AT A time when much of the media is contracting, one outfit, Eric Beecher's Private Media, is expanding. Its latest title, Women's Agenda, will be launched today.
Aimed at career-minded women who want to keep their finger on the workplace pulse, the free online magazine will be the seventh to emerge from the Private Media stable as it eyes audiences and communities that it says have been abandoned or ignored by mainstream media.
With a target of between 100,000 and 200,000 women readers a month, Women's Agenda will be Private Media's second-largest title after Crikey and help drive its overall footprint of readers closer to 1 million a month. Crikey, which Mr Beecher bought from Stephen Mayne, was the foundation of his business.
Another title is in the pipeline, Crikey is to be relaunched next month, and the group is exploring ways to charge readers for bolt-on services, said its chief executive, Amanda Gome.
Emboldened by a recent investment by an unnamed private equity company it is part of the company’s drive for growth. But, says Ms Gome, that does not mean it is selling. ”We have great ambitions and plan to keep growing. We also see huge opportunity with the changing media landscape. We are pure attackers with no print legacy to defend so we are very excited about the future,” she says.
For the past two years the business has been “comfortably profitable” and despite a tough advertising market, gross revenues grew by 20 per cent this year to around $6 million in FY 12. “And while the existing business remains profitable we expect a small loss due to the funding cost of new launches" says Gome who is now an investor in the business alongside Beecher, a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. It currently employs 60 staff, of which half are journalists, based in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
Since June 2011 it has launched The Power Index, LeadingCompany and Property Observer and now Women’s Agenda.
Access to Private Media's sites - with the exception of Crikey - will remain free, said Ms Gome, who views the erection of paywalls around some media sites with some scepticism.
She says readers are not prepared to pay for news that has been commoditised.
''If you look at the audience of the Herald Sun, the majority of them are not going to pay for news. You have to match the audience with the product,'' she said.
She has much the same view of Fairfax Media's chances when it puts paywalls around parts of its news websites next year.
''I think that the number of people who will be prepared to pay will be small and that is going to affect their overall numbers and their advertising proposition,'' she said.
Private Media's websites are tightly targeted at distinct audiences - the wealthiest 20 per cent of households in the country - and have a distinct role. SmartCompany is aimed at the small business market, Property Observer at the property investor and Women's Agenda at the nation's career women.
Its Sydney-based publisher, Marina Go, says it will provide a more focused approach to giving advice to those women, which is currently not on off on the web or in print. There would also be significant cross promotion to drive traffic.
‘‘Our readers are busy and they don’t really want to have to wade through all of that generalist stuff to get to what they need,’’ Ms Go says.
Almost half of the audiences across Private Media sites are women and there will be significant cross promotion to drive traffic.
She said the internet is going down the same path as magazines, which started with generalist, mass-market titles only to fragment into smaller, special-interest titles.
As the mainstream media retreats from some areas of journalism, Private Media goes forth, though not always with predictable results.
Power Index, a website fronted by the veteran reporter Paul Barry with a mission to write about the rich and powerful has met with a muted reception. While it might be filling a void left by newspapers, which are devoting less resources to investigations, at 40,000 unique browsers a month Ms Gome acknowledges it has not been as commercially successful as some of its other titles.
As a result it will be more closely integrated into Crikey from next month but will remain as a separate brand. ‘‘It’s an exercise in journalism that is examining who is running Australia,’’ she said.