WATCH FOR THE WILD CARDS

It’s a typewriter, folks

There are opportunities in the media business these days, but they’re wild cards. Not long ago a rock-solid digestion system went burping away happily on its solid fare of dailies and community newspapers, radio, television, and magazine small fry. Now the media environment is a swamp where the two biggest denizens want very much to become one middle-sized one, not leaving a lot for the rest.

‘The 150-year daily recipe was unsustainable’ says Marlborough Express regional editor Nicola Coburn adding that two editorial roles will go, along with two daily editions and it must be said, considerable loss of status.

So will more dailies drop a couple of days out of their week to buy time? No casualties blemish the MediaPasifika current sweep of community newspapers; in magazines there’s an amalgamation, a few ownership changes and new editors, while one or two have dropped their print version to rely on websites. Both major players have meanwhile created regionalised editorial hubs for reporters and subeditors to maximise output at lowest cost.

But — as if to relieve the gloom — digitalisation is breeding new entities. Scoop jumped in back in 2007. Advertising sales rode on free distribution of press releases and licensed corporate readership. Later, crowdfunding activated news projects — like postnatal depression and the election (I like the synergy). But founder Alastair Thompson now announces a heavily discounted ‘professional use licence’ package to hike up cash-flow in a campaign for more funds.

Newsroom is a brave newcomer, but with a similar model. Launched by top journalists Mark Jennings (Newshub for TV Three and Radio Live), and Tim Murphy (NZ Herald ex-editor), with Bernard Hickey as newsroom editor, Melanie Reid — investigations, Troy Rawhiti-Forbes — digital communities, am and pm editors Alexia Russell and Cassandra Mason, Steve Deane on sport but another seven picking up more rounds manning more ‘rooms’ — ‘viewing’, ‘living’, ‘board’ and ‘sports’ rooms with offices in Auckland and Wellington. A news service for corporate clients including ‘tailored daily emails and analysis’ costs $29/month. If you average the 15 salaries at $100k and add $200k for the offices you’ve got $1.7million to amortise. Do the math, as they say. So good luck with that.

Earlier this year PressPatron kicked off as a crowdfunding platform through which readers can make monthly or one-off contributions to their favourite online publishers. Charity, not profit. All to support newsgathering.

Trouble is there’s not much money in pure journalism no matter which way you dice and slice it.  News and advertising may have always hated each other but with a coherent community as audience they work together to provide a mutually profitable service. But beyond the community level? Go paywall or give it away? Can professional content — quality writing and photography/filming — live off its merits? Only when backed by (very)charitable trusts, it seems. Even the much-respected UK Guardian admits its fragility with pleas for financial support popping up on screens and the printed page.
David Reade

 

‘If we’re going to live as we are in a world of supply and demand, then journalists had better find a way to create a demand for good journalism’ Bill Kovach

Readers are welcome to comment.

DESTRUCTION BY DIGITALISATION

sunDecember 16 blog from MediaPasifika
DESTRUCTION BY DIGITISATION
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.’
ends

David Reade, Netmedia Ltd, publishing MediaPasifika, Asianmediaonline, MidiaBrasilonline. Tel 027 4825036 http://www.netmedianz.com

BEEHIVE IN WRONG PLACE

I challenge anybody to succeed with a skyline shot in Wellington which includes the Beehive. If you want a landscape shot for a website it’s yeah/nah and I did a complete circuit. Closeups of its rather tatty presence flanked by the solid bulk of King Dick can be picked up from various angles. But you only get portraits, of course.
So on the bike to the new cable car shed early one morning and I was lucky to catch the sun coming round from the east as it does and no wind or rain which is a bonus. And yer ’tis — as the Poms say anywhere southwest of Reading.
You see, people had been complaining. Words like ‘old-fashioned,’  ‘20th century,’  ‘untidy’ came from colleagues and even family members boasting experience in technology and design. ‘it looks like the back page of a community newspaper’ someone was unkind enough to say.
I suppose I’d thought that the 20th century wasn’t that long ago, but ok, ok, maybe I hadn’t noticed, and, true, various notables had been falling off their twigs rather untimely in recent months. So let’s do something, I said, bravely.
But the pic was just the beginning. I was forced to participate in conversations about branding even, and other esoterica. In vain I said the business ethos was summed up in one little acrostic — K.I.S.S. — and they said ‘That’s insulting. You can’t call people stupid. And anyway nobody’s used that since 1990.’
But K.I.S.S. or no, it’s turned out all right. Thanks, friends, (he says through gritted teeth) for the clean layout, the simple connections between Home page, Blogs and the databases, and keeping me from loading up with family videos, fancy fonts, shots of my cat, and quotes from anybody I’m reading at the moment.
So if you want to look at what I’ve (ok, we’ve) done, go netmedianz.com and see what I mean about Wellington on a nice day. And pretty soon you won’t be able to go via netmediaglobal, netmedia.bz or any other of the speculative URLs I’ve been collecting, just netmedianz.com.
And of course the very cost-effective MediaPasifika/Mediamine package — an all-Kiwi setup — is just what you need to handle media relations tasks on our patch. Not forgetting Asia and Brazil.

BRILLIANT DISTRIBUTION AND CAREFUL PLACEMENT

You can’t do better than to optimise coverage for your stories in the media relations business. But stories, like it or not, are audience-driven, and key to optimisation is understanding each story’s potential in relation to the relevant media and the voices that make them up. It’s the receptivity factor which governs results. But how do you know its strength? How to play content for maximum cut-through?

Journalists, or content providers if you must, craft stories for their audiences. People in PR have to do the same thing, but of course at one remove. Without direct access to the page, programme or screen they’re at the crossroads of the placement or distribution dilemma.

In our top-down world the big stories go global fast but still demand a level playing field in terms of access. The Netmedia set are brilliant at distribution. Client Fish and Game for example gets its releases to newsdesks all over the country with one click on the pre-built News Express service with MediaPasifika.

Outside of which organisations covering changes in law or regulations which affect people’s lives can pick the chunks of relevant media, prioritise the story to the best available journalist with the target function facility set at, for example, business/chief reporter/newsdesk/editor and then adding producer/bureau chief for the audio-visual sector. Add low-res photographs — enough to spread across the different sectors — with on-call hi-res versions to hand. Job done.

Placement is much more demanding under the ‘optimise’ criterion. Options might include: negotiate an exclusive with a major daily; re-write the story from more than one angle and provide different illustrations across as many outlets as possible; prioritise an important magazine with customised content and schedule release of a shorter version to others to suit its deadlines but widening coverage of core content. Go into the newsrooms and choose who you want, make your own notes about who you find to build your own unique portfolio of media contacts.

Leigh Catley, Horticulture New Zealand communications manager, with a stream of varying needs stories to process says ‘MediaPasifika works for us, it really suits the needs of New Zealand communicators.’