The New Normal for News in New Zealand

Thursday 4 July 2013, 5:04PM
By Botica Butler Raudon

‘Digital first’ publishing, video content, real-time news, social media sourcing all signify rapidly accelerating digital shift.

  • Audience-revenue-resources model out of alignment
  • Digital first publishing changing the rules of journalism
  • Digital tools cementing roles within journalists’ arsenals
  • Trusted social media posts widely accepted for sourcing and verifying stories

Auckland, 4 July 2013 – The full digital tool-set is now in use in newsrooms and editorial offices in New Zealand, the latest Oriella Digital Journalism Study has found.  A ‘digital first’ policy, breaking news online as it happens, is in place at over a third of the media titles surveyed in New Zealand, and the use of third party videos and infographics and reliance on social media as a news source are all on the rise.

The 6th annual Oriella Digital Journalism Study, based on a survey of almost 550 journalists from 15 countries spanning Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, tracks how digital technology is impacting how news is gathered and published around the world. The survey included responses from 29 senior New Zealand journalists.

A model out of balance
The New Zealand data reveal a massive mismatch in the delicate balance of forces on which publishing depends, with audiences up but revenues and editorial resources down. When asked how the changing media landscape had affected their publication, 71% of New Zealand respondents said audience size was increasing (declining: 18%), 11% said advertising revenues were increasing (declining: 50%), and 21% said editorial staff size was increasing (declining: 37%).

“Recent changes in the structure of New Zealand’s media landscape reflect the impossibility of aligning these competing forces,” says Allan Botica, Chairman of Botica Butler Raudon, Oriella’s partner in New Zealand. “The closure of Fairfax Media’s IT titles, Mediaworks receivership, the reported closure of NZ Truth all evidence a dramatic shift in equilibrium: the centre cannot hold.  Tellingly, 61% of New Zealand respondents admit they are making less money online than they are from their print editions.”

The changing content model
Giving context to concerns about the economics of publishing, this year’s study provides evidence of wholesale changes in how publications gather and communicate stories.

When asked how the internet and the delivery of media content over the web has changed the way they report the news, over one third (36%) of New Zealand respondents believes their title is now ‘digital first’ – in other words they break news as it happens online, rather than holding it until the next edition (global average:  33%). Almost a third (31%) say they develop multiple versions of the same story as it develops (global average: 25%). None felt that ‘citizen journalism’ carried much credibility in their organisation (global average: 19%).

The pressure of digital has also raised the stakes in terms of exclusivity: almost a third (30%) say exclusives have become more important and half (50%) say they are now expected to produce more content. That said, New Zealand journalists feel that print still matters more. When asked about the relative prestige accorded print and online media, over half of those surveyed (55%) felt that print was more prestigious than online; only 15% disagreed. But if there’s one matter on which New Zealand journalists agree that consumers should be prepared to pay for quality online content: 75% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement; only 5% disagreed. That may be a reaction to the harsh reality: fewer than 5% said they were making more money online than they were from print editions; 17% of them disagreed, and 44% strongly disagreed.

“In terms of content development our study suggests that 2013 is a watershed year for New Zealand media,” says Botica. “The growing interest in ‘digital first’ reporting, video, real-time news, mobile content and online-only delivery of premium content all exemplify what we’re calling the ‘New Normal for News’.

“If these trends accelerate, we are likely to see more production disruption in news media, with interactive graphics designed for touch-screen interfaces on mobile devices enabling readers to navigate their own path through stories. We may also see bi-polar structural changes in the way journalists’ output is presented, with tweet-like news updates in text and video, optimised for small screens, providing near real-time coverage of events balanced by longer-form feature and investigative pieces with more interactive digital content. ‘Short ’n sweet’ journalism could also afford media brands to improve search rankings in news aggregator apps like Flipboard and Pulse News.”

Social media: new channels; traditional values
The study finds that journalists use social media for news-gathering, but continue to emphasise trusted sources and pre-existing relationships.  For example, 41% of journalists said they source new stories from microblogs like Twitter (global: 51%), but only when the source behind them is already known to them. When the source is unknown, their use reduced to 17% (global: 25%). By contrast, 66% of respondents said they sourced their news from ‘conversations with industry insiders’ (global 59%).

Social media plays a significant role in the personal lives rules of New Zealand journalists: almost two thirds of respondents have a personal Twitter handle (65%); over one third have a personal Google+ page (35%), almost a third have a personal YouTube channel (31%), and 23% have personal Pinterest and Instagram accounts. Almost one in five (19%) respondents have a personal blog that is not connected to their media organisation, and over half (55%) felt that blogs were a good way for journalists to build their personal profiles.  Less than a quarter (23%) have no blog or social media account, and only one respondent reported that their employer did not allow them to operate a blog outside of work.

About the Oriella Digital Journalism Study
The Oriella Digital Journalism Study was first conducted in 2008 and tracks the adoption of social and digital technologies in the media sector.  This year’s study – the sixth – was compiled in April and May 2013 using an online survey of 550 journalists in 15 countries from broadcast, national, lifestyle, regional and trade media and blogs in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. On average 38 journalists were surveyed in each country.
140 senior New Zealand journalists were invited to participate; 29 completed the survey. 38% gave their position as overall editors, 17% as news editors; and 10% each were digital editors, section editors, or feature writers. Freelancers represented 17% of respondents. Of the 29 respondents 34% worked in national or provincial newspapers, 28% on lifestyle, special interest or current affairs magazines, 24% in business-to-business trade or technology magazines and 28% on web news sites. 3% were in broadcast media.
About the Oriella PR Network

The Oriella PR Network is an alliance of 16 communications agencies in 23 countries around the world. Our partnership is built upon a set of global best practices and close working relationships not offered by others of its kind. The network was founded by Brands2Life and HORN to address a gap in the market for strategic global communications. Oriella provides globally-integrated PR, digital communications and social media campaigns for industry leaders and challenger brands alike. Oriella partners exist in major and secondary markets throughout The Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

About the Botica Butler Raudon
Founded in 1987, Botica Butler Raudon is a leading New Zealand public relations consultancy providing strategic communications counsel and services to transnational enterprises and domestic organisations.