Fairfax marketing chief to exit in September

Fairfax CMO, Michael Laxton, resigns from his post after nearly four years with the ASX-listed media company and ahead of the proposed merger of Fairfax with Nine

Michael Laxton
Michael Laxton

Fairfax’s chief marketing officer, Michael Laxton, will step down from the role in September after nearly four years with the ASX-listed media giant.

The news comes as Fairfax prepares to undertake one of the biggest mergers in Australia’s media history, joining forces with the Nine network in a deal valuing the combined and integrated firm at $4.2 billion.

Announced on 26 July, the merger encompasses Nine’s free-to-air television network, a portfolio of high-growth digital businesses, including Domain, Stan and 9Now, as well as Fairfax’s mastheads such as The Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age, plus radio interests through Macquarie Media. The deal sees Nine acquire all Fairfax shares under a scheme of arrangement, subject to required approvals.

CMO can confirm Laxton will officially finish up at Fairfax on 28 September. During his 18-month tenure as first chief marketing officer, he has spearheaded the transformation of marketing’s role to oversee the entire customer experience across all consumer and advertiser touchpoints, a Fairfax first.

One of his biggest achievements has been transforming the subscriptions process, conversion and retention funnel at Fairfax, work that resulted in 2017 full-year subscriptions revenue climbing 21 per cent year-on-year across all mastheads.  

Other milestones include driving innovative and collaborative initiatives to encourage cross-functional work across the organisation, and spearheading a customer lifecycle-led, always-on approach to marketing and engagement across the media group’s iconic mastheads. Laxton was also responsible for introducing Net Promoter Score and a range of personalised elements to customer journeys.

It’s these achievements that saw Laxton recognised as one of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders both 2016 and 2017 editions of the CMO50 list. He oversees a marketing function of 32 staff including six direct reports.

Prior to joining Fairfax as director of digital marketing and SEO for news, life and events, Laxton was head of online and CRM at fashion retailer, General Pants Group. He started his marketing career in the UK at Kurt Geiger, Virgin and Warner Music before relocating to Australia.

CMO can also confirm Fairfax has appointed Australian Metro Publishing chief of staff, David Eisman, to oversee the subscriptions business in an interim capacity. It is understood there are no plans to recruit another CMO at this stage.

As a personal statement, Laxton said he was proud of his achievements at Fairfax and said it was time to move to the next challenge.

"Public good journalism has always been a passion of mine and I was proud to reestablish Fairfax’s iconic brands as editorial-first, customer-centric platforms that leveraged innovative marketing practices and put digital at the heart of everything we did," he stated.

"After four years this transformation has been more successful than I could ever have imagined. Doubling paying digital subscribers to over 313,000, with more people reading – and paying for our content – than ever. A 30 per cent growth in digital subscription revenue and building a core revenue stream for Fairfax. And the multi award-winning repositioning of our hero mastheads: ‘Independent News For Independent Thinkers’ for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and ‘The Daily Habit Of Successful People’ for The Australian Financial Review.

"I wish the marketing, editorial and product teams the very best in continuing to grow the subscriptions business."

Meanwhile, the controversial and significant Fairfax/Nine merger has been referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), with a decision on whether it will approve or block the deal due in November.

Several across the industry are calling on the industry watchdog to block the merger, stating it threatens media diversity and impacts the ability for Australians to access quality independent journalism.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), for example, suggests the merger is bad for Australian democracy and diversity of voices in what is already one of the most concentrated media markets in the world.

Read more: 4 reactions to Fairfax-Nine media shake-up

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

 


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