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New Zealand’s technology press is well past its peak oil moment but there’s still life left.

Once there were more than 20 active locally published print titles covering computers and related technologies. At the top of the market, the collective circulation of these titles would have run to more than 400,000. Today the total circulation of local technology titles is under 100,000. Some titles have gone to the great recycle bin in the sky. Others, particularly those serving smaller niches, have now switched to online-only publication. Others may follow.

We’ll look at the online titles in a separate post later, but for now here’s a master list of the main specialist technology publications published in New Zealand:

ComputerWorld New Zealand

A weekly information technology newspaper, it frequently breaks local news stories before mainstream newspapers. The print edition is in tabloid format. ComputerWorld is mainly read by senior technology executives and other people who work with IT. The title has been printed in New Zealand for more than 20 years.

ComputerWorld is now the dominant specialist IT news publication in New Zealand.

New Zealand PC World

A monthly A4 magazine mainly sold on bookstands, in supermarkets and petrol stations. PC World is read by technical types who get to choose or heavily influence the products they use at work and home. Contains reviews and how to features. Coverage is largely focused on personal aspects of computing. Includes some games and consumer electronics material. The August edition featured the recently introduced 3G iPhone on the cover – a sign that PC World had moved way beyond just covering conventional desktop computers.

For more information see: PC World

New Zealand Reseller News

Fortnightly tabloid newspaper for people who sell and otherwise work in the IT channel. Has strong news focus with emphasis on business and people stories long with regular advice features and commentary. Now more than ten years old. New Zealand Reseller News is only sent to qualified readers (i.e. people who work in the IT channel)  who have requested the publication. In recent months Reseller has broadened its coverage to include more product related stories.

CIO New Zealand

Influential A4 magazine focusing on the business and strategic aspects of large-scale IT. Mainly feature based. Read by the people who make corporate buying decisions in large organisations. Published since 1999. Has a strong, active community with a comprehensive events program.

Gear Guide

PC World spin-off now on its second edition, essentially a buyers’ guide for home computer products and consumer electronics. A4 magazine format sold on bookstands.

Tone

Good-looking monthly A4 bookstand magazine covering home entertainment, technology and hi-fi. Heavy product focus, i.e. mainly contains product reviews and product-related features. Technology content is relatively minor compared to Tone’s consumer electronics coverage.

The Channel

Monthly A4 magazine for the IT channel. Feature-driven, lots of guides and “how to” stories. Now two years old.  Distributed to people working in ‘the IT channel’. Much of the content is paid ‘advertorial’. Tends to run pages of photographs from events without identifying the people.

iStart: Quarterly A4 magazine for “business and IT managers needing to improve their business with technology.” Mainly contains paid-for case studies. Has appeared on bookstands in the past, but the print edition doesn’t appear to be on sale any more (can anyone confirm this?).

New Zealand Netguide

Monthly A5 bookstand magazine aimed at less-technical readers. As the name suggests the publication largely covers Internet-related stories, but it also has product reviews and some games coverage. Recently sold by ACP Media to Action Media.

Telecommunications Review

According to the web site’s subscription’s page, the print edition of Telecommunications Review will return in May or June 2008. At the time of writing, this hasn’t happened. When Telecommunications Review was previously published it was a monthly, glossy trade newspaper for people working in the industry and their more technically advanced customers — in practice, this meant pages of stories about Telecom New Zealand the dominant player in this market.

IT Brief:

A monthly A4 magazine of “peer-reviewed industry comment”. (Although some of the content appears to be written by public relations companies). It is aimed at senior business and IT executives within corporate, government and (sic) enterprise businesses.  Disclosure: I’ve only seen a photocopied version of this so far.

Interface:

Published eight times a year (twice each school term), Interface is an A4 magazine aimed at school teachers responsible for using computers and information technology in the classroom.

Actv8: A quarterly free magazine for school students. Distributed via schools and supported by the Ministry of Education. Actv8 promotes careers and higher education courses in technology-related areas. The stories are short and written for teenagers. The design is colourful and loose.

MyMobile: A monthly mobile phone buyers guide with reviews and articles on how to get the most from mobile phones. Sold on bookstands. A5 size.

Without fear or favour | The Australian.

Miriam Cosic writes in The Australian about journalist Nick Davies. He says more than half the news in Britain’s top five newspapers was generated by public relations companies or taken from wire services.

Davies is in Australia to promote his book Flat Earth News.

While this is a great background piece that makes me want to rush out and buy the book – I will look for it this afternoon – it paints a depressing picture of the state of journalism.

I’ve worked in the industry for almost thirty years. I can’t help but agree with Davies’ basic premise that today’s journalists are now expected to do a once-over-lightly job and rock the boat as little as possible.

Blame the large media companies

Davis points the finger of blame at the media corporations. This analysis can’t be separated from the widely reported decline of traditional news media.

Conventional thinking says people are moving away from newspapers, magazines and broadcast news because of the Internet. I believe the audiences would be declining even without the arrival of online news because news audiences are being turned off by the news media.

One aspect of this whole issue that was overlooked in The Australian story is that public relations companies now massively outgun newspapers in terms of personnel, expertise and experience.

This is particularly noticable in New Zealand. Here the newspapers appear to be largely staffed by young reporters in their 20s and early 30s while many of the brightest and best of the older generation are now employed by PR companies.

This post was updated at 20:00 on August 25.

Marketing communications – telling customers about your products and services – has two parts: advertising and publicity.

Advertising is straightforward. You pay money, the media company publishes or broadcasts your message. You control your message and its presentation.

Advertising is a commercial transaction.

Publicity is different

Publicity also costs money – plenty of businesses accept payment for promotional services .

