It’s been a time of major change for media publishers, as they try to retain their audiences by being everywhere at once in an increasingly digital climate.
The New Zealand Herald is no exception. The news title had seen its audience behaviour change dramatically over the last 10 years. Readers were increasingly consuming news through digital channels, seeking real-time updates across a wider range of topics, and often doing so while on the move.
But, The New Zealand Herald website hadn’t undergone any significant development in over a decade. The back-end technology of its website was ageing and user experience had dated, particularly when compared with international news sites. As a presumed consequence, The New Zealand Herald’s audience began dwindling.
To solve the issue and keep up with the times, NZME put into action a major overhaul of the site in 2015. The site was built with mobile in mind and an improved focus on user experience, making navigation more intuitive by improving signposting and having a clearer hierarchy of content.
The new-and-improved site was launched in June 2017, which gave The New Zealand Herald a new task of selling the change to its existing audience. All the while trying to attract new readers – a real challenge considering people tend to have their established way of doing things and any change requires a level of adaptation.
The New Zealand Herald pre-empted the fact its audience might feel unsettled by the change, and devised an intricately planned launch campaign to get readers on board.
Four of the audience groups stood out to best represent its key target audiences – ‘Aspirationals’, ‘Information Junkies’, ‘Community-Spirited’ and ‘Open-minded Observers’ – which were personified in the four executions of its creative.
The New Zealand Herald carefully mapped the changes to the site to the changes in readership behaviour and focused on pairing site improvements with clear benefits. It picked up the tagline ‘You’ve changed. So have we’ to have a clear, upfront way of communicating with its audience.
The campaign fleshed out the thinking behind the refresh in print, social, radio, outdoor, digital and video. In video it presented engaging backstories that delved into the changing lifestyles of its audience and their expectations. The Herald also invested in developing 3D-animated graphics to position the brand as moving with the times.
It also stepped outside traditional media channels, and got creative by partnering with different fish and chip vendors across New Zealand, providing branded wrappers bearing its campaign message, which were handed out in the thousands.
In the wrappers it gave a nod to its past (when fish and chips came wrapped in the previous week’s newspaper), but pointed firmly to its change and digitally-led future.
The overhaul turned out to be exactly what The New Zealand Herald needed, and since the launch, its audience has grown 22 percent year-on-year, with its average weekly audience lifting by 14 percent to reach over two million New Zealanders.
Engagement also increased on the site by six percent (pages per visit and average session duration). Its mobile- first experience was well received, with its mobile audience growing by 58 percent in just six months.
Readers responded well to The New Zealand Herald’s audience-led focus, where it literally put readers at the centre of its campaign, letting them do the talking by explaining how their lives had changed and how their news consumption was affected.