The Hot List winners: biggest move in media

Biggest move in media: NZ Herald Premium

Nominees: oOh!media acquiring Adshel​, Sky appointing a new CEO, MediaWorks and QMS merger proposition, Magic and RadioLive coming together, NZME and Stuff merger rejected by court of appeal, NZ Herald Premium, NZME and Go Media sales partnership
People’s choice: NZ Herald Premium

When it comes to the biggest moves in media, it’s hard to go past NZME launching NZ Herald Premium. While online subscription models for news are not a new concept in New Zealand—think Newsroom and NBR—NZ Herald is the first mainstream news outlet to ask visitors to pay. We speak to NZME chief executive Michael Boggs about the premium model, what it means for the media landscape, and how it works for advertisers.

Michael Boggs

How long has the paywall been in the pipeline?

The concept of a paywall had been discussed for quite a few years. At New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME), we committed to investing in building the business case and defining the operating model for NZ Herald Premium in FY2017. When the board signed off the final business case last year we began work in earnest to build the platform and get NZ Herald Premium launched.

You announced that you hoped to secure 10,000 paid digital subscribers in the first year. Where did this goal come from?

We researched digital subscriptions services that have been launched overseas. Studying how the likes of the Washington Post, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal converted digital platform users into digital subscribers gave us some excellent insights into the opportunities to launch in the New Zealand market.

It’s important to note that each subscription model is different, markets are different, and the offering of each of the mastheads is different too. Our model, known as ‘freemium’, where the majority of stories remain free, with premium content only behind the paywall, is quite different to the ‘hard’ paywalls of many others, but we feel it’s best suited to the dynamic New Zealand market and our audience and customer needs.

Do you think other media organisations will follow suit?

We believe that the approach we have taken with NZ Herald Premium is totally the right thing to do to ensure high-quality journalism thrives in New Zealand – that’s why this part of our strategy is called ‘Creating the future of News and Journalism’. Each media organisation in New Zealand that delivers news and information to audiences will have its own unique set of opportunities and challenges and they’ll obviously chart their own course. We’re the first mainstream, multi-media company to take this initiative and I’m sure all our competitors and partners will be watching the success of NZ Herald Premium closely with a view to helping them make their own decisions. I should add that other media have been in touch with us and wished as well and this is hugely appreciated, and I think recognition that premium is a key part of the media ecosystem into the future.

What does NZ Herald ’s digital team look like?

With any initiative of this scale (massive) and this nature (groundbreaking), it’s vital that businesses have great partners to help deliver the project. NZME teamed up with the Washington Post and the team that delivered our publishing and digital subscription platform – called Arc. Our collaboration with Arc ensured we launched this new business with a world-class platform that has delivered the best experience for readers who want to subscribe to our journalism. NZME introduced a project-based implementation team to help deliver the project. It was championed by Miriyana Alexander, our premium business editor, who could bring a strong content and audience focus to our delivery.

How have advertisers responded to the wall?

The key thing that we can deliver advertisers is incredibly engaged audiences invested in getting access to information. They are an extremely engaged and committed audience. We already know from our analytics that premium readers spend a lot more time reading NZ Herald content than other users. Also, our advertisers straddle both sides of the premium offering – so an advertiser isn’t just located behind the paywall.

Do readers mind seeing advertising behind the paywall?

We’ve had lots of great feedback and most of it incredibly positive. Newspapers have featured advertising since they were first published – and readers have been paying for newspapers and reading the advertisements contained in their pages for hundreds of years. Our premium subscription service is really an extension of that. We will continue to evolve our offering and options over time to ensure we are delivering what our audience wants.

We’ll be posting the rest of the Hot List over the next few weeks. To get a print copy of the Hot List, subscribe here to NZ Marketing.

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