July 1st, 2019 marks Day One for the old Fairfax mastheads of the Bay Post, Moruya Examiner and Narooma News as they officially come under new ownership joined by the 170 or so Australian Community Media (ACM) titles that were sold off by 9NINE to former Fairfax executive Antony Catalano and ASX-listed Thorney Investment Group for $115 million. Over recent months we have witnessed changes to these three mastheads that has seen a 'cloning' of the papers and their websites to carry the same story or editorial across the region resulting in what many consider to be a dilution of local news. Traditional readers of the Narooma News and Moruya Examiner now often complain of the predominance of Batemans Bay news in their paper and remember fondly when they had their own local editors who bought to the town its very own local news delivered with a distinctly local flavour. It is also often observed that the old mastheads seem to have merged into one paper and that the printed papers that were once 20 to 30 pages "have become so thin you can barely line a bird cage with them" and that they appear to function as a delivery device for Domain and catalogues whilst appearing to have "sold their soul" to wrap-around advertising covers for the latest deals on telephones. The lead-up edition of the Bay Post to the last Federal Election that saw its mocked up front page (below) delivered to newsstands as 'headline' bought outrage to many readers who believe that while it might be "business" it crossed the line of their expectations their local masthead
With the South Coast Register, the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner and the Bega News websites now behind a paywall savvy local "readers", looking to stay up to date, are going to the Narooma News, Merimbula News or Eden Magnet to read the same content for free. It is not known if this free-read "backdoor" will remain under new ownership as it will impinge on their profits. Only time will tell. It has also be noted that there is a higher propensity for the mastheads to carry more 'national' advertising, most likely as a result of more substantial contracts able to promise widespread distribution across the ACM portfolio. Such measures only serve to further restrict the available space for the promotion of local business now driven to social media in a hope of exposure at affordable rates. On a positive note according to Voice of Real Australia July 1st, 2019 the ACM boss Allen Williams told staff "The stage is now set for a bright and independent future and we will be working closely with our new owners to build on the enormous strengths we have as a business." "While our ownership has changed, our values as a business will remain the same. We will be open to new opportunities but mindful of the responsibility we have to readers and advertisers in every state and territory. We will be innovative and we will be nimble. But we will never forget that the strength of our business is in the deep ties we have to our communities."