MediaRoom: What goes up....

In this week's MediaRoom column: the latest commercial radio ratings, NBR publisher's busy month and newspaper circulation figures revealed.

What goes up must come down, eventually. Unless what's gone up is Newstalk ZB, the talk radio station that is impervious to changes of season, government and even two of its main daytime hosts.

Newstalk remains the clear number one station nationally and in Auckland, and has seized the top spot in both Wellington and Christchurch in the final GfK commercial radio ratings for the year.

The separate ratings for the state-owned RNZ are out later this week, and RNZ National usually outguns Newstalk ZB, with its Morning Report team also winning the breakfast audience battle with Newstalk's Mike Hosking.

But among the privately-owned stations, Newstalk's 11.2 share of the market eclipses its only talk rival MediaWorks' Magic Music &Talk (7.5) and every music station by a decisive margin.

Nationally, number two is MediaWorks' The Breeze, with a 9.2 share, ahead of four more MediaWorks stations More FM (8.2), The Rock (7.8), Magic and The Sound (6.9) which ties with Coast for sixth.

A Newstalk stablemate, ZM, saw its surge in the mid-year ratings period fall away - down by almost a full share point to 5.7 nationally, by two share points in Wellington (8.7), 1.8 points in Christchurch (6.0) and 1.4 points in Auckland (5.2). ZM's Fletch, Vaughan and Megan also slipped in breakfast nationally, steeply in Wellington and in Christchurch and Auckland.

Newstalk ZB was up 3.5 points overall in Wellington to number 1, pipping The Breeze, and up 1.7 points in Christchurch overall to edge the same rival and previous number 1, More FM. Only in Auckland did it fail to build its overall share, off from 12.7 last survey to 12.2 and seeing MediaWorks rival Mai FM continue its comeback, up 1.4 points to 9.1, putting The Breeze into third.

In the past year, Newstalk has changed two of its biggest name hosts, Leighton Smith in the mid-morning and Larry Williams on drivetime. Interestingly both of their successors, Kerre McIvor and Heather du Plessis-Allan, seem to have held their ground or improved audience numbers nationally but struggled a little in Auckland.

Comparing the final surveys for 2018 and 2019, Smith had an 8.7 nationwide market share to McIvor's 8.3 and Williams had 7.8, a figure matched exactly by du Plessis-Allan. In the cumulative number of listeners to their shows, Smith attracted 230,500 a year ago and McIvor's 219,300. In drive, Williams had 215,500 and du Plessis-Allan has lifted that to 223,500.

For the important Auckland market, Smith's 11.6 share has fallen to 9.5 under McIvor and Williams' 11.2 has dropped back to 9.5 with du Plessis-Allan at the mike. The cumulative audiences listening to them in Auckland reveal Leighton Smith's 98,300 a morning now sitting at 77,100 and Williams' 101,100 slipping to 96,500.

In the commercial battle between the two big radio companies, MediaWorks has an overall 52.3 share of the market to NZME's 37.2, a slightly wider margin than at the last survey.

And in the separate ranking of stations by cumulative audience across the week, the most listened-to station in NZ is More FM,  with 566,100 people, pipping its MediaWorks stablemate The Edge by 100 listeners, and then The Breeze (546,000), Newstalk ZB (512,400), and ZM (477,900).


It is shaping as a big end-of-the-year for NBR publisher Todd Scott. In a fortnight, the business website faces a High Court defamation action taken by former National finance minister Steven Joyce over claims made about him in a column by former star NBR commentator Matthew Hooton. Hooton is not being sued, having apologised to Joyce and left the NBR to wash up at the NZ Herald with former NBR editor Duncan Bridgeman and digital editor Chris Keall.

Days later, NBR's own defamation suit against Newsroom is up in the Auckland District Court, with this site seeking to strike out Scott and NBR's claim for a declaration that a story Newsroom published about Joyce's grievance against NBR, in its turn defamed NBR and caused that business pecuniary loss.

All this, plus the launch of a competing subscriber business news website by BusinessDesk, funded by Milford Asset Management investment guru Brian Gaynor, comes as Scott puts his grand St Heliers Bay home on the market. The house, marketed as a "Family Fantasy" and "personal resort" is for sale by tender. It is on a 2409 square metre site and has a council valuation of $4.45m.


Newspaper circulation figures (which record actual sales of physical papers) continue to show NZME outperforming Stuff Ltd in managing the industry-wide decline of newspaper-buying.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation figures for the six months to September 30, 2019 show Stuff's main metro papers, The Dominion Post and The Press, Christchurch, falling by 14.17 percent and 14.4 percent year-on-year and its two Sunday papers, The Sunday Star-Times and Sunday News off 15.6 percent and 15.8 percent respectively.

The nationally-circulating Star-Times now sells fewer than 60,000 papers, the Sunday News just 11,115 - with the DomPost at 36,652 and Press at 37,002.

Stuff's regional papers follow a similar trend, with circulations falling between 13 and 18 percent year-on-year in towns from Hamilton to Timaru.

The NZME stable is also seeing sales fall, but almost always by single digit percentages. The New Zealand Herald fell 8 percent and just stayed over the magical 100,000 daily sales mark by 73 subscribers. NZME's regional dailies fell between 5.3 percent for the Whanganui Chronicle and 8.9 percent for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Allied Press' Otago Daily Times was down 5.2 percent year-on-year to 30,067.

Best performers in the industry were locally-operated papers such as the Wairarapa Times-Age, down just 1.55 percent, the Whakatane Beacon (-2.3 percent), the Ashburton Guardian (-2.8 percent) and the Greymouth Star (2.8 percent).

The full list is here

Get it early – This article was first published on Newsroom Pro and included in Bernard Hickey’s ‘8 Things’ morning email of the latest in-depth business and political analysis. Get it early by subscribing now or starting a 28-day free trial.

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