Listen: Laura Maxwell on NZME’s venture into recruitment, automotive and property

Fair to say it’s an interesting time to be a media company. Digital’s rising, audiences are fragmenting and from the sidelines, we can see each company painting its own path forward. NZME is one of those companies and as chief digital officer Laura Maxwell puts it, its strategy is to focus on its plan and not worry about things out of its control.

To learn about how the news and entertainment business is broadening its horizon with new digital offerings in recruitment, automotive and property, take a listen to our chat with Maxwell or read on below.

It’s been a big year for you guys actually, in terms of launches at NZME, with Driven listings, YUDU, and now OneRoof. Can you explain each of these digital platforms to me?

Laura Maxwell: Sure. So three very different propositions because we understand the markets are very different and have different needs, so rather than create one destination and have property, recruitment, and automotive in one area, we’ve chosen, deliberately, to set up three different propositions.

YUDU is an employment ecosystem. It’s way more than a jobs listing site. Why have we called it YUDU? Because when you meet someone for the first time, they always ask you the question, “So, what do you do?” So we named in YUDU. It’s as simple as that. But it’s also: do what you do best. Kings, has a written a track called ‘You Do‘, the whole proposition behind that is, you know, take steps forward in your career and do what you do best and then you’ll be most successful.

So it changes the whole ecosystem for employment. When you go to other listing sites, you only go there when you’re actively looking to either look for a job or post a job, and what we’re creating and leveraging is our core as a content business. So we have loads of content on there. We’ve got 12 industry verticals that we have content underneath, which allows people to be on the site regularly to keep up to date with what’s happening in an industry, or find out more about roles that they might want to pursue, either as a first career, or as most people are doing now, have a second career through their lifetime. So that’s YUDU.

What we have for OneRoof is a real estate proposition, and again, leveraging all our core assets of a really trusted brand in Herald Homes. We already play very deeply in real estate listing, albeit in a print format. We have great relationships with the industry through media display advertising already, through radio, print, and digital, and so for us to launch a digital listing site for real estate is a natural progression, and one we’re really excited about.

We’ve had great feedback from the industry and commentators on the platforms, how they have lifted the bar and are better than anything else in the market. We’ve looked at two distinct audiences, and one is obviously making sure that it’s a consumer-centric design, it needs to be easy to navigate, to understand. And from an agent’s perspective, we need to provide them with more information about generating leads and how they can facilitate that purchase decision more quickly, by having a pre-qualified potential buyer come and talk to them, as opposed to someone who needs to go to four different sites to get that research.

And then the last one is Driven, which is our automotive site. Again, Driven is a brand that we have had within NZME in a print format for a long time, and obviously a digital proposition, as well, predominantly content to start off with, and now we’ve merged our offline, if you like, listings proposition into digital. So we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes on Driven.co.nz. We’re creating first in market tools for car buyers, so they can, again, make a more informed decision about their purchase.

Branching out into these areas might seem a bit different for a media company. Is it the same rationale behind them all, and why you’re doing it?

Yes. Look, we … if you look at media companies and print media companies, news companies, we have had classified listings forever, and in a print format, they’ve become a smaller revenue stream and a smaller proposition for audiences and, obviously, for us from a monetisation perspective, because they’ve all moved digital. So for us to create a digital proposition for something that we’ve had in another format, doesn’t seem out of line for us at all, and it’s one that we are seamlessly launching into.

What can advertisers expect from these new platforms?

Well, I think the difference for advertisers from the current propositions, again, that only speak to active car buyers, or active house hunters, or active job seekers, is that there’s a lot of research and interest and passive audiences that we’re going to be able to reach, or that we reach now through our current assets. So for advertisers, what that means is all the digital tools, and understanding of our audience, and ability to segment them and create segments that advertisers can buy, that are more relevant to them, we’re applying to these new businesses, as well.

