Dead wrong: Sandra King on why New Zealand’s print market is alive and well

  • Media
  • August 21, 2012
  • Sandra King
Dead wrong: Sandra King on why New Zealand’s print market is alive and well

Over the past few months, discussions around the future of the media have come to a head, thanks in part to a couple of big announcements from the other side of the Tasman and a big one here in New Zealand too. This has brought about loads of discussion within the New Zealand industry about the role of media in society and changing trends in how consumers select and consume news. Worryingly, lots of commentators have been all too willing to eulogise New Zealand’s robust newspaper market. So I’m putting my hand up to remind you all that newspapers and magazines are alive and well in New Zealand.

All change in Australia

In June our parent company, Fairfax Media, announced substantial changes to its business model, focused largely on the Metros (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) business. The proposed changes include plans to take two major Fairfax broadsheets to compact and to introduce a form of digital subscription for online news. A new senior editor team—and an integrated newsroom model—are being installed across the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne. Meanwhile, other publishers in Australia have indicated they are addressing similar challenges, and also seeking to transform how they operate.  

The New Zealand situation

Much of these changes have been heralded as a sort of death knell for newspapers. ‘Newspapers are dead!’ commentator after commentator seems to be crying out. The fact is, in New Zealand this is wrong. New Zealand boasts a high rate of newspaper subscription and our towns and cities tend to have only one major publication, which ensures there is a strong connection between the publication and its readers. Fairfax Media’s publications in New Zealand have grown or held their readership steady.

“Newspapers are dead” is such a naive statement. Brands belonging to newspapers are some of the strongest in the world. The delivery platform for the brand is the thing that is under assault around the world. Of course the digital platform will eventually overtake the printed product. Call it peculiar, but that isn’t happening yet in New Zealand. 

Highlights from the most recent quarter’s (Q3 11 Q2 12) readership results include:

  • Metropolitan dailies performing well, with The Dominion Post up 4.3% year on year, and The Waikato Times recording an impressive 17.6% increase year on year (15+)
  • Fairfax Media connects with 84.4% of all New Zealanders aged 15+ across its multi-media platforms, equivalent to 2.96 million New Zealanders.
  • Stuff.co.nz monthly unique audience : 1,070,000
  • Stuff.co.nz monthly video views: 1,272,461 (+24.5% YOY)
  • Stuff.co.nz smartphone monthly unique visitors 110,830 (+110.3% YOY) on iPhone, and 372,276 unique visitors on Android (26 times more YOY)
  • Stuff.co.nz iPad monthly unique visitors 42,657(+140.0% YOY)

Strong results for newspapers are mirrored by excellent results for our magazine stable. Overall, Fairfax Magazines reach 2.29 million New Zealanders aged 10+, up 2.1% year on year. Hot on the heels of a stellar performance at the 2012 Magazine Awards, including the Supreme Editor Award for Sarah Nicholson, Cuisine’s readership is up 9.8% year on year. Other magazines readership results are also impressive:

  • NZ Lifestyle Block is up 20.8% year on year
  • NZ Autocar is up 12.3% year on year
  • NZ Life & Leisure is up 17.6% year on year
  • Fish & Game NZ is up 24.6% year on year

Ahead of the curve

Many of the changes being discussed by our Australian parent have already happened in New Zealand. We have put significant effort into ensuring our news teams work cohesively as the biggest newsroom in New Zealand, with more than 700 (journalistic, photographic and videographic) content creators working together to deliver compelling, relevant, quality journalism, in the formats our readers want it.

At Fairfax Media we recognise that our readers are accessing our news brands in multiple ways and our teams are focused on meeting that demand, preparing stories for print, online, mobile, tablet and now IPTV. Audiences are not using platforms as an either/or, but in a complementary way.

Taking advantage of our growing multi platform brands, we’ve also integrated our advertising. In 2004 we began the process of bringing our sales people together in one team of more 30 people, selling integrated creative advertising solutions nationwide across all our brands.

At an agency level, by offering an integrated approach and working alongside both media and creative, we’re able to ensure that advertisers are getting access to the right audience in the right way. Increasingly we’re doing this by leveraging the content passion or interest our audiences have.

Over the past three years this has seen Fairfax Media beat the market in terms of growth, as illustrated below. 

Despite a tough global economic climate Fairfax Media New Zealand continues to perform well, and has been able to exceed overall market growth rates for advertising revenue, with a 2.8% advantage over the total market in the year to May 2012.

The role of print in achieving meaningful connections with a broad audience

As a marketer, I’m constantly looking for the right way to connect with my audience and encourage them to partner with us. To me, it’s obvious that print remains the best way to not only communicate with scale but to forge a deeper connection. Our readers look forward to reading our publications—both newspapers and magazines—and are highly engaged with the content, in a way that other mass media like television can’t deliver.

As a business, we’re developing ways to deepen that connection further, by launching innovative augmented reality services as seen with our Rugby Heaven app during the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, and AR features that bring photographs in printed publications to life.

Looking at the shortlisted entries for the Cannes Festival of Creativity this year, I was disappointed to see only two New Zealand entries shortlisted in the print category in an incredibly long ‘short’ list of more than 500 entries. This is despite New Zealand creative agencies performing very well overall. 

I challenge all marketers, advertisers and agencies, who seem only too eager to dismiss a key media for connecting with broad audiences to re-look at print and leverage it to connect with where their customers are.

  • Sandra King is general manager sales and marketing at Fairfax Media New Zealand. 

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