APN looks to bring its media strands together, Hastings announces new exec team

With the prospect of an IPO on the horizon that would potentially see 60 percent of APN New Zealand’s media assets carved out, a number of new senior humans have joined the organisation to “drive collaboration benefits across the group and fulfill a bold new vision to fully engage Kiwis anywhere, anytime with the content they love”. 

“The new team has a wealth of experience in successful and leading marketing and digital companies including Fairfax, Spark, NewsCorp Australia, Myer, The Warehouse and Yahoo as well as TRN and APN,” says Jane Hastings, chief executive of APN NZ in a release. “Their combined experience will enable us to connect with more Kiwis more often, and in more ways. The total APN portfolio connects with close to 3.3 million people, that’s 85 percent of the total New Zealand population. By 9am, 66 percent of Auckland has read, heard, seen or engaged with an APN brand. The focus on the group executive team is to leverage the power of the group audience and e-commerce capabilities.” 

The group says its assets now include radio, publishing, TV (sort of, with ZM TV showing on Sky for two hours every weekday and more focus on online video), magazine (although it sold most of them to Bauer and, in addition to its newspaper inserted magazines, now publishes New Idea, Girlfriend and That’s Life), digital and e-commerce businesses, and Hastings says its massive potential will be realised in the marketplace as “APN becomes the outstanding and preferred news and entertainment destination for New Zealanders across all platforms and devices”. Just as MediaWorks has attempted to harness its radio, TV and digital assets, APN has been ramping up the cross-promotion in recent months, as evidenced by some of the promotional work of Radio Hauraki and Newstalk ZB, and it also created APN Collaborative Media Solutions to sell across mediums. 

“The group structure will ensure we don’t think vertically but across all of our offerings as consumers pick and mix how they access content. And we will connect our advertisers to those audiences,” says Hastings.

As for the new arrivals, Sandra King takes up the role of APN group director, commercial. King “successfully re-positioned Fairfax” in New Zealand over nine years as head of sales and marketing, before leaving under slightly mysterious circumstances and then resurfacing as manager at the PPR NZ office, where she was tasked with bringing Australian content creation service King Content to the market. 

“A big part of what I bring is future-proofing media in its evolution and development,” says King in a release. “I look forward to working with such iconic New Zealand brands and a team of very talented individuals who are committed to taking the APN Group to a new level.”

Liza McNally joins APN as group marketing director after successfully managing the key media strategy for Telecom’s rebrand to Spark. Prior to this, she was NSW director of marketing and newspaper sales at News Corp Australia, specialising in audience growth through emerging and traditional channels.

Richard Harrison returns to New Zealand from Australia as APN group director – e-commerce and new ventures. He was most recently general manager online at Myer where he successfully reset their online business development strategy to transform the company into a competitive multi-channel retailer. The four years prior to his move across the Tasman, he was general manager multi-channel for The Warehouse in New Zealand. He will drive new e-commerce initiatives across the group and will lead GrabOne, the country’s third most visited online retail site and a business that APN says it has yet to fully leverage (it has recently attempted to do that with the launch of Shop Viva, which connects its content with e-commerce, although it admitted to being disappointed with the recent financial results). 

Laura Maxwell-Hansen has stepped into APN as group director – digital media, building on her track record as commercial director at TRN, which she first took up in July 2013. Prior to her appointment with TRN she held the role of general manager/director for Yahoo! New Zealand. She is also former chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

“APN NZ is in an enviable position as a local media player,” says Maxwell-Hansen. “We already generate significant content across multiple platforms. Now we can really connect our national digital media footprint to create exciting new propositions for audiences, consumers and advertisers to engage with us more than ever.”

Carolyn Luey moves to her new role as director of strategy and operations following a successful career at TRN as group general manager product, digital and technology. She has over 15 years’ experience in digital media, strategy, product management, marketing and business development across a range of industries including FMCG, telecommunications and security services.

In addition to the group executives former MediaWorks national sales & business development manager, Mark Smith, comes across as APN group general manager integrated solutions – direct. 

“In previous roles I’ve been tasked with achieving exponential growth and there are certainly development opportunities available within the APN stable,” says Smith.

When asked if there would be any departures among the existing team as a result of these new hires, spokesperson Evie Ashton said APN had no comment and added that it was too early to tell whether they would be replacing anyone as many of them haven’t even started their roles yet (although one would hope they’re not going to wait until the new staff get here before deciding whether to tell existing staff they’re not needed anymore). 

While there has been plenty of speculation about a paywall for the NZ Herald over the last few years, APN said in a disclosure notice last week that it will launch one in the first quarter of 2015 and it will be similar to the metered paywall operated by The New York Times and other papers that offers readers a certain allotment of stories. 

“A metered paywall will be progressively introduced for retail customers who will be charged for content above the meter, with a range of digital subscription offers being put to the market to drive digital revenues while current newspaper subscribers will receive a digital subscription at no additional cost,” the notice said. 

Hastings says she is extremely pleased with the executive talent and the experience they bring in strategic innovation.

“Integration is fundamental and the market is demanding it from us,” says Hastings. “We are building on the strong content foundation of each of our businesses and offering the market new ways to connect with our audiences. You know the strategy is right when your customers are saying ‘this is exactly what we want’.”

APN’s figures for the six months ended 30 June show that the company’s overall revenue across its Kiwi and Australian offerings climbed three percent, rising from A$394.6 million last year to A$405.9 million this year. 

Statutory net profit after tax followed the revenue trend rising 77 percent from A$12.8 million from the previous year to A$22.6 this year. And this was largely linked to its purchase of radio assets TRN, ARN and iHeartRadio from Clear Channel earlier this year. 

APN’s New Zealand media business, which includes the New Zealand Herald and TRN, underwent a slight slide in revenue from A$136.7 million last year to A$135.6 this year. This was also reflected in the EBITDA figures, which showed a slight dip in earnings from A$23 million to A$22.7 million. On a local currency basis, both drops were much more significant at 13 percent.  

The declines in revenue and profit were put down to the sale of South Island and Wellington newspapers in April 2013 and the sale of several magazine titles, including the NZ Listener, to Bauer in February of this year.

Overall, APN chief executive Michael Miller said APN’s performance had been strong, and that structural changes, introduced by Hastings, were ensuring the company was on the right track.

“Although advertising markets remain challenging, APN’s second quarter performed better than the first. This gives us great confidence in our strategy of investing in talent, brands, digital infrastructure and a more integrated approach … APN’s New Zealand businesses continue to undergo significant and positive change under the leadership of Jane Hastings. The establishment of integrated sales offering APN Collaborative Media Solutions is one of the many ways in which our New Zealand businesses are working closely together to offer the best solutions to our clients and make the most of our assets.” 

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