As the online competition heats up, print media puts the kybosh on NZPA feeds

The New Zealand Press Association now has fewer mouths to feed after cancelling content contracts with some of the country’s larger media companies. And while those affected by the loss claim it will have limited impact on their news services, it does appear to be an acknowledgment from the print media sector that different mediums are now competing head-on for online traffic—and the advertising revenue that follows.

Newspaper Publishers’ Association chief executive Tim Pankhurst says there were a number of contracts between the NZPA and third parties and while “most” remain in place, APN, Fairfax and the other NZPA shareholders didn’t want to shoot themselves in the foot and share content with current or potential competitors. And with more broadcast media upping the ante in the online space, print media fully embracing multi-media (as evidenced by the fact that over one million videos were watched on nzherald.co.nz online in November last year) and multi-national news portals starting to suck up precious page views, the decision to protect their turf is an understandable one.

Pankhurst says NZPA adopted a commercial model in 2006, where contracts could be formed with third parties and many of the contracts with those parties date from that time. He says some contracts (that he wouldn’t name) have been reviewed and others, such as its relationship with TVNZ, have been canned. NZPA will be honouring contracts with other news outlets such as MediaWorks (it runs out sometime around the middle of the year).

TVNZ and TV3 already have a strong online presence and a restructuring of the news and current affairs department at TVNZ last year was based partly on a recognition that its content now needed to be spread liberally across different platforms. So it shouldn’t affect either of them too badly, although it will now be lacking coverage in some areas.

It is likely to affect some of the other, primarily online news entities without those sizable editorial resources, although Pankhurst points out NZPA didn’t have a contract with MSN, and it has not given notice to Yahoo!Xtra, as reported by the New Zealand Herald (considering ACP has a 50 percent stake in MSN, it seems strange that pretty much all of the stories on the MSN news page link to nzherald.co.nz stories, although this might explain why it doesn’t have and/or need an NZPA contract).

MSN NZ top dog Liz Fraser is currently out of the country and Yahoo!Xtra’s Laura Maxwell-Hansen hasn’t returned calls, but Yahoo!Xtra did hire new editorial staff last year in recognition of the fact that original, localised content brings better traffic.

Looking at Nielsen’s figures, you can see what the big print players are concerned about.

And the Top New Zealand News Channels Online – Average Daily Unique Browsers per month for January 2006 vs February 2011 (the figures for February 2011 are inflated by the quake).
stuff.co.nz/news             28,715                      218,818
nzherald.co.nz/news     30,998                     185,251
xtramsn.co.nz/news      35,652
yahooxtra.co.nz/news                                      144,406

Yahoo!Xtra didn’t exist in 2006 and MSN.co.nz/news isn’t singled out by Nielsen anymore, but judging from last year’s eyeball results, it’s going great guns, with page impressions for the year up 1,446 percent to 3,992,664 and UBs up 229 percent to 398,397.

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