Drinnan strikes; readers groan

For anyone unfortunate enough to be interviewed by the NZ Herald’s John Drinnan, the feeling will be depressingly familiar: our prompt and polite responses to an email query from him resulted in a selective, confusing and potentially damaging report in this morning’s NZ Herald.

In his weekly column Drinnan discusses the use of advertorial in HB Media’s magazines. (HB Media owns Stoppress.co.nz, NZ Marketing, Idealog, Good etc). He quotes Idealog editor Matt Cooney saying one thing; then me, Matt’s boss, apparently saying the complete opposite. What a ship of fools they must be over at HB Media!

John Drinnan

It’s amazing how effective selective quoting can be. Here’s Drinnan’s version of events:

And here’s what Matt and I said (we sent it by email so that Drinnan would get an accurate wording, spell names correctly etc)

Hi John,

Vincent isn’t in yet, but let me step in. That’s absolutely wrong. There is no policy linking editorial coverage with advertising support at HB Media, and never has been.

I suspect Claudia is relaying a comment in this thread on StopPress:


Just like you, we get bombarded with useless, unwanted crap from PR companies. It makes no difference to our editorial coverage of anything. Vincent’s point — and obviously, he’s being deliberately provocative — is that it’s a total waste of time for the PR agency’s clients, as they spend money and get nothing from it other than annoying us. Better that they spend their money on something useful like, er, advertising.

But there is absolutely no connection with editorial coverage, and it’s being a bit disingenuous of Claudia (cc:ed) to suggest there is. I’m open to PR pitches, from Mango or anyone else, and treat them on their merits.

Hope this clears up any confusion.


Just to make sure there was no confusion I then sent Drinnan this:

Hi John

Happy to respond and add a publisher’s voice to the question.

We do indeed produce advertorial and proud of how we have broken the mould of how it’s done. There are two very important priorities that we apply:

a) it needs to be good; that is, well designed, well written and adds value to the reader
b) it needs to be clearly marked as such, so the readers are not tricked; so we clearly mark it as ‘promotional feature’ or “advertising feature” or some such descriptor that allows the reader to discern where the material has come from

The end result is that our reader research for Idealog shows the showcase material (advertorial) is one of the most popular parts of the magazine.

So long as the above two rules apply we’ll continue to produce advertorial in all our products.

One further comment is that advertising agencies charge so much for producing creative material that often clients cannot afford to advertise (not because of the media cost but the creative cost); so they come direct to us to ask if we can create the content as part of an overall bundle. Ironic really because that’s where advertising agencies came from: media owners.


PS: regarding Claudia’s comments, I refer to you to the link in Stoppress in Matt’s email where I stated clearly what HB’s position is towards PR people: stop freeloading off our magazines and encourage your clients to advertise—or else there will be no channel to freeload on

Drinnan’s conflation of our quotes makes us look idiotic and as if Matt and I can’t talk across the ten metres of space that separates us. For those who care (most don’t), the email correspondence above tells the story. We figure that you, our readers, are a pretty intelligent bunch. So we’ll leave it to you to decide which version more accurately reflects HB Media’s policies with regards to editorial and advertising.

But perhaps we had it coming. Just a month ago Drinnan threatened to sue us for making a joke about him (his name was used in a caption contest), a threat he later withdrew. I guess now we have to pay in the pages of his fish wrap.

Meanwhile, if you have a Drinnanism to share, send me an email or post a comment. The list might be too long to publish of course.

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