Why is Whaleoil soaring and the MSM just holding on? See if you can work it out

…Publishers and editors have only themselves to blame for failing to connect with the Millennial generation that they – and most of their advertisers – covet the most.

The inability of newspapers to resonate with digital natives has left them with a daunting demographic challenge. Two-thirds of the audience at the typical newspaper is composed of people over the age of 55, according to Greg Harmon of Borrell Associates. “The newspaper audience ages another year every year,” he adds. “Everyone’s hair ought to be on fire.”

As the newspaper audience grays, the readers that newspapers – and most of their advertisers – would like to have are, instead, busily racking up page views [elsewhere].

In a recent study, researchers at the University of Missouri reported that only 29% of newspaper publishers conducted focus groups prior to putting paywalls around the digital products that most profess to be the future of their franchises.

Instead of talking with their intended consumers, fully 85% of respondents to the survey said they asked other publishers what they thought about erecting barriers around the content that they had been freely providing for the better part of two decades.

While paywalls boosted revenues at most newspapers because they were accompanied by stiff increases in print subscription rates, the tactic gave the growing population of digital natives – and non-readers of every other age – the best reason yet for not engaging with newspapers.

Of course, newspapers were losing Millenials well before they started feverishly erecting paywalls in the last few years. But what if publishers and editors had begun studying the needs and attitudes of the emerging generation from the early days of the Millenium? Could the outcomes have been more positive?

In the interests of tuning into the thinking of those elusive twenty- and thirty-somethings, a newspaper client recently brought a panel of them to a strategy session. Here is what we learned:

:: The Millenials said the only media that matter to them are the social media, where they get current news about their friends, as well as cues to other interesting or relevant content.

:: They put a great deal of trust in recommendations from their friends but are not motivated by loyalty to media brands.

:: They will click on whatever content interests or amuses them, and they make no distinction among news, entertainment and advertising.

:: They prefer graphic content – images, videos, GIFs, infographics, etc. – over text.

:: They will buy a book, vinyl record or other physical artifact that they view as a collectible, but see no value in paying for access to ephemeral headlines that are freely available everywhere.

:: They are turned off by the dispassionate voice that characterizes conventional media, preferring treatments that evoke an emotional response.

:: They are smart, engaged and want juicy articles that take stands on important topics.

:: They will exercise the full power of choice made possible by their always-on mobile devices.

:: They are decisive. If they don’t like the content they are getting, they will make their own.

Given the above, it is easy to see that publishers and editors have a higher regard for their products than the next-gen consumers they need to attract. Now, the only question remaining is whether newspaper folk have the gumption – and time – to turn things around.

While the New Zealand media continue to label me as vile and using “shock jock” tactics, they are catering with left wing content to an ever ageing right wing subscription audience.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out, but apparently the people at the top of the likes of Fairfax and APN (NZME) can’t make themselves believe that their audiences are passing them by.

Yet their shareholders and advertisers aren’t seeing past the old way of doing things.  They think going from broadsheet to tabloid and having digital delivery is all it takes.   Those are indeed the cornerstones, but the rest needs to be built on them.  How long before they will catch up?


newsosaur blog


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  • caochladh

    Granny does not have journalists any more, it has opinion piece writers. I used to buy the Herald to read the news, then the “news” became slanted with the “writers'” opinions which were superfluous to the facts and that’s when I unsubscribed.

    • KatherineS42

      How true. even the TV critic is allowed a petty jibe, asking why a million New Zealanders vote National. What editing process allows this sort of comment to be included in a review of TV programmes.

      • Platinum Fox

        The alternative interpretation would be that the TV critic is merely toeing The Horrid’s party line in relation to politics.
        It isn’t apparent to me that there is any editing process for The Horrid’s online content. Rather, the priority is to get a story online without any verification of content and often without any spell checking. Once more accurate information becomes available stories seem to be revised, but without any visible indication that changes have been made. The Horrid’s reporting of Thursday’s train breakdown is an example.
        Some of the overseas news content I see online has footers noting what has changed since the previous version, which seems to me a more professional way of handling updates.

      • OneTrack

        I’m asking why 4 million New Zealanders have to own TVNZ, which only seems to be an “asset” for the Green and Labour parties.

        • Cadwallader

          As is National Radio.

        • david W

          Or any “business” for that matter. Oh that’s right the left can’t run a business, so need to govt to pay for them to run…..

      • wooted

        The “journalists” think it’s all about them. They never heard of “the customer is always right ” so we go elsewhere.

  • RobT

    The Christchurch Press is noticebly slow in pulling stories preferring to leave them on line day after day…instead of renewing the news and articles. No doubt in hope of selling a few newspapers, instead of being update for its on line readers.
    Old and wooly thinking…or lazy editing someone enlighten me?

