newspaper standWhen Apple’s iOS 9 landed, a new Newstand folder appeared on the first screen. Inside were four options: The New York Times, Businessweek, the Australian and the New Yorker.

Whatever their merits, none is a natural choice for New Zealand readers.

It’s the latest example of how international media doesn’t think for one moment about New Zealand needs.

Sure, this is only a small country. We’re the last stop on the few international air routes that reach these islands.

There aren’t many of us.

You can see why we might be overlooked in the boardrooms of New York, London or Cupertino.

Our business is only a rounding error on the balance sheet of global giants.

Foreign publishers want your eyeballs, not your brains or engagement

And yet, international publishers want our business.

They want our eyeballs to view their advertisements. They’d like to earn New Zealand dollars for their print or paywall subscriptions.

They want us. Sometimes they even pay lip service to woo us. They often list New Zealand as a market they service. Yet when it gets down to considering our needs, we’re lucky if we rank as a bolt-on to Australia.

In practice this is more annoying and frustrating than ignoring New Zealand altogether.

The Guardian

The Guardian is a good read and an alternative voice that stands out from the pack. It’s one of the world’s top online news websites. There’s intelligent coverage of international issues that you might not find elsewhere in the English-language press.

While the headquarters are in the UK, The Guardian now has editions in the US and Australia.

As it turns out, this is a problem. When you load The Guardian app or go to The Guardian website, New Zealand readers are, by default, sent to the Australian version.

The Australian edition fills gaps in that country’s media. From a parochial Australian point of view it does a reasonable job. If you want to know about domestic Australian issues you’re well served.

Little for NZ readers

But there’s little in the Australian edition of The Guardian for New Zealand readers. It’s not even the best place to get a big-picture view of what’s happening across the Tasman. Nor is it great on Australian business news, which can often be relevant here.

And anyway, it’s not as if local media ignores Australia. Fairfax’s Stuff is often packed with Australian stories. Sometimes Stuff selects the most relevant Australian stories for New Zealand readers. But not always.

As an aside, Stuff is guilty of running overseas stories as if they were local copy. There is often no hint in the headline you are about to read foreign material.

That’s because Fairfax is another foreign media company. Given the company’s investment in New Zealand, it can have a deaf ear to our needs. But that’s another story.

Almost every New Zealand reader choosing The Guardian will be looking for international news, the cultural pages, sport or long-read features.

A few weeks ago the Australian edition led with a story about Bendigo Council. That might be relevant to five or six people in New Zealand, but whoever makes editorial decisions for the Guardian served it up here anyway. Nothing better illustrates that no thought has gone into what we get.

To be fair to The Guardian these annoyances can be fixed. You get around the problem by registering, then choosing a different edition. The app also allows you to change the fixed home page in its settings.

In the great scheme of things The Guardian’s hamfisted approach to New Zealand readers isn’t a big deal, but it illustrates how foreign media companies marginalise our country, culture and identity.

PC Magazine website

For much of the last 25 years or so PC Magazine has been a great resource for serious PC users. It takes a professional line and largely focuses on business and productivity.

I was managing editor of both New Zealand and Australian editions of the magazine when ACP printed separate versions in both countries in the 1990s.

Today PC Magazine is online only. There’s a US parent website and a satellite in Australia. They don’t look the same and they don’t have the same content, nor do they serve the same advertisements.

New Zealand readers are forced to the Australian site. Most of the time this doesn’t matter. While the Australian site may feature products that are not on sale in New Zealand, online shopping means locals can usually fill in the gaps.

PC Magazine

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This doesn’t always apply. PC makers like HP might sell similar, but distinct versions of their laptops in Australia and New Zealand.

Guess which country’s versions never get written about in the Australian PC Magazine?

Some reviews and features don’t make it from the US edition to the Australian site. There have been times when I’ve seen glimpses of the story I want on the US site in, say, Google search. Clicking the link takes you to a generic Not Found page on the Australian site.

The automatic redirect is draconian. I’ve tested it, not methodically or scientifically, but enough to understand that it detects your location and redirects.

Type an explicit US URL, you’ll get redirected. Find something through search that is only on the US site and you’ll get redirected. Change browsers, or browser settings and you’ll still get redirected. The only way you can be sure of reaching the US site is with a VPN.

Presumably this redirection is all about serving up NZ eyeballs to Australian advertisers.

In the past PC Magazine’s main rival was PC World. For years PC World published in New Zealand. It was the last big local technology publication to sell on bookstands.

PC World

PC World New Zealand still exists. It has its own URL. What it doesn’t have is any New Zealand content or flavour. It only just manages to have any New Zealand relevance.

