer
Admire Marlborough
NZ Dairy Farmer
Discover Magazine
Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook
Admire Nelson
Hastings Mail
Christchurch Mail
Napier Mail
The Tribune
Kaikoura Star
Invercargill Eye
Auto Xtra
South Canterbury Herald
Clutha Leader
Waiheke Marketplace
Wairarapa News
Queenstown Mirror
NZ Farmer
Waitaki Herald
Canterbury Farmer
North Waikato News
Central District Farmer
Rotorua Review
Otago Southland Farmer
Ruapehu Press

- Additional reporting by BusinessDesk.