Once upon a time, newspapers were rivers of gold. But, as everyone knows, those rivers have started to dry up recently as readers went online and got their news hit for free. Now publishers around the world are embracing visual media—and competing with broadcasters—to try and fill the financial void. And Fairfax has joined that brigade with its soon-to-launch local IPTV arm.
Fairfax Media's Sandra King says it's a natural step for Fairfax: it already specialises in content generation, its journalists are already out in the field filming, production capacity has been increased as online video has taken off and there's a belief within the organisation that content needs to be "platform agnostic".
"Whether the audience is interested in food or gardening, we can [generate content] better than anyone and cover the length and breadth of New Zealand," she says.
Of course, online video certainly isn't new and while she says we're behind the rest of the world, it's growing hugely. APN already has its booming news-only nzheraldTV and many traditional print-based entities (including Tangible Media) are looking towards video production, with many clients who say they don't have the budget for display advertising seemingly able to find the cash if a good, creative, multi-media solution can be offered. Overseas, The New York Times already has a TV offering, it's also very common among European media companies and the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age launched their TV arms about two months ago.
King says Fairfax, which will launch the service in November, has been making short form video, or "programettes", for a long time now for the likes of Leigh Hart's Rugby Mundo show, The Breakdown and Fashion Week. So, in part, Fairfax TV will be an extension of that approach.
But it's the approach to long-form content that sets this scheme apart and puts it more in the league of TVNZ and MediaWorks. It's signed a deal with the ABC and is in discussion with other studios and TV manufacturers, with the end goal being to include a Fairfax TV app on the ever-increasing number of smart, internet-enabled TVs (King says there are about 100,000 of them in the country now).
As for who's going to pay the bills, content co-creation with clients (possibly more colloquially known as advertorial) will be a big area of focus, with brands able to link themselves with specific channels, and she says Fairfax would be happy to strike up a relationship with anybody who asks, which isn't entirely surprising given its latest financial statements.
So far she says the market has responded very positively to the offer, with every agency they've pitched to getting a brief for at least one of their clients.
"It's really exciting. In terms of creating content, it can actually be on every screen," she says. "... Consumer behaviour has changed so much. They want to watch whatever they want whenever they want. TV recorders mean people are skipping the ads, so it's not a giant leap to think consumers will have a direct relationship with studios."
The broadcast model is broken, she says. And Fairfax is hoping its new model can fix it.