Where newspapers sit in the bigger picture

how mass is the medium 10.13.pptx 6


While the numbers will be somewhat different in New Zealand, the message is clear. Just three years after the first modern tablets went on sale, they are almost as popular as printed newspapers.

Newspapers still make plenty of money. I suspect that for every dollar spent on advertising to New Zealand tablet users at least ten times that amount is spent on newspaper ads.


Subscriptions, not paywalls

Karen Fratti thinks publishers need to stop using the word ‘paywall’ to describe ways online sites charge readers. She prefers we talk about subscriptions.

Fratti writes:

 let’s stop talking about putting up walls to keep people out. The paywall has only led to griping from consumers who’ve reached their monthly article limit, and unique ways to get around them. We’re wordsmiths, we know words matter, and ‘paywall’ is another relic of the old media-new media debate. Knock it off.

I agree with Fratti on this, rightly or wrongly paywall makes me think of the watch towers and armed guard that patrolled central Berlin during the Cold War. The paywall is the new media’s equivalent of Cold War thinking.

Can’t We All Just Subscribe? Why ‘Paywalls’ Won’t Get Us Anywhere – 10,000 Words.

Once were newspaper readers

After hearing Newsweek lost 51% of its print circulation in the space of just five years London-based digital media blogger Martin Belam looked at UK newspaper performance. He found the British market declined 27% over the same period.

How do New Zealand newspapers compare?

I went to the Audio Bureau of Circulation and found comparable numbers for the three large daily metro papers and the two main Sunday papers. This is not a direct comparison, The Herald on Sunday was just getting started in 2007 and that had a big impact on its direct rival The Sunday Star-Times.

During the five-year period the five big New Zealand papers collectively shed 16% of their readers.

The biggest loser was the Sunday Star Times down 28%, while the Herald on Sunday increased its circulation by 11%. The Dominion-Post is down 19% while the New Zealand Herald and the Christchurch Press are down just 15%.

Among these titles Fairfax newspapers lost ground to APN titles.

So, for now at least, New Zealand’s newspapers are holding up relatively well.

Trialing the new NZ Herald print edition

You can’t blame the NZ Herald for trying. Over the last few weeks we’ve had a free trial subscription to the paper’s print edition. Each morning a copy arrives in our letter box before breakfast.

As the paper’s headline writers might say: the Herald is a blast from the past.

For most of my life I’ve had a daily newspaper – for most of my adult life I’ve worked on daily newspapers, that’s another story.

We got out of the daily paper habit after moving back to Auckland. One reason is we get our news online. Another reason is the NZ Herald is, well, not a great paper. Not awful, just not great.

In Australia we had the Sydney Morning Herald and either The Australian or The Financial Review. In Wellington we had the pre-merger Dominion. In London it was The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. All of them packed with good reading material.

My free trial subscription to the print edition of the NZ Herald ends today. I won’t renew.

There are good journalists working for the NZ Herald. But not enough interesting, readable material to make it worth paying for.

We found we like the weekday paper more than the weekend editions. Whatever the Herald says, the paper has moved downmarket since moving to a tabloid format (for some reason the Herald is keen to describe its size as ‘compact’ and not tabloid). There’s too much celebrity nonsense, a lot of silly filler material and not enough serious news. Sadly there’s little intelligent comment.

I can read the world’s best papers, the ones I named above, plus the New York Times online each day. Better still I can get the best stuff from the NZ Herald free on my iPad.

Would I pay for an iPad subscription? That depends on the price. Anything more than $100 a year would be too much.

News stories with tech industry statistics mainly rubbish

Here’s a tip from an old newspaper hand: Don’t take stories about consumer technology surveys seriously.

They are rarely real news. Most are just second-rate marketing dressed up as information.

University of Auckland biostatistics professor Thomas Lumley rightly points out misgivings about a New Zealand Herald story: “Young Kiwis among most savvy web users” .

As he says, the story is based on a survey of 4400 respondents in 11 countries. Even if the sample is completely random – that’s unlikely – the margin of error for comparing any two countries is 7%.

So when the people behind the survey use their results to reach conclusions about the relative habits of web users in various countries they are drawing a very long bow.

It was ever thus.

I’ve written about technology for 32 years. In that time I’ve seen hundreds of spurious surveys sent out by public relations companies in a blatant attempt to get their clients into the news pages.

The worst offenders are security software companies wanting to whip up paranoia to sell their latest snake oil.

To be fair, it isn’t just security software companies, or just technology companies. You’ll find all kinds of rubbish in the newspaper masquerading as research. I’ve probably been responsible for some in my time.

Just remember to take this stuff with a pinch of salt.

Fairfax to go digital-only

Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood says the media company will move to a digital-only model.

Hywood doesn’t put a date on it but says the move will be in the future and only if print becomes unprofitable.

This makes perfect sense even if there’s little evidence of other newspaper publishers making a successful move to digital. Media companies have little choice, either shrink to a digital core and hope the mastheads continue to carry weight, or hang around for the inevitable day when the presses stop running.

Of course, anyone reading this site will have known that was true a decade ago.

Hywood says Fairfax’s digital strategy is ahead of the company’s competitors and ahead of most traditional media companies around the world. He is only part right. Fairfax’s most serious competition comes from media companies that were born digital.

Speaking of businesses born digital, I wonder about Fairfax’s strategy in the light of its part sale of the TradeMe auction site. If I was in Hywood’s shoes TradeMe would sit at the core of my business. By now there would an Australian TradeMe. And I’d junk those crappy low-value Google ads on Fairfax sites and link to TradeMe auctions instead.

AdNews: Fairfax will shift to digital-only model.