An email from a reader.
I’ve been following your ongoing stoushes with the Herald with interest. What’s been puzzling me for some time is why the Powers That Be at the Herald would allow their employees to keep putting the paper’s reputation at risk by publishing what can only be described as tabloid journalism.
Part of the reason, I concluded, is that the paper’s owners, APN, are safely offshore, across the Tasman, and happy to allow business as usual as long as the money keeps flowing.
So is it? I compared the oldest earnings report I could find, pre-APN-ownership (1999), when Tony O’Reilly’s Independent Media Ireland reported earnings from NZ operations of 28 million Euros EBITDA (approx. NZ$56 million at the exchange rate at the time).
Last fiscal, APN reported NZ EBITDA of A$53 million (call it NZ$59 million).
So – earnings up 5% in 15 years. Not great, but no doubt it looks pretty good in the context of a disintegrating newspaper industry.
So how is the Herald (the largest single item in the APN NZ portfolio) managing to sustain this revenue stream?
I’ll let you into a little secret: it’s not from circulation revenues. I’ve compiled a year-by-year chart¬†of the Herald’s circulation over the last 15 years (the numbers aren’t perfect because the newspaper industry is quick to sweep its past under the rug, preferring that you focus only on the last couple of years of numbers, not see them in historical context — but Google is my friend, enabling me to find at least one number for each year).