‘Celebrating the best and confronting the worst’: APN NZ mixes past, present and future to mark the Herald’s 150th

150 years ago today, the first edition of the New Zealand Herald was printed. And APN NZ has gone to great lengths to celebrate the milestone, with one of its biggest ever promotions, a range of special editorial products and some significant changes to its digital properties. 

Sarah Kenny, APN NZ’s general manager of brand and comms, says one of the key objectives was to show that making it to 150 is a big achievement and worthy of a celebration. But it didn’t want to get stuck looking back, so it’s also focusing on looking to the future, showing the strength of the different Herald brands and extending their reach. 

  • Read about some of APN NZ’s digital developments here.

It has created two special publications to mark the occasion, today’s 108 page magazine about the 150 Greatest New Zealanders and tomorrow’s publication dedicated to the future of New Zealand. She says both have been very well supported by advertisers, many of whom are also pretty long in the tooth and have been advertising in the paper for decades.

The Herald also commissioned Dick Frizzell to create images for a wraparound cover for the 150th and Sir Edmund Hillary, Dame Whina Cooper, Ernest Rutherford, Kate Sheppard and All Black captain Richie McCaw made the cut.

“It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate the significant milestone with the team at the Herald, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative journey,” Frizzell says in a release. “The New Zealanders chosen for the 150th birthday cover have each achieved greatness in their unique fields in the past 150 years and have evoked pride throughout this nation. To be able to paint them in my own unique way has been both a privilege and an honour.”

Frizzell’s five original gouache paintings will be available at auction on Tuesday, 10 December via Art+Object (click here for more details). And 150 special edition prints, signed by Frizzell, have been sold on GrabOne, with proceeds from both donated to Starship Children’s Hospital (you’ve got to be quick: the prints hae sold out and it has so far raised $22,500 for Starship). 

Not surprisingly, there is also plenty of bespoke online content, with a live blog of its newsroom, a parallax scrolling micro-site celebrating the ten greatest New Zealanders (there is also some space dedicated to important Kiwis through the years, from 1863-19121913-1962 and 1963-2013) and a hub for ‘The Greatest New Zealand stories’, which includes the tales uncovered by journalist David Fisher and photographer Mark Mitchell after travelling the country for three weeks in a campervan.

It has also been running a big promotion giving away 150 prizes over 15 days, culminating with the big one: a $72,000 Mercedes. Readers were asked to collect keywords in print via The New Zealand Herald, Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday, via online ads run off the website at nzherald.co.nz, via e-newsletters from the Herald, and via radio advertisements running across TRN and Radioworks networks. And Kenny says it has been the most successful promotion it’s done to date in terms of the number of unique entries. 

She says the promotion has worked particularly well for driving retail sales, a definite area of concern for the Herald and many other newspapers around the world. And she says this type of promotional activity will need to continue in the future to keep readers engaged and interested in the print product. But she says subscriptions are doing really well and a mean-spirited campaign from Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater to get people to cancel their Herald subscriptions didn’t have much of an effect and wasn’t something it wanted to wade into. A release from Slater said almost 1.7 million anti-Herald banner ads were viewed by visitors at his site and more than two and a half thousand people clicked on one of the banners during the three week long campaign. 

“It’s not the way we play,” she says. “And we stand by the strength of our brands and our journalism.”

She says the 150th promotions have largely been aimed at reminding, rewarding and retaining existing readers, unlike the change to tabloid format last year, which featured a significant above-the-line ad campaign by DraftFCB (she says it has been looking for new audiences in other areas, like the launch of its Viva app). This is partially because it already has a range of strong media options and it makes sense to use those channels, but she says it does experiment a lot with digital media and is doing more in social media.

There has, of course, been big growth in the Herald’s web and mobile audiences. But there is still a fairly large gap between the money made online and the money lost from print. So she says the next step for the business will be to diversify revenue and commercialise its products, primarily in the digital space. When those words are mentioned, paywalls inevitably come up and when asked if it intended to launch one in February next year, as widely rumoured, she wouldn’t confirm a date but said it had “made a statement to the market that [a paywall]was something we are working towards”.

When asked what the Herald will look like another 150 years, business editor Liam Dann posted this on its liveblog: “Business Herald team is divided between: embedded bio-chips in your brain (Like Total Recall, if we make a mistake we can correct and it and you won’t remember, says Mark Fryer) ……or hand printed from a fortified bunker down at Motat (post-apocalyptic scenario).”

In a release, editor Shayne Currie says today’s reporting team had the same goals as the newspaper’s original founders: to deliver top quality journalism, breaking game-changing stories on a daily basis.

“We have a very proud heritage and reputation for quality writing, and breaking stories that matter. We’re not only here to make a difference, for the better, for our readers’ lives, but also to celebrate all that is good about New Zealand and New Zealanders. It’s only fitting we celebrate our birthday with those who have made us proud as Kiwis. Today’s print edition includes a 108-page magazine in which we name our New Zealanders of the Year for each of the past 150 years. And we are also looking forward. On Thursday, we publish our first Future NZ magazine, in which we analyse and debate the New Zealand of tomorrow – family life, work-life balance, the economy, politics, our health and wellbeing, and what our cities will look like. These specials, each with additional online content, epitomise the Herald’s role to lead debate and to get us thinking about issues and topics of importance to society.” 

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