You can take it as read the front page of the .co.nz site is identical to the .com.au website. A few recent visits confirmed that.

PC World New Zealand

 

Last night two of the four main stories on the front page slider were dinky-di Australian:

  • Labor MP slams Turnbull’s NBN as Aussie broadband speeds fall behind
  • Win 2 tickets to Call of Duty World League in Melbourne

There’s nothing wrong with this, but passing off the website as PC World New Zealand is, at best, dishonest.

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You’ll notice from the Google screenshot you can read stories by PC World’s Auckland staff. The top, presumably the most recent, story there is How to buy … a Digital Camcorder from 2006.

This is treating New Zealanders with disrespect. It’s not in any way a New Zealand site.

 

A guide for business owners and others who want publicity. This is an updated version of a story first posted in 2008. 

If you have a product or service to sell, you want the greatest number of potential customers to hear about it.

While word-of-mouth marketing is a great jumping off point when you’re starting, eventually you need to reach a wider audience. This means working with blogs, web sites, newspapers, magazines or broadcast media.

There are two ways to get attention; advertising and publicity. Newcomers often confuse the two. That’s a mistake. They are different and work in parallel universes.

Advertising is always strictly commercial. You buy a fixed amount of space in a printed publication or air time from a radio or TV broadcaster. Online advertising can be display advertising like banners and boom boxes or text ads. All can appear on web sites, in electronic newsletters or even as part of an app.

When you buy advertising you provide the content, or what advertising people call copy, at your cost.

Use advertising professionals

If you’ve enough budget you can hire a creative team to prepare the copy. This costs money, sometimes lots of money. The cost is worth it if you’re running a major campaign: advertising professionals know how to press the right buttons and get results.

Advertising means you get to say where, when and how often the copy will run. You have complete control over the message and its delivery. Well up to a point; some publishers will refuse certain ads and there are laws about what you can and can’t say.

Cost per reader, viewer, listener

Advertising costs depend on audience size: the number of readers, listeners or viewers the media delivers. Experienced advertising buyers think about CPM: the cost of reaching one thousand people.

Publicity isn’t for control freaks

You have little control over publicity. Editors, journalists, photographers and other media professionals make all the important decisions — they won’t consult you. They may listen to you or read your material, they may not.

In principle it depends on your message’s newsworthiness. If your story strikes a chord, they’ll listen.

Journalism ethics

Surprising though it may seem, journalists have an ethical code. They are not for sale. Their job is to keep readers informed regardless of commercial considerations.

This is why you should avoid applying commercial pressure when seeking publicity. Don’t imply you will place advertising in return for favourable treatment.

At best you will insult journalists or offend their professional pride. At worst you will create a situation where ethical considerations mean they either can’t touch your story. They may even choose to take a hostile approach to emphasise their independence.

Professional journalists don’t regard helping your sales as their job. Nor should they.

Media is a business

This may seem confusing. After media companies are commercial businesses. You might think editors and journalist would jump at the chance to make money. However, taking a long-term view is good business. Media properties with a strong ethical code are held in high regard by readers, listeners or viewers.

This means more people get to see editorial. It also means they get to see the advertising. A strong, independent editorial product will deliver better, more involved or wealthier, customers.

At the same time, research shows advertising works best when the editorial is credible.

Who controls the message?

Even when a journalist does respond to your publicity in a largely favourable way, they still get to choose what is said, where it is said and when the story runs.

They choose the angle. They also get to decide how many words to devote to your message and they can choose whether your rivals get to comment or not. An editor might choose to use your supplied photographs or other graphic material, they may not.

A journalist, maybe a sub-editor, will write the headline and captions.

You wouldn’t normally expect to pay money to a publisher when they use your publicity. However, there are some media properties that will ask for a payment in return for running it.

We call it advertorial

Some media businesses might agree to run your vetted publicity material in return for you buying advertising. There’s a whole spectrum of arrangements from total separation of editorial and advertising all the way to properties that are, in effect, nothing but paid advertising.

At the extreme end of the scale you are dealing with vanity publishers – people who will take your money and make you look good. Your mother may like the result, but you won’t sell much.

As a rule, publications that sell editorial integrity are not well-regarded by readers – that’s your customers. Experienced publicity people discount the value of these publications.

Apart from anything else, readers tend to know when they are looking at paid-for editorial and learn to trust it less than truly independent content. In particular, younger, media literate, people are cynical about this kind of material.

One commonly used measure is that four of their readers would be worth one reader of a more prestigious, editorially independent title. That also applies to advertising in these publications – expect to pay less for space in a publication that isn’t fully independent.

