Georgina Bond has a very good article at NBR on the demise of Truth.
Truth rejuvenation became too hard – Horton [Republished with permission]
Plans to rejuvenate the Truth newspaper became too hard, causing its publisher to call time on the struggling tabloid yesterday.
Horton Media chief executive Matthew Horton told NBR ONLINE work had been afoot to restructure the weekly paper over the past six months.
Initiatives included a deal with Countdown to post the paper’s presence in its supermarkets and selling off one of its websites.
Reformatting plans were also in the pipeline to do away with some of the adult content and related advertising to make Truth more of a “standard newspaper”, Mr Horton says.
“But at the end of the day all these deals took too long and were too hard.”
Mr Horton, who owns a 50% stake in Truth, says the newspaper had continued to lose ground with advertisers and readers over the last few years.
“It had taken a very seedy turn over the last five years and I think that probably cost the paper a lot of sales.
“I always felt the paper needed much more political leaning to it. It’s just a shame that we weren’t able to muster the resources required to make that happen.”
Management changes earlier this year, when original owners handed over the reins to the Crow brothers David and Steve, had been disruptive.
“I guess a combination of all those factors, while trying to get back on track and settling in a new editor, really left the paper in a difficult position.
What Mr Horton describes as “chat room vilification” of Truth editor and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater and the paper’s general manager Russell Beaumont – laying blame for the closure at their feet – was “totally unfair”.
A lot of energy
“Cam brought a lot of energy to the business and if we’d found them earlier in the piece things might have been different. They are good guys who probably represented the direction the paper should have taken a lot earlier.
“Cam was certainly under an enormous amount of pressure to put out a paper every week.”
Mr Horton says Truth’s debt was not insurmountable – “not in the hundreds of thousands” and not the fatal blow.
“It was more our assessment of what we would have had to put into the paper to resuscitate it, than what it had accumulated that was behind the decision to close.”
Neither Horton Media or Truth co-owner Dermott Malley wanted to put in new risk capital, he says.
“It could easily have swallowed another half a million dollars in order to beef up editorial resources.
“Frankly, given the state of the newspaper industry, you’d have to wonder who would sink that into a small paper like Truth.”
He acknowledged Truth’s closure is a sad day for the newspaper industry – the end of an era for a 126-year-old title and New Zealand icon which, in its early days, was the country’s most colourful and leading tabloid.
“But, frankly, in the context of other closures in other industries over the years, timber plants and paper plants, it’s a very minor event.
“Obviously, we’re sad and wish for a different outcome.”
Additional NBR reporting on Truth