With the decline in consumer sales for most printed news publications and most of the growth coming from digital communications, Rugby News has decided to move with the times and, from next month, will cease printing hard copies and offer all of its news online for free in the form of a digital magazine.
According to Nielsen's readership data, Rugby News has a readership of 291,000 over one month. Its circulation data isn't on ABC, but Media Titles Group chief executive/publisher Margaret Mitchell says it is "generally putting out 7,000 to 9,000".
She says deciding to turn off the printers was scary at the start, but now that the idea has been bedded in she says it's simply being seen as the next phase in the publication's evolution from the original newspaper that was launched in 1970.
As it says on the website: "The readers ofRugby Newshave seen the publication evolving in size and colour to the quality magazine we have today. We are excited to continue the evolution and expand our reach through the new world of digital communications."
As many news publishers can attest, there's a big gap between the number of eyeballs now online and the amount of ad revenue websites can generate to make up for the loss of revenue from paid sales or print ads. But with discussions currently underway with unnamed "collaborative partners" and "new global aspirations" (she says it already has a global readership and the company already has a presence in Australia with Australian Rugby News and Review), she says the move to digital aims to build the audience and has been received well by advertisers who can clearly see the potential.
She says the company, which also has contracts with NZ Cricket and NZ Netball and also publishes official All Blacks programmes and the Small Blacks magazine, has dabbled in the digital arts previously, but more by releasing digital versions of printed products, rather than products specifically designed for the online realm. But with 20,000 subscribers for its weekly rugby e-newsletter RugbyEnews.com she says it already has a good base to build its new digital product on.
The site will also include sub-sites and blogs and it will also be launching a Facebook page.
An introductory version of the new magazine will be launched on 8 November. But the print stable will still continue to publishRugby NewsSpecial Edition publications focused on key events in the rugby calendar such as Super Rugby, the Home tests, Rugby Championship, ITM Cup, End of Year Tour and Year in Review.
It's also looking at digitising its archive of 40 years of content and, as she says, if the switch to digital is done right, "we hope it will be around for another 40 years".