Redesign puts Herald on Sunday back on course

I am labelling the redesign of the Herald on Sunday a course correction. It is one that could bring the paper back on track.

From its inception, the HoS did not sit comfortably alongside its older siblings the New Zealand Herald and Weekend Herald. Somehow it didn’t seem to share the same gene pool. It always left the impression that it might, in fact, have been an adopted child.

After downsizing, the weekday Herald had retained something of the gravitas of its broadsheet antecedent even if it assumed tabloid trappings that pulled away from the ‘compact’ concept championed by The Independent in London (the Herald had been its stablemate during the Tony O’Reilly era). The Weekend Herald has also reflected its traditions, despite a tendency to confuse broadsheet and tabloid design concepts.

The Herald on Sunday had been born to break the traditional mould. The past was to be another country and ‘invented here’ was its guiding light. In a word, it was tabloid.

There is nothing wrong with breaking moulds if they are replaced by something superior. However, I do not think the HoS met that challenge. Worse, it was pitched at a market outside that of the main mastheads.

There are three Sundays in the New Zealand market: Sunday Star Times, Herald on Sunday and Sunday News. Stuff owns the SST and venerable Sunday News, which has been with us since 1964. The former strives for the ‘thinking’ end of the market while the latter is  what it has always been ­– a tabloid aimed at the lower end of the market (although the economies of copy sharing with its sister has unfortunately raised the tone a little). The Herald on Sunday should be pitched at the middle market, which is arguably much larger than either end of the spectrum. However, since its inception in 2004 it has been aimed lower than was wise.

The re-design last weekend is a welcome attempt to draw it back toward the centre and, while one swallow does not a summer make, it looks to be a successful move. Continue reading “Redesign puts Herald on Sunday back on course”

It’s those geeks with gifts again

Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

I gave that warning in a column seven years ago and repeated it here last November. I’ll say it again: Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

I make no apologies for sounding like a cracked record.

On the face of it, New Zealand media companies appear to be trotting along nicely in their bid to get some money for the content that Google and Facebook have been freely appropriating.

The Commerce Commission has issued a draft determination allowing members of the News Publishers Association to bargain collectively with Meta and Google on payment for content. The NPA is a mix of metropolitan and regional newspaper publishers but in this initiative it is minus NZME, which has already brokered deals with both Google and Facebook. NZME’s agreement with the latter is not payment for content but support for NZME’s “subscriber growth and retention”.

Call it ‘content’, call it ‘retention’, no matter. They’re paying up one way or another. All’s good.

But is it? Continue reading “It’s those geeks with gifts again”

The media pack smells blood

The media wolf pack knows when it smells blood.

Unfortunately, its sense of smell is not so well developed that it can differentiate between a mortal wound, a non-life-threatening gash, and a paper cut.

When it is denied a kill, the more excitable members of the pack howl in disappointment while the grey-muzzled old-timers who have trotted along at a more leisurely pace look knowingly at each other.

We saw the pack in action last week when it sniffed the blood of National Party leader Christopher Luxon following a couple of gaffes and an apparent plateau in the polls.

That culminated in pundits at opposite ends of the political spectrum acting as if they were closing in on a kill. Continue reading “The media pack smells blood”

TVNZ boss Simon Power must use his skills and lead from the front

Television New Zealand chief executive Simon Power needs to use his undoubted abilities and start leading the organisation from the front.

Throughout the excoriating saga of Breakfast host Kamahl Santamaria’s inappropriate behaviour and subsequent resignation of the networks head of news, Power has seemed to be far from the front line.

What began as a manageable problem turned into a mess, not only in terms of staff morale but also public perception of the state broadcaster. Tom Dillane’s extensive analysis of the issue in the Weekend Herald  traced the broad scope of the malaise afflicting the newsroom and associated departments. The problems clearly run wide and deep and are not solely a result of Santamaria’s transgressions.

This could not have come at a worse time – TVNZ should have been preparing for its integration into a new public media entity with a positive outlook and sure of its place in the new organisation. Instead, its culture has been shaken, its processes found wanting, its newsroom leadership placed in limbo, and public trust in the organisation damaged because those who hold others to account are expected to be above reproach.

The statement repeated throughout the meltdown has been that Simon Power is not available for interview, nor will he answer written questions. Employment issues are bound up in complex law and do require careful handling. However, questions around Santamaria’s hiring and the subsequent handling of an allegation against him were well-and-truly in the public domain and TVNZ was naïve to think it could stay almost silent. Continue reading “TVNZ boss Simon Power must use his skills and lead from the front”