Online audience arms race continues, stuff.co.nz reclaims Auckland title from nzherald.co.nz—UPDATED

Back in October last year, stuff.co.nz knocked nzherald.co.nz off the top spot in Auckland for the first time. Fairfax saw it as a big win, but NZ Herald editor Tim Murphy tweeted that a response to our story saying it was merely a blip after it climbed back on top soon after. Now, Nielsen online ratings for January show volatility in APN’s numbers since then and a steady rise for Fairfax, which has once again claimed the top spot by the smallest of margins.

After the dip in September, nzherald.co.nz recovered quickly, but it dipped over Christmas and continued to drop in January and finished up with a unique audience of 426,000. This is up from 400,000 in February 2012, but down from close to 475,000 in Nov/Dec 2013. 

Stuff.co.nz, on the other hand, has almost doubled its unique audience in Auckland since January 2013, up from 247,000 to 427,000 in January this year. 

“In terms of now being number one in Auckland, a key driver was mobile consumption, with more and more readers choosing stuff.co.nz when using smartphones,” says Fairfax Media marketing director, Campbell Mitchell. 


When asked to comment on the figures APN sent through this quote: 

“Over the reporting period the Herald’s total brand audience has increased by 5.6 percent and engagement also increased by four percent.  This combined with having the highest value audience which on average has a 20 percent higher weekly disposable income than our nearest competitor, makes the Herald the best way to connect with potential customer (sources: Nielsen NetView January 2014, Nielsen Market Intelligence January 2014, Nielsen CMI fused database December 2013). 

Nationally, yahoo.co.nz tops both stuff.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz, with a unique audience of 1,895,473. But the gap is closing. Yahoo has remained fairly static since Feb 2012 and nzherald.co.nz is up from 800,000 to 987,000 in that time, but stuff.co.nz tops the growth rates, up from just over 1 million in Feb 2012 to 1.43 million in January.  

Fairfax Media’s executive editor Sinead Boucher said back in October that, nationally, Stuff overtook the Herald a few years back and taking top spot in Auckland for the first time could be put down to a combination of factors, including the huge upsurge in mobile traffic (Stuff is also the country’s number one mobile news site), the significant investment put into the Auckland newsroom over the past couple of years and its digital first strategy for breaking news.

“It’s really important to be number one,” she said. “And now we’re number one in all markets as well as in all categories, so that’s a great position to be in. But we also look at it in terms of engagement, like how many comments we’re getting and how many shares. And that’s not just from a traffic point of view. It’s also to be connected in to what readers are interested in.”

Some believe the quest for audience numbers at all costs is a slippery slope for publishers, with all roads leading to click bait and hot babes on the home page, something Stuff is regularly accused of (as per usual, The Onion nailed it with this fake opinion piece). 

She responded to that by saying “not a single one of the Stuff editors edits by numbers”. She says Stuff is “about breaking news and credible journalism”, but there’s also room for a bit of light alongside the shade.

“That’s what people are like in real life,” she says. “They might want a bit of entertainment in their lunchbreak.”

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