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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
01/10/18 10:29

There is no more Fairplay in shipping…

After 135 years of publication, the famous weekly magazine ceases its activity

“Fairplay magazine and will cease publication in the last quarter of 2018, following a reorganisation of business information provider IHS Markit’s maritime media unit. The flagship maritime title, which targets a shipowner and ship manager audience, has been in publication since 1883. The restructured business unit will be organised around sister brands Safety at Sea and Dredging and Port Construction” was the official announcement made by the publisher.

The final edition of Fairplay will be published on 6 December; online publication will cease in the last week of November.

According to Stuart Strachan, senior vice-president, Maritime and Trade, at IHS Markit, “despite great improvement in the editorial product in the past three years, a very competitive market and the challenges of print as a medium were behind the decision to close Fairplay. Notwithstanding investment and concerted efforts to build an online community and maritime events, we have been unable to generate growing circulation, subscription, and event revenues. Not unlike many print-based brands, we haven’t gained sufficient traction with these efforts” he admitted.

 “It’s been a pleasure to work with such a talented and dedicated group of people and I take immense pride in some of our recent projects – Accomplished Women in Maritime and Tonnage Titans – as well as our biweekly print edition, which I believe is one of the strongest in the industry” Fairplay executive editor Nicola Good said additionally.

Fairplay is a weekly news magazine devoted to the international merchant shipping industry, delivering “content tailored for its core audience of ship owners, managers, operators and charterers”, that was founded by Thomas Hope Robinson in 1883 - and has been in continual publication ever since - after he had lost his money at the stock exchange, as he tried a new carreer as publisher, by starting the weekly magazine with borrowed money.

His intention was to “speak out, loud and bold for the shipowner, as an advocate, not a judge”; in fact in the first issue, to justify such an original title, he wrote: "There is so little Fairplay in the world. If our own efforts succeed, we shall have taken the first steps towards promoting the habit of calling things by their right name and looking at them through uncoloured spectacles."

His enterprise was successful and could soon increase size and revenue.

In 1912, the publisher's son Gordon Hope Robinson took over and Fairplay stayed a family business until 1973, when it was taken over by the Financial Times group.

The company began publishing directories in the 1960s and data management became a sector of growing importance, resulting in the 1964 cooperation with International Shipping Information Services, which became FIRS, Fairplay International Research and Statistics

A management buy-out in 1979, one of the first in the UK, transferred ownership to Prime Publications, led by John Prime, which improved the data management sector by storing information in databases and started to sell directories on CD-Rom in the 1990s.

As a matter of fact, Fairplay was the first maritime publication to start an internet and email daily news service, in 1996. Its data management activities led to a joint venture with Lloyd's Register in 2001, known as Lloyd's Register–Fairplay Ltd (LRFairplay). This new enterprise was then the sole provider of IMO numbers.

Next years saw several acquisitions of other companies and in 2004 a partnership with HITT NV of the Netherlands, which created AISLive, a broadcast system for tracking vessel movements. Fairplay was acquired by IHS in 2008, including 50% of LRFairplay, and the corporation also bought Lloyd's Register's 50% share of that maritime data business in 2009.

In 2011, the publication company was renamed IHS Fairplay, focusing in the weekly magazine in print, a digital edition, a daily email newsletter, and the monthly magazine Solutions. Additionally, Fairplay's website used to provide up-to-date news and information for subscribers. The organisation is based in Coulsdon, UK, has offices in America, Singapore, Sweden and a network of correspondents worldwide, even though one could say that its decline began to start when, under the new US property some ten years ago, the published asked all its long standing stringers to sign an exclusive contract of cooperation which actually would tread on any free lance journalist’s standard rights. In response to such a sort of ‘blackmail’ proposed deal, almost 90% of its correspondents from all over the world quit Fairplay, and as a straight consequence, the previous worldwide coverage of news that has been one of the ace cards of the magazine, started to languish.

Angelo Scorza