And something about NZME, Stuff and NBR
Auckland, September 29, 2018
The audience for Susie Ferguson and Guyon Espiner-hosted ‘Morning Report’
has jumped to its highest level ever. Photo: Supplied by RNZ
RNZ National has surged past its commercial rivals to be the Number One Radio Station in New Zealand for the first time under the current ratings.
Its cumulative weekly audience of 633,500 listeners in the latest GfK survey (12 months to September) has seen it move to Number One, beating The Edge which has 624,400.
RNZ National added 27,200 listeners in the latest survey.
Morning Report’s audience jumped by 24,400 to 481,500, its highest level ever.
Guyon Espiner & Susie Ferguson
The Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson-hosted programme is opening up a considerable lead on its nearest commercial rivals, Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB (366,100) and Simon Barnett and Gary McCormick on More FM (359,100).
The success of Morning Report flowed through to Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan, which lifted by 9000 listeners to 327,700.
RNZ’s weekend shows also did well. Kim Hill rose by 14,000 to 272,000 and Wallace Chapman was up by 11,500 to 304,700.
The strong result comes at a good time for RNZ which has faced plenty of distractions in the wake of the Carol Hirschfeld/Clare Curran fiasco.
Speaking to Newsroom after the Survey release, RNZ CEO Paul Thompson said, “I don’t mind saying that this has been a challenging year and it has been a real slog at times. Part of it has been that we have had a change of government and a change in government policies.
“It’s reinforced how important our independence is and I think we have lived and breathed our independence really well through this period. “Our people really do bust a gut for RNZ and it is great that we have shown that we are really relevant to New Zealanders.”
Thompson will also be quietly pleased with the performance of RNZ Concert, which is also up with a weekly cumulative audience of 182,000 people or 4.3 percent of the 10-plus population.
StuffMe’s Groundhog Day
Boil down the high-minded words of competition law – with its benefits and disbenefits, factuals and counterfactuals and debate between the Harvard School and the Chicago School – and the Court of Appeal’s rejection of the StuffMe media merger is simple.
“It would be good for you,” it basically told the applicant companies Stuff and NZME, ”but not so good for the public.”
Further, the Commerce Commission and courts are allowed – obliged – under the Commerce Act to look after the public interest, not just economic efficiencies for applicant companies or industries.
It was the same message the Commission had given as long ago as November 2016, echoed again in May 2017 and thundered by the High Court in December 2017.
But it didn’t get through. Until now. Probably.
Hard decision for NZME and Stuff
With the merger plan suffering its fourth consecutive major knock-back, the owners and executives at Stuff and NZME must decide whether they press on to the Supreme Court and try to overwhelm that sentiment for public good.
Stuff – owned by Fairfax Media in Australia – is making no noises about going again, instead talking up its new businesses and strategy. NZME, which mentioned the Supreme Court option in its February annual results presentation, has said only that it would consider its options once it has studied the Court of Appeal ruling.
In the meantime, both companies have reshuffled their editorial resources, cutting here and adding there.
Fairfax sold or shut two dozen newspapers at the cost of around 40 jobs earlier this year, cutting its rural reporting team and regional newspaper sports jobs.
NZME is restructuring its sports team with an initial indication of four jobs disappearing to elsewhere in the organisation; NZME radio is abolishing its Newstalk ZB reporting roles in the regions, with five positions serving Dunedin, Palmerston North, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Hamilton to go.
Both companies, however, have spent hiring seasoned big-name journalists for investigative and video roles for the fight that lies ahead.
Big play at the Herald
Could that nzherald.co.nz paywall be imminent after all?
The big play for NZME will be to introduce its premium content paywall on nzherald.co.nz. In this column last week, the company said it had only promised to have “capability” for charging customers for that content by the end of this year, not to actually charge them.
The Herald site uses the Arc system developed by the Washington Post and, intriguingly, that organisation’s chief product officer Shailesh Prakash, told Newsonomics columnist Ken Doctor that it was introducing a paywall with NZME “at the end of this month.”
He did not specify capability or actual charging.
Doctor wrote: “The Post’s new ambition is to become a key part of its customers’ digital consumer revenue too — that is, the digital subscription businesses of its customers. At the end of this month, starting with the New Zealand network of sites NZME, the Post will launch a paywall product Prakash calls “a CMS for subscription.”
The Court of Appeal decision on StuffMe did not believe that the two companies would hold off on a paywall if they had been allowed to come together.
NZME has surveyed readers about paying between $3 and $7 a week for its premium content – and hopes to encourage 4% to 6% of its audience to pay up. At the lower of both those ranges it could be expected to raise $10.4 million a year once the paywall is running.
Latest online audiences
In the latest Nielsen digital audience figures, Stuff recorded just over two million unique monthly readers in August (down 100,000) to the Herald’s 1.67 million (down 1000). That 330,000 readers a month gap is better obviously than in July but still much bigger than had been the case over the past year or two.
A big fall in August was the 1News site, which was 700,000 (down 67,000) while its broadcast rival Newshub hit 812,000 (up 36,000).
RNZ was off by 32,000 between July and August to 416,000 uniques, the Otago Daily Times kept growing, from 220,000 to 234,000, the Spinoff was down sharply from 190,000 to 137,000, as was Noted.co.nz down from 118,000 to 99,000 and this site, Newsroom, which fell from a strong July of 116,000 to 81,000. Nielsen cautioned the small sites’ numbers can be unreliable because of the representation in the sample.
Spinoff TV coming to an end
On ratings, the NZ on Air-funded SpinoffTV is coming to the end of its 16-episode run (the 15th is scheduled Friday night) and after being dumped in the graveyard slot of 10.45 pm following an inauspicious start an hour earlier, it has recovered somewhat in its linear TV audience.
In the four episodes before Three lost its nerve and consigned the show made with $700,000 of public money to the later time, it had achieved an average 45,000 viewers in the target 25-54 audience demographic.
That was considered not good enough.
But in the four weeks immediately after the change, the average sank to just 5250.
In the latest four weeks the show has pushed back up to an average of 10,800, a consolidation predicted by Three when it dropped the boom in July.
Those numbers do not include on-demand viewing or the social media platform audience NZ on Air held high hopes for when it launched the show.
NBR’s speed bumps
The National Business Review new-look website has had a difficult launch period, according to its publisher Todd Scott, who has railed against its failings for subscribers and others and pointed the finger at the development company.
This week, two and a half months since launch, NBR emailed its subscribers seeking feedback on the problems.
“The team here at NBR has been thinking, listening and talking a lot about the future. In particular, what does the future of New Zealand business media and news look like? How can we make sure that we capture it and communicate it to you in a way that is easy and engaging for you? You may have noticed a few changes to our website in how you access and use content but, as with any new and bold direction, some speed bumps are to be expected. These updates are all intended to provide you with a better, more valuable experience, so we would welcome your feedback through this transition. Please let us know via the email address below if there’s anything we can do to provide you with a better experience.”
It wasn’t quite Air New Zealand’s lengthy emailed apology to customers of last weekend but it was an admission that all is still not right and NBR wants to put it right.
Mark Jennings is the Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Newsroom based in Auckland. The above article, which appeared in the Newsroom on September 27, 2018, has been reproduced here under a special arrangement.