Nursing a niche: health media portfolio comes under local ownership, NZ Doctor editor step onto 'media mogul' ladder

  • Media
  • July 28, 2015
  • Ben Fahy & Damien Venuto
Nursing a niche: health media portfolio comes under local ownership, NZ Doctor editor step onto 'media mogul' ladder

Two of the country's most successful trade titles, New Zealand Doctor and Pharmacy Today, have changed hands. 

The publications were previously owned by MediMedia (listed by Companies Office lists as a subsidiary of Medica Asia), and have now been purchased by The Health Media, a company co-owned by current New Zealand Doctor editor Barbara Fountain and Anna Mickell, who brought MIMS into the country and, more recently, was former general manager of pharmacy logistics company ProPharma. 

New Zealand Doctor was launched as the country’s first independent medical newspaper around 25 years ago and it now has a circulation of 2,700, 500 of which are health managers, officials, politicians, lawyers and NGOs. The paper is subscribed to by over 80 percent of the country's general practices. 

Fountain says it has been publishing on nzdoctor.co.nz since around 1995 and has also been something of a pioneer in the paywall space (online access is given to those with a print subscription) and it now has around 6,000 visitors to the website each week

In addition to the fortnightly print publication and website, the deal also includes Pharmacy Today, The Health Handbook (a print publication) and Everybody Patients Sheet (an online information resource for patients). 

Pharmacy Today is published in print monthly, has 2,400 subscribers and goes to 98 percent of the country's pharmacies. Fountain says it also has strong readership among the wider health sector and its website attracts around 2,300 visitors a week. It also runs the Pharmacy Awards in conjunction with the Pharmacy Guild. 

While she says the print products are still very well supported by subscribers and advertisers, niche media is facing the same problem as mainstream media. 

"There's a potentially limited life for print. Newspaper reading is very much a habit. New graduates come through and if they don't read print it's very difficult to get them to read a print product, even in their own niche area." 

NZ Doctor does offer an online-only subscription option to individuals and it is trialling a subscription to institutions, a la the NBR. But, with a highly engaged niche audience and a media property that can help readers in their jobs, they appear to be in a good position to do that. 

Fountain has worked for New Zealand Doctor for the last 19 years and says that investing money into the title wasn't a difficult decision to make, given how much of her life has already been spent at the paper. She wouldn't comment on the company's revenue or the amount paid for the business. But she did say she wouldn't have bought it if it wasn't profitable. 

In a post on nzdoctor.co.nz announcing the changes, she also said that her passion for journalism encouraged her to make the move.

"As a journalist, the last thing I ever expected was to actually buy a newspaper – there were media moguls for that sort of drama," she says. "But media moguls are increasingly hard to find these days as publishing and the wider media goes through a revolution pretty much akin to the radical shake-up of its birth with the creation of the printing presses. For the last 19 years I have endeavoured to lead a news service that does this for general practice and the wider health sector. Waiting for someone else to come along and enable me to carry on doing what I am passionate about wasn’t much of a plan."

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