    • david W

      Same happens with the Waikato Times. I suspect it occurs across all the Stuff regional papers. I always assumed this was because it was the most read, so auto software in the background kept it on the line. But I hadn’t considered incompetence as a possibility.

  • The most logical answer is that the population as a whole no longer find MSM believable. MSM have for too long fed their audiences biased pap, to the extent that almost any article has to be analysed by thinking readers to see whether or not the published viewpoint is valid. This is easy to do with the variety of sources now available. At least with WO we know and understand the author’s motivations so can easily judge and comment, whether we agree or not. Another great aspect of this blog in particular is that it has morphed into a forum for a wide range of mainstream opinion to be published without rancour and silly pettiness so often found on other blogs and media.

  • Wheninrome

    Possibly because Whale Oil lets contrary views appear on the blog, as long as the arguments are reasonable, bad language is kept to a minimum, thus debate arises which is healthy, and surprise, surprise, one gets a more balanced view of the issue at hand.

  • Wheninrome

    MSM is like the Matilda poem of old.

    Every time she shouted Fire, they only called her little liar.

    The more you say the same thing, the less you are believed.

    check out the poem, an interesting analogy.

    “Matilda” is reprinted from Cautionary Tales. Hilaire Belloc. 1907.
    Read more at http://www.poetry-archive.com/b/matilda.

    • OneTrack

      Sounds like the Green party. Global cooling, peak oil, global warming, child poverty, … Does anybody actually believe a word they say anymore?

      • burns_well_eh

        Not now, but to be fair not ever.

  • Macca

    What the likes of the Horrid fail to be able to comprehend is that the bulk of their readers are capitalists – like it or not. Capitalists buy and read papers with political views – socialists in general don’t.

    So to then rub salt in their already gaping wound, what they then fail to understand is that capitalists generally want to read articles about capitalism or like minded – not socialism or like mindlessness! Its like they are trying to serve grass to a dog or meat to a cow and can’t figure out why their audience won’t eat it.

    Not really brain surgery but obviously way too tricky for your average run of the mill lefty to figure out.

    • All_on_Red

      And yet the NZH has opinion writers like this;”Dita De Boni
      Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald”
      Of course the ” twist” is invariably from a left point of view. She is certainly not supportive of business at all.

      • OneTrack

        She comes across as a closet Communist. The only business she seems happy with is the government.

  • david W

    Also think that blogs are much more interactive so have more buy in. Suspect many commentors here would have flicked the WO team emails in info in them that later turned up as parts of blog posts or such. Also conversations are real time. So there is much more buy in.

    Compare that to say Stuff were your comment has to be moderated, so it takes a while for it to appear, you need a specific Stuff account (where I use my facebook account to post to here), which I have never been bothered to get.

    Stuff is very corperatey where blogs a lot more homely.

    • shykiwibloke

      Humans are naturally tribal – by that I mean we tend to flock together with those of similar outlooks to our own on any given subject, (Hobbies, Politics etc). Blogs fit the bill better than MSM – or some social media even IMHO.

  • shykiwibloke

    Going to be very interesting to watch the Spanish experiment. They have just passed a law that requires anyone ‘snipping’ part of a MSM article to pay. The MSM is forced to charge – whether they want to or not. Supposed to shore up MSM revenues by 80m euro but Google have already announced they will not carry any Spanish news content or links. Time to watch death by starvation. Bet the rest of Europe have their fingers crossed the US dominated ‘net is brought to heal….

    • OneTrack

      Those lefties, always engaging in crony capitalism to support their mates in the mefia.

  • BlitzkriegNZ

    That’s ok, at least the NZH will win back readers with constant lorde stories!
    Oh wait, I forgot that they’ve forgotten the difference between advertising and stuff people care about and actually want to read.

  • dgrogan

    My thinking is that alert people, regardless of their life-stage tag, are tired of being force-fed an MSM agenda, be it left or right. For example, blogs like WOBH provide readers with a portal where the progressive socialist agenda is challenged, discussed, rubbished and/or supported, in an interactive environment.

    It’s like opening the windows wide when spring arrives. A breath of fresh air.

    • Alexander K


  • Alexander K

    I hang out here because every other media outlet treats me like a mushroom and are way too slow to respond to my comments. Can’t be bothered with lefties who are locked into a Marxist mindset, either.

  • Alright

    Its really this simple: this site hosts a community.

  • Kent

    When 90% of the articles on mainstream sites are just republications of articles seen elsewhere the day (or sometimes months) before, they add very little reason to frequent them. It’s the original journalism that I believe has the most value but this appears to be declining. Much easier (AKA cheaper) to get it from somewhere else I guess.