For example, if you wanted to reach people who had shown that they had read the new Mazda car review, or looked at the video, or looked at a couple of listings for Mazda—and the Mazda dealers are probably wanting to reach those people—at the moment, it’s pretty challenging for them to do that specifically. This is a way that we can create that audience segment for them and go, “Hey, here’s the people,” anonymized, “here’s the people that have shown interest in the new Mazda. Perhaps you can target an ad to them.”

There are already players in these spaces, you know, the likes of Seek and Trade Me. Do you see them as competition now, for you?

Look, everyone’s competition, any ability to buy and sell, and so we are fully cognizant of what the current landscape is. We, as media players—and we’re not alone and I’m sure my media compatriots listening to this will concur—we have global competitors in all facets of our business, so competition’s nothing new. What we have deliberately done with these three verticals is ensure that what we’re presenting to market, and both consumers and advertisers, is something far superior to what’s in market, and again, thinking about the individual as an ecosystem, not just when they’re actively in the bottom part of the purchase funnel.

So that’s the point of difference. You know, we speak to 3.2 million people. We have the ability to activate and understand audiences, both nationally at scale, and at a hyper-local perspective, and in specific markets. So those are pretty good ingredients, combined with great digital platforms, that will allow us to win.

How are you going out to market and showing New Zealanders that you guys are more than The Herald and radio stations and that you have all of these offerings for them?

Well, I think the people in Hawkes Bay would probably argue that The Herald isn’t the paper for them, but Hawkes Bay Today is. So we are already nationally in a whole lot of markets. NZherald.co.nz is obviously a fully national product. Our radio stations have been fully available nationally, even the local stations, through iHeartRadio, for a number of years now. So for us, it’s a matter of choosing the right brand, choosing the right audience, and activating as such. So we have loads of tools in our toolbox and we rise to the surface the most appropriate ones for the most appropriate audience.

We’ve already seen NZME branch out in the past with GrabOne, how is that going? How many years has it been around for now?

GrabOne turned seven last year.


Yes, exactly, so they’re a ‘tweenager’. So, look, that industry has evolved hugely in probably the last three years. We have done a lot of work inside the business in the last 12 months, around relevancy and email targeting, and ensuring that our products are refreshed, that we’re reaching the right people with the most relevant content, and we’re finding that that’s delivering us fantastic results.

So for us, with GrabOne, it’s a great channel for merchants to activate markets, but also with the technology that we’re delivering to merchants this year, we’ll improve cash flow for them and we’ll also provide an always-on proposition for them—as opposed to something that they use to activate a market just specifically at a time when potentially they have a lower customer footfall.

I understand that all of the new platforms have launched now, so what has been the response so far?

Response has been great. Look, we have taken the approach to include the industry in both the development of our products and the opportunities for them to engage and monetize. There’s a range of methodologies that we’re putting together for that. But the feedback’s been great. With OneRoof, we’ve had great feedback from within the industry. Our consumer stats that we’re looking at, as far as visitation and time spent on the site, is really encouraging. You know, we’re only six weeks old, so that’s really encouraging for us. Also, external commentators have given us great feedback on the sites.

Also, for YUDU, again, there’s been such a thirst for something different, and something more comprehensive, and something for companies to be able to build their company brand. You know, a candidate chooses an employer, just as much as the employer is choosing the candidate. So, you know, what is your diversity policy? What is your flexible workplace policy? What does your business stand for? Do I want to align with those values and therefore join your business? Creating an outlet for brands to be able to do that beyond their own corporate sites is something that YUDU offers them, and that no one else in the market offers that at the moment.

These new platforms have been rolled out in the wake of the Commerce Commission declining the merger between NZME and Stuff. Could these new platforms be seen as NZME’s response to that?

Goodness, only if we can build sites really, really quickly, because if you look at the timing of the Commerce Commission decision, and obviously the appeal is still live now. No, these have been in play for a much longer period of time. It’s part of the natural evolution of our business and where we see ourselves as NZME, now and into the future. So definitely not a knee-jerk response to a Commerce Commission decision.