Publicity specialists

While many businesses organise their own publicity, others hire specialists.

The most common arrangement involves hiring a public relations or PR consultant. Their job is to know which media properties and media professionals are receptive to which message.

A good PR company can save you time and trouble. They’ll help you prepare your message and train you in the art of handling the inevitable follow-up questions. They’ll help get the message to the right people at the right time.

Some public relations companies have intellectual property tied up with publication and journalist databases. They cultivate contacts and learn the best way to approach each outlet.

No guarantees

Public relations companies rarely guarantee results. You should avoid any PR operator who makes that kind of promise.

One misconception is that publicity is all about issuing press releases or holding press conferences. Both can have a role to play, but most important PR takes place out of sight.

publishing a business since the middle ages
Print publishers make money from copy sales and advertising. Some rely mainly on advertising, others on copy sales, but most newspapers and magazines make money from a mix of the two.

The balance between advertising and copy sales revenue is important. Advertising-driven publishers approach their business in a different way to copy sales-driven publishers.

Copy Sales

Publishers rarely keep all copy sales revenue. Newspapers, magazines and books usually sell through newsagents, bookstores and other retailers. Retailers keep between 30 and 40 percent of the cover price.

Sometimes distributors take a slice of copy sales revenue. Usually distributors charge a fixed fee per copy delivered.

Sell-through rates

Retailers rarely sell all the copies they get of a title. Publishers talk about sell-through rates – the percentage sold.

Most publishers, particularly those chasing advertising sales regard a sell-out as a failure. It means they didn’t maximise their circulation – which is what they sell to advertisers.

Long established, popular, frequently published titles often have better sell-through rates than new or irregular publications.

Revenue lags sales

Publishers wait weeks or months to get copy sales revenue as it trickles back from readers, through the retailer and distributor.

Printers often want payment – or a guarantee of payment before they print. So a publisher needs to carry the costs of at least three editions of a monthly title before seeing a penny of sales revenue. The investment is more in the case of weeklies, less in the case of bi-monthlies and quarterly publications.

Subscriptions

Revenue lag explains why publishers like selling direct to readers through subscription sales.

With subscriptions, publishers get their money before printing – subscribers usually pay a year in advance. Some publications offer two-year and even three-year subscriptions. That’s money in the bank.

Publisher keep all subscription revenue – there’s no retailer cut, although they pay the cost of mailing out subscriptions.

Advertising

Publishers sell ‘space in their titles to earn Advertising sales revenue.

Most publishers set aside a number of pages or parts of pages for advertisers. They have an advertising ratio.

Paid-for publications usually have a lower advertising ratio than free publications – although this is not always true.

There are different types of advertising. Display advertising means larger and more colourful ads – often with creative text and images. Classified advertising is often text-only with a minimum of graphics.

Magazines typically sell advertising by the page, although they offer double-page spreads, half pages and other formats. Newspapers will sell pages, but they also sell column centimetres (or column inches).

The more publishing you buy the cheaper it gets

The more an advertiser buys, the cheaper the rate per column centimetre (or page if they are buying magazine advertising).

A full-page is cheaper than two half pages and so on. Publishers offer advertisers discounts if they commit to buying a series of advertising over a longer time. So, booking a year’s worth of advertisements in a monthly magazine is cheaper than buying 12 single advertisements.

Some advertising positions attract a premium rate. On newspapers this is the front page and maybe the front pages of sections such as business.

Magazines typically charge extra for the back cover and possibly the inside front cover. Successful titles can charge a premium for early right-hand pages or other attractive sites.

Agencies and commission

Specialist media buying companies buy most advertising. They develop strategies for their clients and negotiate with publishers. Publishers pay media buyers a commission. Typically this is 10 to 20 percent of the booking’s value. In return for a commission, media buyer agrees to pay invoices on a set date.

Advertisers who buy their own space are known as direct clients. They often haggle over prices, but unless they are large-scale buyers, they have less clout than agencies. Collecting money from direct clients can be harder.

Rate cards

Publishers issue rate cards. Historically they used a card, but now they are usually available online. Rate card prices are often negotiable.

Advertorial

Advertorial is when publishers offer advertising linked to editorial features. In some cases editorial integrity is up for sale.

Advertorial deals come in different flavours. Many publications are entirely advertorial – if an advertiser pays for space they have a say over the publication’s editorial content.

More credible titles wall off areas of content for advertorial. These might be clearly marked with terms like “advertising supplement” or “special advertising feature”. This isn’t always transparent to readers.

