Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media is targeting Australia’s “mainstream middle” with its new evening digital newspaper, backed by a major advertising deal with Australia’s richest woman, mining billionaire Gina Rinehart.
The Nightly has poached a number of current and former senior News Corp staff for its launch at the end of this month as it looks to challenge the Murdoch-controlled company’s stronghold on Australia’s east coast.
Paired with a website, it will publish a free digital newspaper each evening, with a spokesperson for Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting confirming the company’s involvement as a major advertiser, to provide some security for the publication’s launch in an increasingly challenged ad market.
A senior staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly, said the new venture’s target market would be the “mainstream middle”, in particular readers of The Australian and The Australian Financial Review.
Led by editor-in-chief of West Australian Newspapers Anthony De Ceglie and headquartered from the offices of The West Australian, The Nightly will take a different approach to the company’s 7News website.
An advertising pitch deck touted a focus on politics, policy, business, and culture.
Alongside De Ceglie, The West Australian business editor Sarah-Jane Tasker has been appointed editor, while former editor-in-chief of The Australian Chris Dore, who left News Corp a year ago after allegedly making lewd comments to a woman at a company event, has joined as senior political columnist.
The Saturday Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph associate editor Sarah Blake takes up the role of chief correspondent, with Daily Telegraph associate editor Matthew Quagliotto joining in the same position.
Investigative journalist Kristin Shorten from The Australian, formerNews.com.au culture writer Wenlei Ma and The West Australian’s chief of staff Kate Phillips and sports editor Ben McLellan are also on board.
Headquartered in Perth, the launch team totals around 12 staff, with half in Sydney, while The Nightly will also lean on content from across all of Seven’s newsrooms, this masthead was told.
Stokes wields unrivalled influence in Western Australia due to his media company’s clout, and the 83-year-old is now turning his sights to the eastern cities where his television network, Seven, is one of the major players.
“Kerry supports it quite passionately,” another figure with knowledge of the launch commented, again on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
A former deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph, De Ceglie joined The West in 2019, subsequently taking the paper toward a tabloid model and achieving an increase in readership. The paper has been compared to The Daily Telegraph – Perth is the only one of Australia’s five biggest cities without a Murdoch masthead.
The launch will see an evening digital newspaper replica published similar to this masthead’s Today’s Paper edition. The Nightly sources believe the approach can replicate sales generated from print advertising.
“Our lives have never been busier and human behaviour has changed as a result. Your mornings are chaotic and your “me time” is now at night,” a pitch deck quotes De Ceglie. “But that time is still precious and The Nightly helps you spend it wisely.”
The late-February launch will be into a particularly challenged digital advertising market, with revenues and traffic down as global platform Facebook shifts news away from its algorithms, as highlighted by News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson on Thursday.
Across the 2023 calendar year, industry-wide digital news publishing advertising fell by 8.8 per cent compared to the year prior, while newspaper advertising dropped a further 17.3 per cent, according to Standard Media Index.
A spokesman for Hancock Prospecting declined to confirm further details on the commercial deal following speculation the company had underwritten the launch of the project, but did confirm it would advertise in The Nightly.
In October, Seven West Media launched a new local sports broadcasting platform, Streamer, with the help from name partner BHP.
Hancock Prospecting upped its advertising spend in the second half of 2023 with Seven’s Perth-based publishing division, with Roy Hill the name partner in The West’s 190th anniversary celebrations, also sponsoring an editorial and video series.
In June, De Ceglie wrote a two-page editorial in The Sunday Times after Rinehart was awarded West Australian of the Year, saying the east coast of Australia had “always been jealous of the eventual rise-and-rise of Mrs Rinehart”.
“How she transformed Hancock Prospecting through astute business decisions and deal-making is now the stuff of legend.”
The Nightly has also secured deals with The New York Times and The Economist to republish content in its editions.
Seven declined to comment.
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