What’s left of AAP will be called Mediality

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 20 July 2020

The parts of AAP (Australian Associated Press) left after the sale of the national newswire will be called Mediality.

The new company will house contract editing unit Pagemasters, turf data business Racing, press release distribution service Medianet, media analysis unit Mediaverse and Directories from August 4.

Mediality will have a headcount of about 130, with 95 of them full-time roles.

“We are all part of a new beginning for these operations: a profitable group that will harness the entrepreneurial spirit of our small business heritage,” Bruce Davidson, the CEO and the former chief executive of the combined AAP group, told staff in an email.

The name, Mediality, popped into Davidson’s head while walking in the Sydney CBD. It turns out the name has meaning in the industry -- a new approach in the discussion of media.

Mediality is owned by AAP’s former shareholders -- News Corp, Nine Entertainment, West Australian Newspapers and Australian Community Media -- and will be governed by a board of directors from News and Nine.

“The board has made it clear to me that they want us to further expand and develop our operations into highly successful, sustainable and profitable businesses in the coming years,” says Davidson.

The shareholders had originally planned to shutter the whole of AAP on the grounds that the newswire could no longer compete with information on the internet.

The plan was to sell the profitable business units, including Medianet, to fund redundancies at AAP.

However, there was strong interest in the newswire as a stand alone entity. This was sold to a consortium of "philanthropists and impact investors" for an undisclosed sum.

The sale of the newswire, which closes at the end of this month, changed the dynamic. Essentially, the shareholders turned a cost centre -- where they had to pay for a news service -- into a revenue generating business from what was left. 

However, each shareholder now has to find a way to replace the news provided by AAP. News Corp has built its own internal newswire service which it is reportedly going to offer for sale on the open market, a competitor to the new AAP newswire.

Davidson says the break up of AAP is another indicator of deep changes in the media, including many regional and community titles ceasing printing and going digital.

“It was finally decided early this year by the shareholders that it was a better result for them to take control of their own content,” Davidson told AdNews.

The newswire didn’t look sustainable when 60% of revenue was pulled out of it by the shareholders, the biggest media groups in Australia.

“Now somebody has come along and, their own admission, the only way they can make that work is through philanthropy in the short term,” says Davidson.

At the new Mediality, operations will move to News Corp’s Surry Hills building from Rhodes. In Melbourne, the business will stay at the HWT Tower but in a smaller area.

The executive management team: Davidson as CEO, Michael O’Connell (managing director), Sarah Higgins (Medianet), Phil McLean (Mediality Racing), Antony Phillips (Pagemasters), Matt Rylands (financial controller) and Tim Mansour (IT manager).

Most finance, IT, HR and legal functions will be outsourced.

The Pagemasters sub-editing business, started by Davidson in 1991 and sold to AAP in 2002, has shrunk with the loss of News Corp and Pacific Magazines contracts.

However, it still has TV/entertainment/finance page ready and comment moderation businesses.

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