Yesterday’s Papers

Richard Harman writes about the state of the main stream media.

The number of copies of New Zealand daily newspapers sold over the past five years has plunged by 23%.

Newspaper circulation figures obtained by POLITIK show the situation is even worse for weekly newspapers like the Sundays and the National Business Review.

Their total copies sold have dropped by 52%.

These drops are obviously a consequence of the internet.

Therefore it is perhaps surprising that the largest drops have been among provincial papers with the Waikato Times, the Manawatu Standard and Bay of Plenty Times all recording drops of over 30%.

Among the weeklies, the Sunday News is down by 49% and the NBR by 38% to just 5402 copies.

And it is a weekly that has shown the smallest drop; the Herald on Sunday is down by only 3.7% while the Otago Daily Times, the Wairarapa Times Age and the Greymouth Star have all recorded relatively small drops around 10%.

The country’s largest paper, the NZ Herald is down 21.8% to 130,937 copies.

It dominates the New Zealand newspaper market with the second largest selling daily paper, The Dominion Post, selling 63,009 copies.

With thee exceptions of a few independents like the Otago Daily Times (34,112 sales) the country’s papers belong to either APN or Fairfax groups and both have big news websites.

Slowly dying…not fast enough for my liking. But what about online…digital as the idiots in management at mainstream outlets like to call it?

According to the media industry website, “StopPress”, Stuff averaged 1,733,000 visitors per months to its site while the NZHerald received 1,315,000 visits.

Averaged out that equates to about 80,000 a weekday on Stuff and 61,000 a weekday on the NZHerald.

Those numbers may explain where some of the lost newspaper readers have gone.

They almost match exactly the total numerical loss from the daily papers over the five years — 139,132.

Those numbers are interesting. Stop Press quotes Neilson’s unique visits.

I use several stats packages, I recently ditched Sitemeter due to negative reports about their code and appalling accuracy. I now use WordPress stats, Google Analytics and Stat Counter.

StatCounter says my average monthly unique visits number is 1,220,000 for the past 12 months…not far behind the NZ Herald. Of course the NZ Herald has hundreds of staff, I have just two plus a few volunteers.


Google Analytics largely agrees.

Of course I have no way of knowing how Neilson compiles their statistics…and I’m not about to start paying them either.

What would be more interesting is time on site statistics and views per visit, but they don’t publish those stats.

One thing is apparent though, the offline media is tanking and online players who have a launchpad are poised to dominate the media landscape.

Stop Press also looks at new media sites and their failings.

One of the interesting things about the launch—and then, as The Spinoff’s founder and editor Duncan Greive recounted in riveting detail, the rapid unravelling—of MediaWorks’ online entertainment and gossip brand is that it seems to fit a pattern. Big media company decides to launch a cool new online brand (often using its own media assets to promote it). Big media company makes song and dance about cool new online brand (often hiring far too many people to run it, despite not having any revenue). Cool new online brand doesn’t really catch on as hoped.

Internationally, the origin stories of some of today’s most successful websites generally seem to be about starting small and becoming big very quickly; the result of serendipity and adaptability as much as a set strategy. Vice started as a street mag and is now one of the biggest media companies in the world; The Huffington Post began as an aggregator of other news sources and blogs before eventually becoming big enough to hire its own journalists and win a Pulitzer (Time magazine also started as an aggregator); Buzzfeed started as an experiment in virality (something that caused a bit of a kerfuffle among journalistic purists when it deleted some of its early ‘experiments’ without telling anyone); Business Insider is often seen as being quick and dirty but it nailed the art of curation, something traditional media brands tend to look down their noses at, and it recently sold to Axel Springer for US$442 million; and many others have followed a similar trajectory.

Bauer’s chief executive Paul Dykzeul thinks the hypothesis that big media companies suck when it comes to launching new online brands is fairly accurate.

“They tend to be much more conservative and wait until something gets going and then tend to pay a premium,” he says. “They often can’t see the opportunity.”

They’re also often mired in process, have biases towards legacy media and, as evidenced by News Corp’sInternet Action Force, are often terribly derivative. Traditionally, Bauer has launched websites that are attached to its existing print brands, as many of the newspaper and TV media companies have done (a or As a standalone brand, is an exception to that rule). But it took what could be seen as a risky approach by launching its new hubs Food to Love and Homes to Love recently ( still has some attachment to print, although it is also a hub). He says that strategy is proving successful and, when all its sites are combined, it had over 850,000 visitors in October, according to Google Analytics. And he says that’s all down to hiring the right people and admitting when you’re wrong.

“The people who are working in that space are very different from the other sorts of people we employ. They are a lot more entrepreneurial … There have been times when I’ve said ‘what’s going on here, that’s contrary to everything I know, no way’. But the reality is I was wrong [about giving away content for free]. And you’ve got to acknowledge that. You need to be able to modify and change your approach. But I don’t think most companies can do that.”

I don’t think they can do that either. The time is coming for a change, a chance to finally hold mainstream media to account. It used to be that media held the powerful to account, they still pretend that they do, but along the way the media became part of the establishment, part of the problem. No one holds them to account because when you try to they cry “media freedoms”. They have used those freedoms irresponsibly and it is little wonder then that the public has lost confidence in news organisations and journalists.

Their crusading has undone them. It truly is time for a refreshing change to challenge the status quo.

Yesterday’s papers (and media outlets) are no longer fit for purpose.


– Stop Press, Politik

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