Meta has announced that it has signed a commercial agreement with The Spinoff to invest in technology and product innovation.
Meta’s investment will add capability to the New Zealand current affairs and culture site’s data journalism and increase reader participation in the development of news stories.
“This new agreement will go to two main areas of development – improving The Spinoff’s data capability and adding new functions to our website designed to bring the audience closer to the news production. These new processes will help boost engagement and revenue to power our news gathering into the future,” says The Spinoff founder Duncan Greive.
This agreement is the latest in a series of partnership collaborations with The Spinoff that started with the ANZ Reader Revenue program in 2019, and included participation in the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Video Business Accelerator.
“Our investments in the news industry focus on supporting publishers as they develop sustainable business models. We have been proud to collaborate with The Spinoff since their participation in the 2019 Accelerator, as they developed their reader revenue model that powered their expansion through the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns in New Zealand. We’ve witnessed first hand how digital innovation and improving their technology stack has helped reshape The Spinoff’s business,” says Andrew Hunter, Meta’s Head of News Partnerships for Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking at the recent Facebook News Day, a dedicated training event for New Zealand news publishers, Greive credited Meta Journalism Project’s Accelerator program with transforming his business.
“I can say this with absolute honesty and clarity … I don’t think I’d be sitting here talking to you today was it not for us going through the Accelerator,” Greive said. “You are working with really smart people who know your business and are deeply engaged in your success, and the way that the program was structured meant that you were getting a lot of feedback on your ideas.
“And then the pandemic hits, and all of our commercial revenue just vanishes, everyone who has a contract cuts that contract and we are sitting there thinking ‘I guess the business is finished’ … [but]because of the sails we put up, because of what we had done with the Accelerator, we got this enormous rush of members in.”
Funding and knowledge shared with news organisations participating in the Accelerator program has helped publishers thrive despite perilous business conditions brought on by COVID-19.
Funds from the Accelerator allowed The Spinoff to establish and own its e-commerce and membership platform – critical so it could see the complete membership lifecycle.
“The Accelerator program changed the way we think about our subscription business as a whole and increased our depth of understanding around our product and the wider industry. We went from members being a small but meaningful part of our revenue to [being]over 50 percent of our editorial revenue. But not only that, because people were paying for a year’s membership up front, the cashflow squeeze that we thought meant we were going to struggle to meet payroll, we actually had quite a considerable buffer in there at the best possible time to have that buffer,” says Greive.
“When you increase the revenue, you can invest in more journalism and more journalists, as a result we hired a full-time political editor, as well as a membership coordinator.”
Meta is in active discussions about further innovation investments with other New Zealand news publishers.