Media

MediaRoom: Who could replace John Campbell

Today in MediaRoom, our new column on the media business, Tim Murphy looks at a big gap at Radio New Zealand and the rapidly approaching part paywall for the NZ Herald.

The departure of Checkpoint host John Campbell from Radio NZ to its state-owned stablemate TVNZ leaves a big hole in the RNZ schedule.

Campbell came aboard two years ago when RNZ shifted the highly-regarded Checkpoint host Mary Wilson upstairs to editorial management and turned the 5-6.30pm slot into a multimedia, filmed presentation.

It is possible RNZ could decide to move one of the Morning Report hosts Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson to the more civilised hours of Checkpoint, opening space for a replacement in the early morning. The pair have been together for four years and it would be no surprise if one or other wants to leave the crushingly early week day hours.

RNZ could look back to the future and consider returning to Wellington-based Wilson as host, although the RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said today the role would remain based in Auckland and would continue as a video as well as radio presentation.

Others who could be interested or sought for Checkpoint include Aucklander and former TV3 and NewstalkZB Early Edition host Rachel Smalley, who also hosted Sunday political television shows in the past, the incisive Lisa Owen, now RadioLive's co-host of drive time with Ryan Bridge and host and lead interviewer of Newshub's The Nation at the weekends, or, for a Morning Report replacement the inimitable Patrick Gower from Newshub's national affairs beat.

Campbell's role at TVNZ is akin to giving him the Keys to the Network - reporting from the field and presenting anything from the 6pm news to the light entertainment Seven Sharp - which would be a world away from his revered Campbell Live current affairs show of old. Unless she is going with him, the move will also see Campbell parted from his longtime executive producer in TV and radio roles, Pip Keane.

He wouldn't have come cheap, so it is possible some other mid-sized names could yet be offloaded by TVNZ to cover the cost. (TVNZ would however have saved money at the end of last year when Mike Hosking lost his nerve when his Seven Sharp presenting partner Toni Street opted out and Hilary Barry was to move to the show).

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TV news ratings

Leading Media and PR firm Lassoo held its client update this week and founder Bridgette Smith showed audience figures for 1News and Newshub programmes in the critical 25-54 demographic and in Auckland.

The upshot is that while TVNZ still monsters Newshub news programmes for the overall audience of those aged 5+, for the audience the advertisers most want, 25-54, the rivals are much closer.  

The graphs below are from Nielsen data and compiled by Lassoo.

1 News vs Newhub 6pm

Seven Sharp vs The Project

Breakfast vs the AM Show

Breakfast vs the AM Show in Auckland

Ad blockers

A new study from the Internet Advertising Bureau and audience researcher Pureprofile shows the use of ad blockers - which remove or hide advertisements from online screens - has risen, from 27 percent of people aged 16 and over a year ago to 31 percent this year.

While nearly one in three people try to eliminate commercial messaging from their online reading, the news for media businesses which make their money from such advertising is a lot better when it comes to use of ad blockers on mobile phones. Just six percent of respondents to the IABNZ and Purprofile survey have ad blocking on their mobile phones. 

The survey found "ads that are disruptive, obtrusive or too frequent (and 'creepy') are the biggest pain points for people who have decided to install an ad blocker. 

"Pop-ups and screen takeovers are the ad formats that are more likely to prompt users to install an ad blocker."

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Subscribers paying

More people are paying for digital news around the world - and more are intending to do so - according to the latest Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute, cited by AUT research fellow Dr Merja Myllylahti.

In a blog for the International News Media Association, she writes that 30 percent of Swedes, 20 percent of Australians and 16 percent in the United States, 11 percent in Germany and seven percent in Britain have paid for online news.

"Almost one in five of those paying for digital news say they are likely to continue their payments in the next 12 months."

Myllylahti found one aspect of the Reuters report "particularly interesting." It notes two-thirds of people are not aware that newspapers are struggling to make money from digital news.

"The report suggests those readers who are aware of digital newspapers' losses are more likely to fund them."

"Is it right to think that if newspapers openly remind their readers about difficulties to raise digital revenue, people will pay? Perhaps, but I'm not sure and we need some more evidence."

The report and her comments are timely as NZME prepares to launch a charge for content on one section of its nzherald.co.nz news site. The Herald will introduce a paywall around its Premium and In-Depth segment, with readers having to pay to access some of its investigative and longer form journalism. Former Weekend Herald editor Miriyana Alexander and Herald editor Murray Kirkness will lead the paid content effort, expected to begin charging towards the end of the third-quarter.

The Herald charges have been a long time coming. NZME had the capacity to charge or introduce a part paywall for more than three years but its fierce rival Stuff.co.nz gave no indication that it, too, would go for a paywall and charge readers. NZME held off, fearful of Stuff widening its lead as the number one news website in the country and obtaining an unassailable advantage in attracting advertising to all those eyeballs.

Now the Herald believes it can charge some people for some of its content while retaining a substantial 'open' site audience to appeal to advertisers who fund so much of its business.

It is not quite an end to the 'arms race' to be number one site by total audience as much as NZME seeing the imperative of encouraging readers to pay for and value its journalism.

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There was another example this week of a paid journalism product being launched in this market. At the other end of the scale from nzherald.co.nz, prominent writer, political commentator and unionist Morgan Godfery is turning his MauiStreet blog into a news service focusing on Te Ao Māori - including Māori politics and social issues - for which he will charge $7 a month for individual readers. 

Niche content sites, including Politik.co.nz and Newsroom's own Newsroom Pro have already entered the paid content market and found fertile territory for informed news intelligence. NBR was the early evangelist for paywalls and relies substantially on its online subscription payments from businesses now that its Friday newspaper has shrunk so far in scale and circulation. 

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The Spinoff TV show debuted with 113,000 viewers (aged 5+) for TV3 last Friday night. It was a brand extension for the popular culture site, in conjunction with Great Southern Television.

In a low-audience zone, the 'new approach to current affairs' as NZ on Air called it when allocating $700,000 or about $2000 a minute to the 16 episode show, managed to keep half the audience for acclaimed comedian panel programme 7-Days immediately beforehand of 219,000.

It easily outpointed the weekly highlights and offcuts wrap-up of Heartbreak Island on TV2 which attracted just 33,000 people and the new show was watched by over half the 216,000 who had their slippers and lap rugs on watching Coronation St on One.

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