NZME has announced the launch of a new digital business unit as the company looks to grow its online audiences and revenue.
Current chief commercial officer Laura Maxwell has moved into the role of chief digital officer to take charge of the new unit and will now focus her attention on digital transformation for both NZME’s traditional media channels and the new business ventures.
The digital unit, which includes GrabOne, will bring together digital teams from across the business, including product, development, sales, operations, NZME Vision, iHeartRadio and the company's various product verticals (across real estate, motoring and employment).
NZME chief executive Michael Boggs says these changes will allow the company to fast-track its plans for digital innovation.
“In addition to recent investments in Ratebroker, Restaurant Hub and the Chinese Herald joint venture, we have ambitious plans for our real estate, automotive and employment verticals, along with paid digital content," Boggs says. "Having a dedicated digital team allows us to maintain and grow these channels, and with Laura at the helm, I am confident we can continue to do great things in this space. Laura has been a driver of digital innovation and growth at NZME, is the chair of New Zealand’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and was recently recognised with a Foundation Award at the IAB NZ 2017 Awards.”
He did, however, add that this did not imply that the company would stop investing in traditional media.
“We will continue to invest in our traditional channels and our investment in digital will make our core business more accessible to our audiences and advertisers," says Boggs. "We have successfully integrated digital elements into traditional media platforms, including the closed loop investment in the NZME printing facility, Washington Post’s ARC content management system in the newsroom and the introduction of iHeartRadio to New Zealand, extending the reach of NZME shows beyond markets that have terrestrial frequencies."
As Maxwell leaves her previous role, Matt Headland, most recently head of the agency sales team, steps in to become the acting chief commercial officer. He has been with the company for 12 months.
Further changes to the executive team see Matthew Wilson appointed as chief operations officer, after managing the portfolio as acting chief operations officer since the start of this year. Wilson has over two decades of experience working across NZME's newspaper brands and was integral to the launch of the Weekend Herald brand and the Herald on Sunday newspaper in 2004.
These changes come shortly after the release of NZME's half-year financial results, which showed a profit of $8 million for the six months to 30 June.
NZME posted a profit of $61 million in the same period last year but comparisons are difficult because the company was separated from APN and listed as an independent company on the New Zealand stock exchange.
While overall trading revenue declined by three percent, NZME was able to counter a drop in print advertising revenue with growth in digital revenue (Boggs did, however, tell Stuff that this was not enough yet to offset the drop in other print revenues such as circulation).
That said, this is only the second time the company has been able to offset its drop in print advertising with growth in digital. Given the significance of this turning point, it comes as little surprise that the company is now ramping up its digital focus.