MediaRoom: D-Day for NZME

Herald publisher NZME announces its 2018 annual results this morning and is expected to give the first details of how much it will charge subscribers for its new 'premium' paywall online.

Readers should learn what they will be able to access and for how much each month - and investors in NZME should learn what revenues the company expects to raise once the paywall goes live.

And the company's result for 2018? NZME indicated last year it could fall to an Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) between $52 million and $56 million, down as much as 21 percent from the $66.2 million in 2017. 

On the paywall, the key question is: will readers who currently access the entire Herald site for free be convinced to pay for some of the better journalism - investigations, interviews and features to business content from here and overseas.

Or will they opt instead to seek that material still for free on the bigger news competitor, Stuff, and be lost from the Herald's second-placed digital audience?

If NZME can convince its targeted 4 to 6 percent of readers to pay between $3 and $7 a week it could reap millions in new revenues at a time media organisations are struggling to stop advertising and subscriber revenues falling. Much will depend on how much if anything existing Herald print subscribers will have to pay.

Investors and financial analysts will also be looking for good numbers from the three digital classified sub-sites NZME has launched in the past year, Driven, Yudu and OneRoof at a cost of $6 to $7 million.

Brands you can trust 

First there was the New Zealand Herald brand advertising campaign extolling its virtues of trust, truth and the NZME way.

Now 1News and RNZ National are rolling out the virtuous messages in two quite different advertising campaigns.

TVNZ is, like the Herald's ads, talking up the 'trust' its viewers can have in its 1News coverage, and is tied in with the broadcaster marking 50 years of 'nationally networked' bulletins going back to 1969.

The TVNZ ads run on its channels but also on radio and in digital outdoor sites and will initially feature two of its team, sports presenter Jenny-May Clarkson who 'lives for sport' and reporter Paul Hobbs, who we are told is an 'ex-customs officer'.

While the TVNZ campaign is all feelgood and positive about itself, the RNZ National campaign is a sharper-edged effort with obvious digs at its competitors.

One outdoor execution says, simply, "Drive Drivel-Free" and is plainly targeted in the vital Auckland market at boosting shows like its Morning Report at the expense of Mike Hosking and co. on NewstalkZB.  Another digital roadside screen reads: "We have serious issues."

Morning Report out-rates the Hosking show by more than 100,000 listeners, on average, nationally but in Auckland the Newstalk juggernaut he inherited from Paul Holmes is still the leader.

Online audiences

The latest monthly audience figures for news sites are not only interesting for the fact both big outlets, the NZ Herald and Stuff rose in January. Stuff re-established its lead to 137,000 unique readers above

Stuff climbed back to just under 2 million unique viewers after a couple of months in which its numbers had uncharacteristically fallen to as low as 1,750,000. The Herald rose to 1,847,000 - its best performance for six months after slipping to 1,550,000 in September.

The audience results are also interesting for changes in the battle between broadcasters and some smaller sites.

TVNZ has surged ahead of Newshub (with 870,000 unique readers vs 762,000) after being behind last year and having competed blow-for-blow over the past four to five months. RNZ saw a drop, no doubt caused by the silly season, to 361,000 from its normal 400,000s.

The Otago Daily Times website continues its strong growth for a regional news outlet - up to 287,000; and Bauer's Noted edged the Spinoff (140,000 to 133,000) in the zone for which the ratings measurer, Nielsen, issues a warning that results are from relatively small samples and can be volatile. (Newsroom is no longer a member of Nielsen)

Stuff cuts 

Stuff is cutting costs ahead of a potential sale by its new Australian owner Nine Entertainment - with eight editorial jobs to go across the Lifestyle and Entertainment sections of the newsroom, replaced by 3 new roles.

One view is that the stories lost through the reduction in journalists working on the site could be replaced by free material Stuff now has access to under a content sharing deal with Bauer's Nowtolove website. Stories from Woman's Day, the Woman's Weekly and Next already appear on Stuff.

But the Lifestyle team also writes for the Stuff Ltd newspapers' magazines on Saturday and Sunday, presenting a challenge for editors of those titles to fill space with quality content.

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