Dead wrong: Sandra King on why New Zealand’s print market is alive and well

Over the past few
months, discussions around the future of the media have come to a head, thanks
in part to a couple of big announcements from the other side of the Tasman and
a big one here in New Zealand too. This has brought about loads of discussion within
the New Zealand industry about the role of media in society and changing trends
in how consumers select and consume news. Worryingly, lots of commentators have
been all too willing to eulogise New Zealand’s robust newspaper market. So I’m
putting my hand up to remind you all that newspapers and magazines are alive
and well in New Zealand.

All change in Australia

In June our
parent company, Fairfax Media, announced substantial changes to its business
model, focused largely on the Metros (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age)
business. The proposed
changes include plans to take two major Fairfax broadsheets to compact and to
introduce a form of digital subscription for online news. A new senior editor
team—and an integrated newsroom model—are being installed across the Sydney
Morning Herald
and The Age in Melbourne. Meanwhile, other
publishers in Australia have indicated they are addressing similar challenges, and also seeking to transform
how they operate.  

The New Zealand situation

Much
of these changes have been heralded as a sort of death knell for newspapers. ‘Newspapers
are dead!’ commentator after commentator seems to be crying out. The fact is, in
New Zealand this is wrong. New Zealand boasts a high rate of newspaper
subscription and our towns and cities tend to have only one major publication,
which ensures there is a strong connection between the publication and its
readers. Fairfax Media’s publications in New Zealand have grown or held their
readership steady.

“Newspapers
are dead” is such a naive statement. Brands belonging to newspapers are some of
the strongest in the world. The delivery platform for the brand is the thing
that is under assault around the world. Of course the digital platform will
eventually overtake the printed product. Call it peculiar, but that isn’t
happening yet in New Zealand. 

Highlights
from the most recent quarter’s (Q3 11 Q2 12) readership results include:

  • Metropolitan dailies performing well,
    with The Dominion Post up 4.3% year on year, and The Waikato Times
    recording an impressive 17.6% increase year on year (15+)
  • Fairfax Media connects
    with 84.4% of all New Zealanders aged 15+ across its multi-media
    platforms, equivalent to 2.96 million New Zealanders.
  • Stuff.co.nz
    monthly unique audience : 1,070,000
  • Stuff.co.nz monthly video views:
    1,272,461 (+24.5% YOY)
  • Stuff.co.nz smartphone monthly unique
    visitors 110,830 (+110.3% YOY) on iPhone, and 372,276 unique visitors on
    Android (26 times more YOY)
  • Stuff.co.nz iPad monthly unique
    visitors 42,657(+140.0% YOY)

Strong
results for newspapers are mirrored by excellent results for our magazine
stable. Overall, Fairfax Magazines reach 2.29 million New
Zealanders aged 10+, up 2.1% year on year. Hot
on the heels of a stellar performance at the 2012 Magazine Awards, including
the Supreme Editor Award for Sarah Nicholson, Cuisine’s readership is up 9.8%
year on year. Other magazines readership results are also impressive:

  • NZ Lifestyle Block is up 20.8% year
    on year
  • NZ Autocar is up 12.3% year on year
  • NZ Life & Leisure is up 17.6%
    year on year
  • Fish & Game NZ is up 24.6% year
    on year

Ahead of the curve

Many
of the changes being discussed by our Australian parent have already happened
in New Zealand. We have put significant effort into ensuring our news teams
work cohesively as the biggest newsroom in New Zealand, with more than 700
(journalistic, photographic and videographic) content creators working together
to deliver compelling, relevant, quality journalism, in the formats our readers
want it.

At
Fairfax Media we recognise that our readers are accessing our news brands in multiple
ways and our teams are focused on meeting that demand, preparing stories for
print, online, mobile, tablet and now IPTV. Audiences
are not using platforms as an either/or, but in a complementary way.

Taking
advantage of our growing multi platform brands, we’ve also integrated our
advertising. In 2004 we began the process of bringing our sales people together
in one team of more 30 people, selling integrated creative advertising
solutions nationwide across all our brands.

At an
agency level, by offering an integrated approach and working alongside both
media and creative, we’re able to ensure that advertisers are getting access to
the right audience in the right way. Increasingly we’re doing this by leveraging
the content passion or interest our audiences have.

Over the past three years
this has seen Fairfax Media beat the market in terms of growth, as illustrated
below. 

Despite a tough global economic climate Fairfax Media
New Zealand continues to perform well, and has been able to exceed overall
market growth rates for advertising revenue, with a 2.8% advantage over the
total market in the year to May 2012.

The role of print in achieving meaningful
connections with a broad audience

As a
marketer, I’m constantly looking for the right way to connect with my audience
and encourage them to partner with us. To me, it’s obvious that print remains
the best way to not only communicate with scale but to forge a deeper
connection. Our readers look forward to reading our publications—both
newspapers and magazines—and are highly engaged with the content, in a way
that other mass media like television can’t deliver.

As a
business, we’re developing ways to deepen that connection further, by launching
innovative augmented reality services as seen with our Rugby Heaven app during
the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, and AR features that bring photographs in
printed publications to life.

Looking
at the shortlisted entries for the Cannes Festival of Creativity this year, I
was disappointed to see only two New Zealand entries shortlisted in the print
category in an incredibly long ‘short’ list of more than 500 entries. This is
despite New Zealand creative agencies performing very well overall. 

I
challenge all marketers, advertisers and agencies, who seem only too eager to
dismiss a key media for connecting with broad audiences to re-look at print and
leverage it to connect with where their customers are.

  • Sandra King is general manager sales and marketing at Fairfax Media New Zealand. 

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