Beyond the midday bulletin: Newshub launches its explainer platform

The Newshub Explains series, which launched 18 July, features Samantha Hayes, Mike McRoberts and other Newshub journalists providing context, background and explanation of the day’s news, issues and major events, tailored to audience interests. The team and resources behind come from the Newshub Midday TV bulletin, which concluded on 1 July.

Newshub’s audience, and audiences in general, are more active on social platforms than on linear platforms at midday, and Newshub head of digital news Jono Hutchison says while there is a still a broadcast audience at the time, it’s smaller than it used to be. Hutchison says Newshub sees more and more people checking in online intermittently during the course of the day. 

Newshub head of content and coverage Richard Sutherland says as part of the evolving Newshub service, it is committed to providing audiences with the content they want, where it is most relevant to them.

“In this case we are developing and further investing in our digital news content, connecting our award-winning reporters with audiences in a new way, reinforcing our 24/7 news service, and providing a new way for Kiwis to find information on the platforms they’re utilising most often.”

The move to change platforms to suit the audience is similar to that of NZME, which earlier this year responded to the challenge with NZ Herald Focus, a video news show providing analysis and insight with some of New Zealand’s leading journalists.

At the time of its launch, managing editor Shayne Currie told StopPress it had come off the back of listening to what readers want on a daily basis. He said people seek news in a format they want at a time that’s best for them and on a device they love.

As well as a change in platform, the content offering in Newshub Explains is also new, with focus placed on one story or issue rather than a bulletin. The Newshub midday TV bulletin was half an hour, and consisted of weather and sports as well as news. Hutchinson says “it did a good job, but at that time of day, and on TV, there’s only so much you can do to develop stories”.

While he has seen some digital platforms work with bulletins, Hutchinson says he hasn’t seen it done well and, in his experience, audiences respond better to individual stories and issues on digital.

“If it’s something that grabs them, they will go for it,” he says. “A better way in the digital space is to focus on individual stories rather than ‘here’s a general wrap up of the news’.”

Moving to digital has also offered Newshub flexibility in its deadline. Hutchinson says if the team thinks a story will be appreciated more in the evening, or even the next day, it can be released then. However, while it has that control on its own website and app, he says it is at Facebook’s mercy as to when the content surfaces on the platform for different people.

“If you put it up in the middle of the day it might not surface until 10pm that night and it can be tricky to retain control over that”, he says.

Despite this concern, he adds that Facebook has been one key drivers of traffic during the platform’s first week. 

Using Facebook, Newshub is also able to see the audience reaction to stories and Hutchinson says the team takes that feedback into account. If there are questions coming through from the audience about a particular topic, Newshub Explains would look to cover it, he says.

Topics covered so far include: ‘NZ one of few countries that doesn’t routinely arm police’, ‘Russian anti-doping whistle-blower barred from competing at Rio’ and a comparison of Auckland’s parking charges to those of other cities. 

Newshub is also drawing in an audience via its app, which Hutchison says has perfomed well since its launch in February, has “done really well”.

There is a dedicated, highly engaged audience that returns to it several times a day, he says. 

Earlier this month, marketing manager Rebecca Saunders told StopPress, the audience spends almost three million minutes per month using the app, and it’s a figure that continues to climb.

While Newshub has received positive feedback for the series, Hutchinson calls it an “evolving product” and it has yet to be completely fine-tuned, with issues like the location of filming (studio or in the field) and whether or not a presenter is used not having been set in stone yet.   

Hutchinson says the stylistic details will be established in a few weeks’ time when it has more data and can see what works best for the audience. 

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