Our strategy at NZME has very much been to follow our plan A and not stress about the things that we can’t control, so have a really clear focus and strategy for NZME to drive hard towards that, and our internal people have really embraced that, you know. We needed a vision and a strategy for the business. What is NZME? Where is it going to be? Do I want to still work here? You know, is print dead? Where’s radio at? Will I still have a job as a journalist?

We’ve worked hard on our internal engagement within the business, and our engagement scores have really rocketed over the last 12 months, which, in a climate where potentially there could be a merger with another business and we have huge global competition, we’re really proud of. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve set high goals for ourselves from an employee engagement perspective, but that is a definite focus for us. So our strategy is not to sit and wait for a Commerce Commission decision, it’s to get on with the day to day business of growing NZME.

You mentioned there the future of print, and at the time of the decision, Stuff CEO Greg Hywood said that Stuff would be putting greater focus on cost efficiency and consolidation of titles. We’ve now seen this with the announcement of the closure or sale of 28 mastheads, as well as a move to compact newspapers. What is your response to that move by them?

I can’t speak for any strategy or decisions by any other company, because I’m not privy to that and it’s not the right place for me to do that. Stuff New Zealand is making the decisions that are right for its business. From NZME’s perspective, we have strong audiences in regions throughout New Zealand, and we’re continuing to double down on areas where we see growth, particularly if you look at migration. 52,000 people moved out of Auckland in the last 12 months into other areas around the country, so looking beyond the Bombay Hills and looking at where those audiences and growth opportunities are.

So where there’s a need, what channel does it need to be delivered in? Is that content in a radio, a digital, a print format, and what’s the best monetisation opportunity for that local market and for NZME as a whole? We’re aware of what’s happening in the market, our response is to continue on our current strategy.

I was going to ask if among the digital announcements, are there any plans in store for NZME’s print products, but I would take that as no…

Our print products continue to deliver great readership growth. Our readership grew last year, in the last 12 months. Our magazine business, so our newspaper-inserted magazines, continue to allow us to create content that is audience-centric and not generalist in nature, and that allows us to attract advertisers who want to speak specifically to those audiences. So from a print perspective, we’re constantly looking at, again, what’s the best channel to deliver content in.

We’re happy with where we are at the moment and I can’t comment on any decisions about what we’re doing with any of our channels, albeit to say those are the metrics that we look at. You know, where are the audiences? what is the best proposition to deliver that content? and what do audiences want? You know, if you look around a café on a Saturday or Sunday morning, you’ll see a lot of people reading a newspaper or reading a newspaper inserted magazine. So they are still very much providing validity for audiences, and also in this era where people are wanting to unplug, move back to paper, and it creates an opportunity to … in a lean-back environment, I guess, to lean back and relax and indulge yourself with a coffee and a paper.

It might seem naïve to think that the current state of what our print products are will be around forever. We’re going to move with audiences. We have for years. Our strategy is to do, what’s right for audiences, what’s right for monetisation, and make decisions accordingly.

We certainly look forward to seeing how that all evolves in the future and keep tabs on what’s going on. So, Laura, while I’ve got you here, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

No, I just think it’s a really exciting time to be in a media business. You know, we’ve got phenomenal competition, both locally and internationally, and I think that’s great for New Zealand, because it makes everyone lift their game, and people are looking at us the same. We are looking out the window and seeing what other people are doing.

As a business, we’re really proud of where we have come. You know, we’re three businesses that came together, people that had worked a long time under particular brands. We’ve managed to bring those businesses together, and yes, in Auckland we’re in one building, but around the country, we’ve also created that opportunity for people to feel part of NZME while still maintaining those core brands that people love and cherish and work for, be it Hawkes Bay Today, or Bay of Plenty Times, or Wanganui Chronicle.

So as a business, we’re never satisfied with where we want to be and what we want to deliver. We have great talent within the business and we have people wanting to work here every day, which is something that we’ve worked hard to do, is to become an employer of choice, both by the environment that we set up internally, but also the opportunities that we offer people from a career perspective, and people want to work for a successful business. They want to be in a place where things are happening and things are positive. We’ve created that at NZME and that’s something we’re inherently proud of.

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