APN bets on business, follows international publishers’ lead with big site update—UPDATED

The changes are coming thick and fast at APN NZ under new chief executive Jane Hastings, with a new exec team announced this week, a more integrated sales approach across its media portfolio and some clever new products like ShopViva. And now the Business Herald is getting in on the action, with more tools, more content and more interactivity added to the website in an effort to deliver “more relevant digital news to New Zealanders”. 

APN has paid for data so users can now get real-time stock market information (from NZX), currency conversions (provided by xe.com) and mortgage and savings-rate comparisons (provided by interest.co.nz) from the site. 

“That’s the basics of everyday financial acumen,” says NZ Herald Business editor Liam Dann in a release. “But as we’re also the country’s longest-serving business news provider we can give our users a lot more than that. For example, we’ve now created comprehensive company profile pages for all the top and NZX-listed companies so that our users can have instant access to our corporate archive.”

He feels APN’s archive material has been underplayed for years, and if you’re in business or researching a company, he says there’s now a massive—and easy to access—database of company history to play with. 

Like other international business-specific sites such as Forbes or The Financial Times and mainstream publishers like The New York Times (but unlike its biggest local competitor stuff.co.nz/business) the company search engine, as Dann calls it, shows the latest share information, additional bios and archived stories about that company from the past decade (check out Air New Zealand’s here). At present it has the top companies on display, but it’s working on adding more. 

It has also added a KiwiSaver Fundfinder, powered by Sorted (that one’s free to use), which offers comparisons between funders and the ability to check the performance of funds. All these new tools will be available on a dedicated tools page (Stuff has many of the same tools like stock market info and currency rates on its main page, although nothing appears to be on its dedicated tools page), and they will also appear embedded in relevant articles.

“It’s about extending the experience online, both from a commercial point of view to get readers to use the site for longer, and from an editorial point of view to give readers more tools and things they can use … It’s bringing New Zealand business websites up to speed.” 

The amount of business content from around New Zealand has also been expanded, drawing in all the business coverage from APN’s regional newspaper network.

The Herald has been doing a fair bit of video recently, both for editorial purposes and because video advertising space is in such hot demand (it also launched its autoplay ad unit recently in an effort to tap into that) and Dann says readers can expect to see more business video on the site as the “reporting team talks directly to New Zealand’s top CEOs in studio and heads out to capture footage at events like new plane arrivals and big commercial building sites”.

On the Herald, Dann wrote about some other features: 

You’ll see a new Work Life section within the business site. This lively section includes the best local and international writing [it’s increased its business lifestyle features with content from the likes of Bloomberg, Slate and The Washington Post] on how to get ahead in your working life and living it with style.

Other improvements include a new focus on Your Money, a section looking at personal finance, has been enhanced with editor Tamsyn Parker bringing you more stories offering you the best advice on how to handle your money as well as highlighting our trusted long time columnists such as Mary Holm and Diana Clement.

You’ll also see Your Business – looking at small and medium sized business issues – which have an increased focus on offering solutions to your business problems as well as inspiring stories and profiles from entrepreneurs who are showing the way.

Our leading team of business commentators – including the likes of Fran O’ SullivanBrian GaynorBrian Fallow and Bernard Hickey – has been enhanced with commentary from top tech blogger Juha SaarinenJock Anderson’s Caseload wrapping up news and gossips from the courts and legal sector – and there is more to come. So watch this space.

The new features were launched ahead of the Mood of the Boardroom breakfast held this morning. It was based around a survey of 112 business leaders that asked how they rated politicians. And, not surprisingly, they seem pretty happy with National and John Key. Microsoft’s Office 365 is running a takeover on the section. 

As for the numbers, overall print readership and circulation went down for all the main papers in the latest release of numbers, but many of them are looking at overall readership across platforms and the Herald said its digital platforms have increased by 34 percent to 1.3 million compared to June 2013, with mobile the big mover. The traditionally Auckland-centric paper has also found a lot of digital growth in the South Island, but, the big elephant in the room is that, unlike the actual paper, no-one is paying for the content and digital advertising, as this story shows, hasn’t been the boon publishers had hoped it might be. 

As for specific business media, The Business, the Herald’s weekly insert, declined in readership from 364,000 to 314,000, but online is, as expected, on the up and Nielsen figures from August show the Herald was second to Stuff, with average daily UBs of 90,469. 

Dann is very happy with the improvements and year on year, points to internal stats that show its online business traffic has increased 31 percent year-on-year and 42 percent in terms of page views. 

While it’s behind Stuff in terms of numbers, he says APN has generally focused on the engagement stats, and these changes aim to further improve those. Although it’s operating a two-pronged approach and is looking to be both “broader and deeper”. 

Editorial and sales have long been seen as church and state, but they’re edging closer together. As editor, he deals with the commercial side of the business (although his journalists don’t) and he’s enjoyed getting stuck into web development alongside digital editor Chris Daniels. As a journalist, he says that’s “a whole other world” and marketing does get involved in those discussions as well. But while he doesn’t claim to be an expert on the advertising front, he says he’s noticed plenty of demand from big corporates hoping to target small to medium enterprises, which its Your Business section covers, and that’s also opened up the possibility of more sponsorships. And, just as Bloomberg covers the slightly less serious aspects of business life and gets a number of luxury advertisers as a result because of its wealthy audience, APN is also hoping to move further into the fringe with its Work Life section. 

“You need to be number one in the hard financial news; the classic business news, otherwise you can’t get the breadth and focus on other stuff.” 

In general, business news has fared much better than mainstream news during These Difficult Times, often because some publishers are able to charge for content as readers deem it essential to their jobs and can generally get the company to pay. While there has been plenty of speculation about a paywall for the NZ Herald over the last few years, APN said in a disclosure notice last week that it will launch one in the first quarter of 2015 and it will be similar to the metered paywall operated by The New York Times and other papers that offers readers a certain allotment of stories. 

“A metered paywall will be progressively introduced for retail customers who will be charged for content above the meter, with a range of digital subscription offers being put to the market to drive digital revenues while current newspaper subscribers will receive a digital subscription at no additional cost,” the notice said. 

As the NBR’s Chris Keall wrote, there are many reasons to love a paywall, both commercially and journalistically. And while the Herald is a very different beast to the NBR, some of the same rules apply so, if it’s going to work anywhere, history shows it’s likely to be in the business pages. 

Dann says he’s not privy to the information around the implementation of the paywall, but says it’s coming, and business is a big driver of readership, either for broadsheets offering metered paywalls or standalone business publications offering paid-for subscriptions. 

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