NZME converges its rural media to grow its audience, poises to launch The Country—UPDATED

NZME has announced a new rural platform, The Country, a combination of its existing rural news channels, to see one brand across radio, digital and print.

Launching next month, it will see The Farming Show on radio, farmingshow.co.nz, therural.co.nz and The Land, which is published Thursdays with the daily NZME regional newspapers, all rebranded to The Country.

NZME chief commercial officer Laura Maxwell says the shift will see benefits for both the audience and advertisers.

“Not only is this rebrand more streamlined for audiences, it provides advertisers with a multi-media platform to reach their target market. The Country ensures a cohesive unit for all things rural, from both a consumer and advertiser point of view.”

Creating a rural content hub is the natural progression says NZ Herald acting managing director Murray Kirkness, as it will be more accessible for the audience and expands the reach of The Country across radio, print and digital.

“Our most exciting change is bringing The Farming Show to a whole new raft of listeners. The range of content Jamie [Mackay] covers in the show appeals to the whole country. It makes sense to increase its reach by broadcasting it across our channels. It has a strong following in the farming community and also plays a social role in helping bring town and country closer together, shedding light and a different perspective on everyday issues.”

With the rebrand, the show will maintain its noon-1pm time slot across three networks and 59 frequencies to 26 markets across the country.

It will be broadcast on Newstalk ZB in regional and provincial markets, on Radio Sport in Christchurch and Wellington, and be available to all New Zealanders on iHeartRadio. There will be no changes to the Hokonui frequencies.

The Country’s Jamie Mackay says the development highlights the importance of rural New Zealand.

“The majority of us have a strong, albeit sometimes distant, identification with the land whether it is time on a farm as a child visiting the ‘country cousins’ or something stronger. We are, after all, a nation built off the sheep’s back. NZME’s investment in The Country is significant and I’m excited about fronting it.”

With The Country appearing to bring with it new opportunities for advertisers, we contacted agribusiness advertising specialists, Tracta, for comment.

While it says it is too early to comment on how it will work for advertisers, media director Willie Verburg raises a few concerns based on what NZME has released so far.

She says farmers could feel alienated by the name change from The Farming Show brand that is well thought of by farmers. Farmers are interested only in real farming stories, facts and figures and she holds reservations that content will move from farming to fringe lifestyle with The Country being brought to a whole new range of listeners.

“The more ‘lifestylie’ it gets, the less farmers and advertisers will be willing to invest into the title, either time reading or advertising as farmers are very discerning consumers of media as there is so much of it and [they are] often time poor.”

Mackay responded to these comments, saying “as someone who grew up on a farm, was a farmer for 12 years, has produced and presented The Farming Show for 22 years and currently has a share in a farm”, he thinks he has a “pretty good handle on what farmers are interested in”.

The Country umbrella of radio, print and digital will streamline usability, allowing those with limited time to get all their rural content in one place. Plus, we’re going to bring a bit of the country to town. What’s not to be excited about?”

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