Fairfax will not be betting on economic bounce: Hywood

Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said there has been no pick-up in business sentiment since the federal election, underscoring comments by Australia's top retailers that hopes of a post-election rise in conditions are yet to materialise.

Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood said there has been no pick-up in business sentiment since the federal election, underscoring comments by Australia's top retailers that hopes of a post-election rise in conditions are yet to materialise.

But he said Fairfax, publisher of the Herald, would not rely on fleeting improvements in sentiment as it shifts focus from print to digital.

"I think it's pretty clear that there hasn't been a post-election bounce in the economy," Mr Hywood said on Friday. "We see it, everyone sees it."

This week, Pacific Brands chief executive John Pollaers said it was going to take time for any post-election rise in consumer confidence to translate into sales.

Richard Goyder, managing director of Wesfarmers, said sales spiked in the week after the election but quickly returned to subdued levels.

Mr Hywood told an American Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne that Fairfax remained on a conservative footing and was not betting on a post-election bounce.

"We've seen structural change in our business and we're absolutely managing the worst-case scenario and, if there's some benefit from the cycle, we'll take that," he said.

Mr Hywood said four months after online subscriptions were introduced for The Age and the Herald, the sites had 80,000 subscribers - an increase on an initial figure of 68,000.

In a speech titled "The Pleasure and the Pain", Mr Hywood detailed significant changes at the company he joined in 1976 as a reporter at The Australian Financial Review.

At the time, Saturday papers were stuffed with advertisements for jobs, cars and homes. Now, Fairfax was "rebuilding its business model" by taking out 25 per cent of costs over a number of years, charging for online content and focusing on growth in custom publishing, events and marketing for small and medium-sized enterprises.

"Here's a business that was a newspaper business and, for many years, created a digital output," he said. "Now we're a 24/7 digital news and information business that happens to produce a newspaper.

"We provide a public good within a commercial model. We ask the questions that need to be asked."

Mr Hywood described recent coverage of Leighton Holdings, the Reserve Bank's Securency business and disgraced former NSW politician Eddie Obeid as stories that "did not come about from a press release".

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