NZ Her­ald seeks to har­ness winds of change

The Bulletin - - Newspaper Of The Year Winners -

WHEN the New Zealand Her

ald was named the na­tional/ metropoli­tan News­pa­per of the Year at the PANPA awards, edi­tor Shayne Cur­rie said that in terms of the winds of change blow­ing across the me­dia in­dus­try, the Her­ald would “build wind­mills, not walls”.

In­deed, the NZME masthead is at the cen­tre of dra­matic change with the on­go­ing in­te­gra­tion of NZME’s print, ra­dio and dig­i­tal news teams that, come De­cem­ber, will be housed to­gether in a new pur­pose-built multi-plat­form news­room.

While the in­te­gra­tion process has brought many changes, new staff and new ideas, Mr Cur­rie said the over­all phi­los­o­phy of the New Zealand Her

ald re­mained the same. “It is ab­so­lutely our mis­sion to ad­vo­cate and in­form and en­ter­tain and that will never go away,” he said.

“Ev­ery day we are fight­ing for our read­ers, fight­ing for the truth and giv­ing a voice to those who need help.”

The daily pa­per has spent the past sev­eral years cam­paign­ing against the ex­pan­sion of a com­mer­cial port fa­cil­ity into Auck­land’s Waitem­ata Har­bour, urg­ing the city’s coun­cil to come up with a bet­ter so­lu­tion than a sim­ple wharf ex­ten­sion that could for­ever change the out­look of the har­bour.

“So that re­ally came to a head this year when they tried to pro­ceed with some more de­vel­op­ment plans in se­cret, and we soon ex­posed that for what it was and even­tu­ally the High Court or­dered a stop on the work,” Mr Cur­rie said.

“(Waitem­ata Har­bour) re­ally is the jewel in the Auck­land crown and a big sell­ing point for the city and that’s part of our job to raise these is­sues … and to make sure de­ci­sions are right for the en­tire city, not just for one par­tic­u­lar sec­tor.”

Another ma­jor cam­paign saw the New Zealand Her­ald team up with World Vi­sion ear­lier this year for the “For­got­ten Mil­lions” cam­paign which was de­signed to raise money for chil­dren and refugees from Syria. The cam­paign raised $400,000 in its first four weeks, and has since reached more than a mil­lion dol­lars.

“And that’s as­tound­ing from a coun­try at the bot­tom of the world to be able to drive that kind of do­na­tions for another coun­try and for refugees. That’s been a re­ally proud mo­ment,” Mr Cur­rie said.

The New Zealand Her­ald is suit­ably proud of its ad­vo­cacy and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism. The masthead’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions edi­tor Jared Sav­age also picked up the pres­ti­gious Hegarty Award for most out­stand­ing young news pub­lish­ing ex­ec­u­tive.

While these awards have in­spired the pa­per to aim higher in the next 12 months, like many pub­lish­ers the New

Zealand Her­ald’s big­gest chal­lenge is to find the right busi­ness model to en­sure it has the rev­enue to con­tinue pro­duc­ing great jour­nal­ism.

The NZME news­room in­te­gra­tion has great po­ten­tial for the com­mer­cial side of the busi­ness, such as pro­vid­ing economies of scale, at­tract­ing larger au­di­ences to sell against and mak­ing it eas­ier to of­fer clients mul­ti­plat­form so­lu­tions.

This year’s Cricket World Cup and Rugby World Cup pro­vided two ma­jor op­por­tu­ni­ties to road test the in­te­gra­tion model, and NZME group rev­enue di­rec­tor Laura Maxwell said the re­sults from those events were phe­nom­e­nal.

“It’s when our con­tent pow­er­house re­ally comes to­gether that the magic hap­pens. Be­ing able to cre­ate and dis­trib­ute con­tent across print, dig­i­tal, ra­dio, events, ex­pe­ri­en­tial, video and so­cial plat­forms puts us in an un-par­al­leled po­si­tion in the NZ mar­ket,” she said.

“Our brands re­ally hold the key to our fu­ture suc­cess though as au­di­ences will grav­i­tate to and fol­low con­tent that keeps them in tune and tuned in. Once you free your­self of a plat­form or a chan­nel, you can see the pos­si­bil­i­ties for how brands can ex­tend and evolve to reach new au­di­ences in new ways.”

Cre­at­ing great news, sport and en­ter­tain­ment con­tent is at the core of the New Zealand

Her­ald and it has im­ple­mented a data strat­egy to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to make bet­ter ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sions and lo­cate more tar­geted au­di­ence seg­ments for their ad­ver­tis­ers.

How­ever, the most suc­cess­ful strat­egy for the New Zealand

Her­ald in the past 12 months has been to think about au­di­ence first, then con­tent align­ment and lastly chan­nel.

“We’ve stopped sim­ply sell­ing ads in the news­pa­per,” Maxwell said. “We now sell the

New Zealand Her­ald au­di­ence and cre­ate a me­dia strat­egy that mir­rors the be­hav­iour of the ad­ver­tiser’s tar­get mar­ket.”

From an ed­i­to­rial per­spec­tive, the New Zealand Her­ald has been putting more re­sources into long-form and in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism, and has been ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of data jour­nal­ism.

Dur­ing the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion, it launched an in­ter­ac­tive project that up­dated polling re­sults in real time. It was faster than New Zealand’s own elec­toral com­mis­sion web­site and pro­vided re­sults right down to the polling booth level.

The pa­per has just launched In­sights, a sep­a­rate web­site ded­i­cated to all of the Her­ald’s in­ter­ac­tive projects and data jour­nal­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The New Zealand Her­ald has also been re-ex­am­in­ing the rounds their re­porters cover, plac­ing greater em­pha­sis on sub­jects like prop­erty prices and diver­sity, and us­ing the NZME in­te­gra­tion to re-eval­u­ate lead­er­ship struc­tures and iden­tify gaps in the skill sets of their news­rooms.

De­spite all these changes, safe­guard­ing press free­dom re­mains an en­dur­ing con­cern and Mr Cur­rie said it is some­thing the pa­per fights on a num­ber of fronts ev­ery day.

“We’re in a con­stant bat­tle with the na­tional govern­ment around the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act and there are con­stant de­lays for our re­porters for the in­for­ma­tion the pub­lic has a right to know. So there’s a big in­quiry go­ing on about that at the mo­ment,” Mr Cur­rie said.

Un­der what’s known as the “no sur­prises pol­icy”, much of the in­for­ma­tion re­quested by jour­nal­ists un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act has to go through a govern­ment min­is­ter’s of­fice be­fore it is re­leased.

“It’s just con­stant de­lays and our jour­nal­ists do get very frus­trated at times. It ac­tu­ally high­lights the im­por­tance of mak­ing sure that we do hold the politi­cians to ac­count,” Mr Cur­rie said.

Em­brac­ing change, though, is of huge im­por­tance too, he said.

“We ab­so­lutely must recog­nise that at the core of change is an au­di­ence that is de­mand­ing in­for­ma­tion, which is still en­gag­ing in jour­nal­ism, that loves great sto­ries as much as the jour­nal­ists in the room,” he said.

“It’s just that there will be dif­fer­ent ways that we will tell our sto­ries, not just in print but across dif­fer­ent plat­forms and dif­fer­ent for­mats.

“There’s many grand op­por­tu­ni­ties for jour­nal­ists and for our sales peo­ple. It’s just get­ting that over­all model right and ex­plain­ing to our ad­ver­tis­ers and po­ten­tial ad­ver­tis­ers just how much en­gage­ment and im­pact our jour­nal­ism and con­tent has.”

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