The disclosure that Stuff is to drastically reduce its regional newspaper local reporting staff came as a shock, but I fear that worse is to come for this sector of the media.
Our regional newspapers are following a path which, for counterparts in Australia, Britain and North America, has quite literally led to nowhere.
The pattern established here by both Stuff and NZME – staff cuts, shared content, reduced frequency, and closures – has a familiar ring to anyone in the regional media in other English-speaking countries.
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.
Confidentiality is an ethical cornerstone that is drummed into journalists. The public may not have the same understanding of its obligations and limits.
Last Friday (Black Friday the 13th as it happened) a story appeared in Stuff titles and its website revealing worrying levels of online harassment and threats against Māori women. Several wāhine were named and pictured in the double-page spread, which also documented far-right threats against prominent Pakeha women.
Following publication, five women, three of whom had been named in the story, signed an open letter saying they had been ‘retraumatised’ by the story and accused Stuff of breaching “agreed terms of privacy” for one of the signatories and including information relating to others against their consent “in a way that left them exposed and identifiable”. The letter claimed Stuff had “failed to keep us safe”. Continue reading “Please don’t quote me on that”→
I have been reading the tea leaves in the bottom of the online subscription cup.
My fortune-telling has been assisted by some very interesting international statistics.
The pattern in the bottom of the cup is telling me that the winner-takes-most paywall phenomenon that has characterised the US market may not be repeated in the New Zealand market in the longer term. Continue reading “Dregs in the paywall teacup”→