Some publishers run editorial-style material provided by advertisers and charge for it. Others allow advertisers to send the copy for inclusion next to advertisements.

Publishers may or may not allow advertisers control over advertorial content. Some publishers have journalists write advertiser-friendly copy for these sections, others keep a strict demarcation between editorial and advertising.

Business model

Free publications are more likely to run advertorial and compromise editorial integrity for commercial consideration than paid-for titles.

Paid titles are less likely to take this approach. Some paid titles have little in the way of advertising and charge a hefty premium for quality editorial content. This works best if they can manage a high circulation.

I’ve never believed that print is dead. I’ve always believed that there are two problems with print journalism today.

One is lack of advertising, some parts of which will come back, and two, when nobody is buying your magazine or your newspaper, it’s because you’re not writing what people want to read.

Michael Bloomberg, publisher quoted in The New York Times after he bought Businessweek magazine.

There is a third point. Traditional publishing started on the path to unsustainability twenty years ago when corporate spivs started buying media companies and pumping them dry to squeeze unrealistic profits from them.

You can’t run a publishing business like a grocery store.

There’s no question the Internet is hurting print publications, but the technology is speeding up a process that was already well under way much earlier.

Advertising sales revenue is the money publishers make from selling space in their titles.

Most publishers set aside printed pages or parts of printed pages for advertisers. The number of pages compared to the total number of pages in a publication is known in the business as the advertising ratio. Paid-for publications have a lower advertising ratio than free publications. Some free publications are nothing but advertising.

Advertisements fall into two categories:

  • Display advertisements are larger and more colourful – they can have highly creative text and images.
  • Classified advertisements are smaller and usually only text with a minimum of graphics.

Magazines typically sell display advertising by the page, although they offer double-page spreads, half pages and other formats.

Newspapers sell pages, but they also sell column centimetres (or column inches). Classifieds sell as column centimetres, as lines of text or in some cases by the word.

The more you buy the cheaper advertising gets

The more advertising an advertiser buys, the cheaper the rate per column centimetre (or page if they are buying magazine ads). So a full-page is cheaper than two half pages and so on.

Publishers offer advertisers discounts if they commit to buying a series of advertisements over a period such as a year or six months. So, booking a year’s worth of advertisements in a monthly magazine is cheaper than buying 12 single advertisements.

Some advertising positions attract a premium rate. On newspapers, this would be the front page and maybe the front pages of the internal sections. Magazines typically charge extra for the back cover and possibly the inside front cover. Successful titles can also get away with charging a premium for early right-hand pages or other attractive sites.

Agencies and commission

Advertising is often placed by specialist media buying companies who develop strategies for their clients and negotiate with publishers. These companies earn a commission. Typically this is between 10 to 20 percent of the booking’s value.

In return for a commission, media buying agencies contract to pay their invoices by a set date after publication – typically a month or so after the advertisements appear.

Advertisers who buy their own space are known as direct clients. They can haggle over prices, but unless they are large-scale buyers of advertising, they have less clout than agencies who can buy in bulk. It is often harder to collect money from direct clients than from agencies.

Rate cards

Publishers issue rate cards which show the prices or rates for each type of advertisement. Historically they were cards, but now they are usually available online, try Googling the term to see some. Rate cards prices are often, but not always negotiable. They also describe available advertising formats. Depending on circumstances rates shown on rate cards are negotiable.

When an advertiser or a buying agency buys advertising they are usually buying reach that is a publication’s ability to reach so many potential customers.

Advertorial

People in the business use the term advertorial when publishers offer advertising linked to editorial features, or in some cases when a publication’s editorial integrity itself is up for sale.

Advertorial deals come in many flavours. Many publications are more or less entirely made up of advertorial material – if an advertiser pays for space they are given a degree of say over what appears in the publication’s editorial content.

More credible titles wall off areas of content for advertorial projects. These might be clearly marked with terms like “advertising supplement” or “special advertising feature”, but it isn’t transparent to the reader.

Some publishers run editorial-style material provided by advertisers and charge for it. Others allow advertisers to send the copy for inclusion alongside paid advertisements.

Publishers may or may not allow advertisers to sign off on their advertorial content. Some publishers will have journalists write advertiser-friendly copy for these sections, others keep up a strict demarcation between editorial and advertising.

The advertising business model

As a rule, free publications are more likely to run advertorial and compromise editorial integrity for commercial consideration than paid-for titles. Paid titles are less likely to take this approach. Some paid titles have little in the way of advertising and charge a hefty premium for quality editorial content. This works best if they can manage a high circulation.