sunDecember 16 blog from MediaPasifika
Can you still make money with magazines? Or newspapers? What about radio and television? News media of any kind?

Think about the readership/audience/subscribers. What’s the monetisation model? Where do advertisers fit? Should you invite contributions from citizen journalists like UK publisher Newsquest?

It’s a gamble whether more eyeballs — whatever you call them — are happy to read your content online whenever they want, rather than wait for the post, pick up the magazine from the corner dairy, or do both.

Let’s talk income streams. Advertisers are the mainstay of income. And that links to how they feel about your readership. Will they happily hop over to your website model? You’ve probably got to work harder to offer a package of communications options as their mindset moves on from a static block of words and pictures.

Your new expensive website supports the print version. Add specialists to the pay-roll to fill your Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels so it gets seriously expensive. Not so much in setting up the new channels, but generating and maintaining fresh content to all, with competent new people. Dare you drop the print version?

As we sweep the media for MediaPasifika the changes — the faultlines — are exposed. You’ve obviously got to work hard to survive: here are words from fashion mag Verve:

‘Over the past 2 years a concerted effort has been made to grow the digital side of our business and so now, over and above a print run of 18 000 copies of Verve monthly, a digital copy of the magazine is sent out in the form of a fortnightly edm to 16 000 email recipients.’

So are the Verves on the right track? Conveniently the Commerce Commission, NZME. and Fairfax are currently showcasing the problem.

‘Facebook and Google are taking most of the money we used to use to pay for the journalism’ Fairfax managing director Simon Tong told the Commerce Commission at the hearing on the proposed merger between Fairfax and NZME, and its executive editor Sinead Boucher made the point that the average newspaper subscriber was well into the 60-year bracket.

Allied Press ceo Grant McKenzie thought the two parties had brought problems on themselves by ‘digital first’ policies with everything online free. Earlier NZME CEO Michael Boggs said the circulation of The New Zealand Herald and its five regional dailies had fallen by an average of 8 per cent over the last year and Fairfax NZ chief operating officer Andrew Boyle said the annual decline in all but two of its daily papers had been in the double digits.

But Grant McK said the ODT’s circulation decline had been kept down to 2.8 percent by concentrating on its print products.

Good on the ODT, and well done, Verve. Your models are ahead of the new environment.

But for how long?

Whether or not the Commerce Commission says yay or nay to amalgamation the Facebooks and Googles let loose by digitisation are on a roll. Keeping the two NZ entities apart would buy a little time. Permitting the purchase would see a job haemorrhage, buying a little more.

If our media outlets can’t beat the flood of data coming in through Facebook and Google, not to mention international media like the UK’s Guardian and the New York Times, what’s the answer? It’s certainly not Neighbourly, adopted by Fairfax, taking on Facebook’s news stream.

I think the answer, or at least one answer, lies with our humble communities. Or dailies like the ODT which behave like communities, relying on local news and smart advertising sales strategies. McKenzie spoke of concentrating on print products. But the ODT has a continuously updated news service covering local, national, international, sport, business, politics, entertainment news and galleries and very experienced publishers in Julian and Nick Smith.

I talked to Les Whiteside who added Wellington Suburban Newspapers to his Blenheim Sun flagship community newspaper a few years ago. He killed off Porirua News but now with the Independent Herald, Cook Strait News and Wainuiomata News and the Sun he’s talking a ten percent increase this year — the best to date.

He’s refreshingly scathing about the Australian-owned opposition and apparent blind faith in a digital model: ‘They don’t have businesspeople running their media’ he told me. ‘Management have been suckered by the digital dream. You’ve still got to have a good mix of editorial and advertising and understand your audience.

Stuff was haemorrhaging business, setting Neighbourly against Facebook was a bad idea, and giving editorial away free was stupid: ’We don’t run our editorial online until the print version is out. It’s common sense.’

It was no coincidence that Warren Buffett — the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ — now owned 32 newspapers (though he’s been pretty quiet about it lately) and, he said: ‘What we want is Murdoch to come back and buy the lot. He knows how to run newspapers.’

David Reade, Netmedia Ltd, publishing MediaPasifika, Asianmediaonline, MidiaBrasilonline. Tel 027 4825036