Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?

We may be witnessing the beginning of deconstruction in the newsroom – not their destruction but changes that could alter their shape and function.

A week ago, the New York Times announced that it was, to use an Americanism, shuttering its sports department and moving its 35 reporters and editors to other roles. It is handing over responsibility for sports coverage to The Athletic.

The Athletic is a sports website that the New York Times Company bought in January 2022 for $US550 million ($NZ818 million). It has almost 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams and churns out about 150 stories a day. It had over one million subscribers when it was bought, and that number has tripled in 18 months and is trending upward. Nonetheless, it has yet to turn a profit, and in the first quarter of this year lost the equivalent of more than $NZ12 million.

It is unsurprising that the New York Times Company wants to optimise its purchase and cut those losses (it recently laid off 20 staff at The Athletic), but what is surprising is that it has not opted to integrate The Athletic’s staff and stringers into the NYT newsroom but has done the opposite. It has decided to close its sports department and, in effect, to take a service from its subsidiary. That service will provide coverage for the print edition of the Times as well as the parent website.

Sports sections may be well read but they are a notoriously poor destinations for advertising. Here, for example, the Weekend Herald last Saturday had less than half a page of advertising in its sports section and the Stuff metropolitan papers had none. The New York Times has reduced the number of sports pages and it no longer has a stand-alone sports section in the newspaper.

However, what we may be witnessing is not a manifestation of a reduced commitment to sport but a new way of thinking about newsroom structures. Continue reading “Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?”

It’s time for Stuff to add its bricks to the paywall

It is time for Stuff to bite the bullet and introduce a proper paywall for some of its online content.

It is now the odd one out among the New Zealand newspaper companies that have seen their paid circulation and advertising revenue decimated by the Internet.

NZME’s premium service for the New Zealand Herald is three years old and Allied Press, publisher of the Otago Daily Times, has announced it will charge for premium content by the end of the month.

The Herald’s paywall has been a success story. NZME now has 100,000 digital only subscribers paying between $149 and $199 a year. While its earnings are still no match for the revenue derived from print subscriptions, they are going up while newspaper sales go down.

NZME’s first half results this year showed digital subscription revenue of almost $8 million, an increase of 54 per cent on the same period last year. The numbers were enhanced, of course, by the acquisition of BusinessDesk last November, which added 8000 subscribers. Nonetheless, both volume and revenue has been rising steadily since 2019.

It was understandable that Stuff might take a wait-and-see approach when NZME announced parts of the Herald were going behind a paywall but any uncertainty over the wisdom of such a move should now have evaporated. Continue reading “It’s time for Stuff to add its bricks to the paywall”

Show us the full horror of war in Ukraine

Atrocities and total war are not pixilated or sanitised. They bring death with unimaginable brutality and obliterate lives with indifference. It is time to stop protecting the New Zealand public from these grim realities of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Our news media post warnings about disturbing images and then obscure them out of a long-held regard for the sensibilities of readers and viewers over portrayal of death. We see shapeless body bags while those lying in the street are given a dignified digital shroud.

Yes, we read and hear descriptions of what the innocent citizens of Ukraine have had to endure at the hands of Russian invaders. However, we are shielded from most graphic detail of what is being done in a mission to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” a democratic nation that posed no defence threat to its neighbour.

How often do we see and hear the phrase “Warning: The following item includes disturbing images including dead bodies” when, in fact, we are left to imagine what the body looks like under its obscuring mantle? Continue reading “Show us the full horror of war in Ukraine”