Recently, StopPress ran a story in which Fairfax's group executive editor Sinead Boucher said Stuff was working on a strategy to overtake Yahoo in terms of online visitor numbers. And this has now come to fruition with Nielsen's statistics for October showing that the Fairfax-owned media property received more unique visitors over the course of the month than Yahoo.
According to the figures, Stuff received 1,509, 0000 visitors while Yahoo sat on 1,498,000, making it the first time that Stuff has ever been ahead of the content aggregator (the NZ Herald was further back with 1,325,000).
When viewed alongside Nielsen's results from September, these figures show that Stuff suffered a moderate drop in its readership of about 14,000 unique visitors, while Yahoo's numbers have dropped by around 146,000.
Yahoo was contacted to comment on these figures, but StopPress is yet to receive a reply.
"Yahoo's figures dropped in October, and we've seen a general downward trend in their traffic over the last year or so," says Boucher. "Stuff overtaking Yahoo has been a combination of our strong growth and their softening. However, our growth has been led by excellence in content, whether that’s across news or lifestyle or business. Yahoo doesn't have the advantage of our newsroom reach – we have more than 650 journalists across the country. Ultimately, our journalism and stories are our biggest advantage."
And Boucher believes that this isn't just a fluke for the month of October and that Stuff will be able to retain its position above Yahoo.
"When we overtook nzherald.co.nz a few years back, we saw a couple of months of jockeying for top position before we pulled strongly away, and now there is a huge and widening gulf between us," she says. "It may be the same with Yahoo, but I have no doubt we'll cement a strong lead over them in the next few months."
Stuff's online growth has been driven by a combination of Fairfax's news publications and the increased volume of content produced by Stuff Nation members, and Boucher says that the balance between these two will play an important role in its continued growth.
"We have the unrivalled advantage of having journalists on the ground in every region of the country, from a large Auckland newsroom to staff in the West Coast or Gore. Our approach is to respond to what our audiences are interested in, not just give them a diet of news we think they should be interested in. This means the Stuff homepage is a mix of the big breaking stories and important issues, and a bit of the lighter stuff on the side."
She also singles out the fact that Stuff is discrete digital entity as a strength that differentiates it from its competitor, the NZ Herald.
"We have the advantage of being driven by the great journalism produced from our regional and national newsrooms, but also of being an internet-only brand, so we can develop it in whatever way that will drive the best outcome for our audiences and commercial partners," Boucher says.
"We have a huge amount of freedom with Stuff, which is really liberating for the newsroom and editors. We don't need to be constrained by the traditional values of a brand based on a print masthead, which is the issue for nzherald.co.nz – we can develop it in a fully digital and modern way while still maintaining the quality journalism that underpins it."
Stuff currently sits behind Microsoft on the list of the top 10 websites in New Zealand, but Boucher is already looking higher on the list in terms of identifying her team's next objective.
"Bring it on Trade Me," she says.
"Stuff can be the biggest domestic site in New Zealand – and that’s our ambition. We’re well on the way there."