With publicity you don’t usually pay the media to promote your message. And you have no say over timing, placement or presentation.

You can’t even be sure your message will run.

In theory, you get publicity when the story you tell is so compelling journalists and editors fall over themselves to publish it. Remember their idea of compelling isn’t the same as yours.

Editors need to give readers, viewers or listeners the hottest news, up-to-date information, the most relevant background features and the best stories. They also look for entertaining material to brighten their pages. They can be grumpy.

Editors are not your sales team

Editors don’t care whether their stories help you or your business if they are doing their job properly.

There are publications where this doesn’t apply.

A common misunderstanding about publicity is a press release is best way to get it. This is a pre-written version of the story you’d like to see in print. Press releases are usually written in a highly stylised format, containing the basic facts together with background.

Press releases can work. Usually they don’t.

Many go straight into the bin. And rightly so. That’s the place for rubbish. Press releases mainly exist because clients like them – they create an aura of useful media activity.

Press releases just part of the mix

Some of the best communications professionals – they may call themselves public relations consultants, press agents or something posh sounding like ‘media consul’ – will tell you press releases are only one, not particularly useful, strategy and account for a tiny fraction of their work.

We look at the press release mechanics elsewhere.

Publicity involves enticing the media to write or broadcast information about your company, product or services because you have something new, important, exciting or otherwise interesting to say.

The best way to do this is to call a journalist and tell them, quickly and concisely, just what your story is and why it may interest their readers. Like everything else in business, this is about forming the right relationships.

Media training

If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, get some media training or hire a press agent to call on your behalf. Good public relations professionals know who to call and how to pitch stories in a way that makes them more interesting to journalists or editors. They introduce you to the right people, set up face-to-face meetings or organise phone interviews and help you prepare for these.

Occasionally when you have something important to announce, you may want to hold a formal press conference or maybe host a less formal gathering of journalists for morning tea, lunch or afternoon cocktails. This kind of event works best when used sparingly, it isn’t always the best way of telling a story, but it is a great way to make or maintain contact.

PC World New Zealand has an ABC circulation of 15,565 and Nielsen readership figure of 148,000. That makes it New Zealand’s most-read specialist technology publication. Published monthly, in New Zealand that means 11 issues a year with a joint December and January edition.

In August 2006 Fairfax Business Media bought the New Zealand licence for PC World from IDG. In that year Fairfax acquired the bulk of IDG’s NZ business picking up four titles. IDG New Zealand sold two other titles; Unlimited and Actv8, to Infego under a separate agreement. IDG closed one title; Fast Forward.

Before August 2006 IDG published PC World. The had been published in New Zealand by IDG since 1989 when it was a tabloid supplement in ComputerWorld.

At the time of writing, PC World is typically 112 A4 colour pages. It is printed on gloss art paper, plus a cover on heavier stock. Advertising makes up about a quarter to a third of the pages. The magazine is perfect bound with a DVD disc which is inserted, not cover-mounted.

PC World New Zealand on bookstands

The magazine is mainly sold on bookstands with a cover price of NZ$8.90. This is competitive with larger, overseas published titles. You can also find the magazine in petrol stations and supermarkets. A significant number of readers are subscribers.

Most PC World readers are highly educated, well-heeled men. It occupies the same market niche as Australian Personal Computer, PC User and PC Authority. It has new product reviews, group tests, news features and plenty of how-to advice stories.

Typically well over half the editorial content is locally written. The overseas material is given a local slant and boosted with local information such as sidebars. PC World’s New Zealand staff and freelance journalists are highly regarded.

Strictly speaking PC World New Zealand doesn’t have any direct print competitors, its nearest local rival for readers and advertising revenue is ACP’s New Zealand NetGuide, but that title sells to less advanced users.

Two bloggers posted journalist perspectives on the power of blogs. Both are recent blogging converts. Both have worthwhile observations.

In why journalists must learn the values of the blogging revolution, The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade argues that in the past journalists were secular priests pontificating to the great unwashed. He says news was a one-way traffic. Blogging, with its built-in feedback mechanisms has turned that on its head.

Maybe. Here in New Zealand, there’s often plenty of negative feedback when you write something that somebody doesn’t like. The odd thing about blogging and online news is you also get positive feedback. This is strange and unusual to some of us.

Future journalist bloggers

Greenslade goes on to write:

“I have tended to predict that future news organisations will consist of a small hub of “professional journalists” at the centre with bloggers (aka amateur journalists/citizen journalists) on the periphery. In other words, us pros will still run the show.

I’m altogether less certain about that model now. First, I wonder whether us pros are as valuable as we think. Second, and more fundamentally, I wonder whether a “news organisation” is as perfect a model as we might think.”

I’d be concerned about Greenslade’s conclusion if I agreed with his hub and periphery prediction. My vision of the future of journalism is that it is more like a sports league with professionals operating on one level, semi-professionals working at another and the amateurs elsewhere. And, as with the English FA Cup, there’s always potential for the occasional upset.

Towards the end of his piece Greenslade writes:

When we journalists talk about integration we generally mean, integrating print and online activities. But the true integration comes online itself. The integration between journalists and citizens. Of course, there should be no distinction between them. But journalists still wish to see themselves as a class apart.

Funny, I’ve never thought of myself as being a class apart from my readers. I’ve always regarded them as my employers.

New Zealand blogger Bernard Hickey writes he feels liberated as a blogger. He likes the speed of the medium, the feedback and the ability to connect to his audience. As Hickey says, he is now a blogging evangelist.

Hickey’s blog interests me because it serves an audience that is relatively ignored in New Zealand. For want of a better label his target is middle class, aspirational and liberal in the British sense, not the American sense.