Stuff’s audience numbers trump Trade Me’s as it climbs its way up the top website list

For the first time Stuff.co.nz has overtaken Trade Me in audience numbers, reaching a new record of 1,849,000 further increasing its audience over rival news sites like NZHerald and Yahoo. The news comes off the back of recent changes in Fairfax’s editorial strategy which has seen roles disestablished and reshuffled as well as a clear overall drive to towards the digital.

The Nielsen report on online ratings figures which it releases monthly shows Stuff’s as audience 1,849,000 in May, topping Trade Me which wasn’t following too far behind at 1,782,000.

Google topped the list with an audience of 2,879,000. Facebook followed at 2,305,000 and MSN/WindowsLive/Bing at 1,871,000. YouTube followed close in tow behind Trade Me at 1,763,000.

In April Stuff’s audience was 1,768,000 and it was neck-and-neck with Trade Me at 1,777,000. As a point of comparison in May 2014 Trade Me was at 1,878,000 while Stuff was at 1,470,000.

Fairfax media executive editor Sinead Boucher says the top ranking reflects Stuff’s focus on high quality journalism and producing engaging content across a breadth of topics for its audience.

“The fact that Stuff has now surpassed Trade Me is a sign New Zealanders are really enjoying our journalism and digital storytelling,” she says. “Our journalistic team is unparalleled – and adept at using lots of fresh media elements like videos, reader-generated content, amazing images and social media to make for an engaging experience. Usage is the ultimate engagement metric.”

Boucher says: “In New Zealand, the digital world is now defined by Google for search, Facebook for social, and Stuff for content.”

Fairfax recently reshuffled itself as part of a drive towards a digital-centric newsroom and Boucher says the company has invested in technology, including a new content management system and in recent weeks has quadrupled the volume of content it serves Kiwis.

Boucher said earlier many jobs have been earmarked for disestablishment, that others would be rescoped, and new roles would be created. However, Fairfax declined to say how many roles were affected.

She says all reporters now produce their work for the digital audience first, recognising its growing local and national audiences are shifting the way they find and consume news and information. Of the five million streams of video Stuff delivers each month, approximately 40 percent is consumed on mobile platforms.

“We have had our eye on being the biggest domestic site in New Zealand for a while now, and it is exciting to see our hard work pay off with Stuff reaching the number one position in the country,” Boucher says.

Nielsen says Stuff has seen consistent growth in the last 12 months, climbing from number eight to number four on the list of top 10 brands.

NBR’s Tim Hunter says that Fairfax has continued to make lots of money. “In the year to June 2014 the group accounts said Fairfax NZ earned $65.9 million before interest and tax. Revenue was $398.9 million.” However, Hunter also noted the figures are on a downward trend. “In 2011 for example, revenue was $469.3 million and ebit was $76.1 million.”

He says his view ithe reason behind Fairfax’s move towards digital is that it found itself without a daily market presence in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland. “Rather than compete head on with the Herald online, it decided Stuff would be a nationwide brand using news from its media resources down country, as well as from Auckland.”

He says though it’s a sensible idea, there is likely to be some dissonance within the company’s internal organisation compared to the standard print/online model. “For example, a staffer at the Dominion Post may think they know what’s required by the Dominion Post but what’s required by Stuff.co.nz may be different, which generates ample potential for competing agendas and priorities,” he says. “It appears the latest round of rejigging is designed to clear up the mess by leaving no-one in any doubt that they are in a digital first environment.”

By betting its digital chips on Stuff, which has less content than its main Auckland rival, the Herald, Hunter says “Fairfax NZ has effectively conceded that it can’t introduce a digital paywall for its main online product. As a results it is going hell for leather to be the No 1 free website in the country in a media version of the old supermarket motto ‘Pile em high and flog em cheap’.”

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