Horse’s Mouth: Jane Hastings, NZME

After a few years running The Radio Network, Jane Hastings took over as chief executive at APN in May and she’s shaken things up since her arrival, hiring a new exec team, embracing cross-selling and cross-promotion across its channels and launching a new brand for the multimedia beast called NZME. Here’s her take on what’s been a whirlwind few months.

What are your thoughts on moving from TRN to your current role?

I’m highly excited about the potential of NZME as a group. It was an advantage already knowing the radio business so well and now I am familiar with the press/online/magazine and GrabOne side. The potential for collaborating was significant and you are starting to see what can happen by bringing the three businesses together.

What is the pressure like when it comes to being in charge of a major conglomerate?

No individual runs a business. I have a great new team in addition to the existing talented people across the business. When you surround yourself with great people you can only head in the right direction.

How have the first few months on the job been?

Busy! I’ve been meeting new people and who does what and why. You always find hidden gems in a business when you look with fresh eyes. I can’t believe how many best kept secrets I’ve found. Now we have established NZME it will make it easier to bring more of these to light.

You’ve introduced a slew of changes. Why did you think it necessary to alter things?

People forget we were actually three businesses. Now we can take the assets we have and enhance them by leveraging opportunities every hour of every day. A simple example is Mike Hosking’s interview with the Prime Minister on Newstalk ZB. Normally this would appear on air and the video content online on newstalkzb.co.nz, but by also sharing it on the Herald website the reach was significantly more.

With these changes have come new staff members. What has been some of the thinking behind these key hires?

As I mentioned above we are no longer three separate businesses, we are a group and that required a group structure with the right people in the right roles. I couldn’t be happier with the team I have working with me.

What has it been like working with Fairfax to reduce costs? Several years ago, it would’ve been difficult to imagine this happening.  

When you think about it lots of things would be difficult to imagine several years ago. The world we live in is moving at such a pace that flexibility and the ability to adapt are key. It was a sensible business decision that benefitted both parties. It’s good business.

What are your thoughts on the changes in the media environment?

No company owns media any longer. Everyone is a potential reporter via social media. Once you understand this and the fact people want information 24/7 and in multiple formats, then you don’t see challenges, you see opportunities. Our radio station websites and herald.co.nz are rich with video content. We’re not just a newspaper or a radio company any longer, we are New Zealand’s Media and Entertainment business, hence NZME. 

You’ve been working hard at a strategy to get your content across all available channels? Why is it so important to be everywhere? Isn’t it more important to be really good in one area and focus on that?

We’re in the business of connecting with audiences and that requires quality content and the right channels. By 9am 66 percent of Aucklanders have read, heard, seen or engaged in news and entertainment provided by NZME, so while we focus on producing New Zealand’s best papers and radio stations, we also focus on how people want to consume that news and entertainment.

Paywalls have been anticipated for quite sometime. What is holding you back form introducing this change? When do you think paywalls will be applied to NZ Herald?

There have been international success stories for subscription options. I’m still relatively new to the business and so is my head of digital so we’re taking the time to assess the options.

What are your thoughts on the decline of print?

I’ve watched with interest how people consume media. Consumer life-stages and lifestyle are the key determinants for what channel they choose and when. While digital is important there is still a place for print. Just take a look at consumer behaviour in a café on a weekend.

You recently incorporated a few changes in the print version of the Herald. Is this worth the investment given the fact print readership continues to decline?

We still sell a significant number of newspapers every day and we have a strong subscriber base. We will always continue to innovate across all channels to keep it fresh and relevant.

What are your thoughts on the growth of digital?

It’s been huge. I’m excited about it because it is opening up more opportunities than concerns. NZME represents an unduplicated Unique Audience of 1.9 million per month (according to Nielsen Netview, July 2014. Based on Monthly Unduplicated Audience. APN Total includes, NZ Media, TRN, Grabone and Adhub sites), which we are set to leverage.

Gains in online advertising are well below those being lost across traditional channels. How important is it for APN to increase the value of online advertising to make up for the decline in print advertising? And how can this be done? 

We focused on revenue diversification across digital, e-commerce, radio, events and activations, all of which are strong revenue streams across the business. And we still have a strong subscriber base.

How is today’s APN different from what it was before?

APN no longer exists. NZME is a company that is at the centre of news, sport and entertainment for New Zealanders. We are taking the best of our talent and content, leveraging that across the group offering new advertising opportunities and opening up new revenue streams. We are a content business that has multiple channels to distribute the information to Kiwis when, where and how they want it and in addition to this we have powerful e-commerce capabilities. 

Does the NZME rebrand signify the end of the changes? Is it a case of saying this is who we are now? 

The rebrand is just the beginning. Watch this space.

  • We asked Hastings for a sitdown interview to explain her strategy and the reasons for all the changes, but she opted to answer via email.

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