You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours: Fairfax and TVNZ partner to attract more eyeballs—UPDATED

Last year, Fairfax underwent some massive changes, restructuring its editorial staff into local teams and specialist areas, shifting a large part of the focus away from newspapers and over to the digital realm. This emphasis on digital seems to have paid off, as Stuff managed to grow its audience and has now used it to leverage a partnership deal with TVNZ, where Stuff readers will be able to view One News video from the site as of Thursday, which might mean more time spent on the site and in return TVNZ gets a taste of Stuff’s audience.  

Fairfax’s restructure saw 159 roles go, 174 new editorial positions created and other roles re-scoped (in February this year RNZ also reported 70 more jobs would go and late last month it was announced the publisher would be restructuring its community newsrooms). At the time, Fairfax group executive editor Sinead Boucher said the change would improve the publishers’ reporting capacity.

“We are boosting our reporting capability in small and large communities, and streamlining our print-focused production processes, increasing the ratio of content creators from just over half to almost two thirds,” she said. “We need digital-first, socially driven newsrooms that are structured to produce quality journalism for different audiences and across platforms – and this is an exciting structure geared towards building a dynamic, responsive newsroom.”

This strategy seems to be paying off, with Stuff’s reach growing consistently over the last year. 

In a release sent out yesterday, Fairfax Media NZ managing director Simon Tong said Stuff had an audience of two million New Zealanders last month.

“This is a significant step for Stuff, and demonstrates our capability as a home for content from other publishers and partners, as well as our own,” he said.

“The Stuff audience hit an all-time high of more than 2 million New Zealanders last month. People come to the site because of our great stories and this new record is testament to that. More and more people are watching video content on Stuff – we currently get more than 10 million streams per month. Our partnership with One News adds to this already strong video capability and reflects the insatiable appetite from our audience for video content.”

In an earlier release he said Fairfax had transformed its newsrooms to enable working in a digitally-centric, audience-first way. 

“New Zealanders have an insatiable appetite for our content and it’s been a collaborative effort from across the business to get us there. We recognise people want to consume content in different ways, so part of our growth has come from not being afraid to try new things, like Facebook’s Instant Articles.”

Tong said growth had also come from a focus in areas such as search, social media and other forms of marketing as well as product improvements, drawing new audiences in to discover Stuff’s content and improving their experience when they get there.

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick said domestic online players needed to collaborate to compete effectively with global scale players, and the opportunity was all about matching One News’ strength in video journalism with Stuff’s strength in online reach.

“We’re committed to making the news stories that matter most to New Zealanders accessible to as many viewers as possible. One News is the market leading TV news and One News Now has achieved massive growth in online news video streams since it was launched last year. The partnership with Fairfax is an exciting next step to extend the reach of One News stories and make them immediately available where audiences want to view them.”

According to TVNZ’s interim report, One News has an average audience of more than 680,000.

This collaborative effort between TVNZ and Fairfax comes shortly after NZME has invested in video journalism, with the launch of NZ Herald Focus and The Economy Hub, designed to take advantage of NZME’s “state-of-the-art” newsroom.

So, is Fairfax’s move a match-for-match response to NZME?

Boucher told StopPress it isn’t and that discussions over the partnership had been going on over the past couple of months.

“This collaboration is part of our own strategy to meet the growing demand for news,” she says.

She says the move is a response to an ever-changing media landscape.

“The media landscape is changing all the time. This relationship enables us to enhance our offering and ability to compete in the local and international environment,” she says.

“The relationship with TVNZ also demonstrates our capability to be a platform for content from other publishers as well as our own.”

We asked whether there were any concerns over TVNZ drawing more eyeballs over to its own platforms, but Boucher didn’t really respond to this question.

“Our partnership with One News adds to our already strong news capability and reflects the insatiable appetite from our audience for video content,” she says.

“More and more people are watching video content on Stuff, we currently get over 10 million streams per month. The content from One News will add to our storytelling.”

Fairfax journalists will weave One News videos into their stories like any other form of content, she says. “The videos will live in Stuff and open in Stuff.”

So, will there be more partnerships on the horizon?

“The TVNZ relationship is the latest in a string of partnerships and collaborations for Stuff (Fairfax and Sky Sport partnered during the last Rugby World Cup),” she says. “We’re always open to additional opportunities where we see benefits for our audience.”

Fairfax’s communications manager Emma Carter also confirmed the publisher wouldn’t be decreasing the production of its own video content and that the content was supplementing, not replacing.

According to the announcement release KPEX would handle advertising sales for the video content and the companies will share advertising revenue, and viewer response would determine the length of the collaboration.

Competing with the scale and digital media clout of big multi-nationals is proving a major challenge. And while it would’ve been difficult to envision a partnership between competing publishers in the past, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that collaboration is integral to their longevity.  

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