Business Daily Media

how COVID-19 reshaped the NZ media landscape in 2020

  • Written by Merja Myllylahti, Co-Director, JMAD Research Centre, Auckland University of Technology
how COVID-19 reshaped the NZ media landscape in 2020

When Bauer Media announced the closure[1] of its New Zealand magazine operation just a week into level 4 lockdown in early April, things looked ominous for local media. Revenues and newsrooms were already contracting. It was hard to see things improving.

However, while the full picture is still unclear, it seems most of New Zealand’s TV, radio and print outlets have come through the COVID-19 crisis bruised and battered — but alive. Sadly, an estimated 637 media jobs have disappeared in the process.

In short, 2020 has left the New Zealand media market profoundly restructured.

Perhaps most significantly, as the tenth New Zealand Media Ownership Report[2] shows, there are now more independent news outlets in the market than at any time in the past decade.

That trend was underscored by Australian Nine Entertainment selling[3] (for NZ$1) its New Zealand subsidiary Stuff to CEO Sinead Boucher. The sale returned the country’s largest digital news platform and 12 national and regional newspapers to local ownership.

The magazine massacre

Many of these structural changes in the country’s media might have happened anyway, but the pandemic certainly accelerated some decisions.

A case in point was Bauer. The company blamed its closure on “the severe economic impact of COVID-19”, but it had been facing declining advertising revenue well before the pandemic hit. This was made worse[4] when magazines were not included among essential goods and services during the lockdown in March and April.

Bauer also closed titles[5] in Australia, but in June the company’s Australasian magazines were sold[6] to Australian private equity group Mercury Capital. The new owner resumed publication of Woman’s Day, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Australian Women’s Weekly NZ, Your Home & Garden, NZ Listener and Kia Ora.

Later, flagship current affairs titles North & South and Metro were sold[7] to independent publishers and relaunched in November.

A government lifeline

You might say the country’s media survived the pandemic with a little help from friends — and even frenemies: the government, readers and Google.

In April, the government announced[8] a $50 million media crisis support package — the lion’s share went to broadcasting.

Read more: Funding public interest journalism requires creative solutions. A tax rebate for news media could work[9]

But most of the country’s news outlets received support from the government’s wage subsidy scheme, including NZ Media and Entertainment (NZME) and Stuff, the two largest print and online news publishers.

Without that government support it’s clear many news outlets would have been more severely affected. The NZ Herald received $8.6 million in wage subsidy and Stuff $6.2 million. State-owned broadcaster TVNZ received $5.9 million and the private-equity-owned MediaWorks $3.6 million.

The scheme also kept many smaller digital news outlets afloat, and some even expanded.

The Google factor

Some news outlets received additional funding from Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund[10] — slightly ironic, given the impact of the digital giant on traditional media advertising revenues (hence the “frenemy” tag).

A total of 76 news organisations across the Pacific benefited from Google’s “short-term relief”. While smaller publishers welcomed it, the money spent per outlet was unlikely to make any serious dent in Google’s budget — it was more a gesture of goodwill.

Read more: Courting the chameleon: how the US election reveals Rupert Murdoch's political colours[11]

For example, Queenstown-based non-profit media outlet Crux[12] received $5,000. To put that in context, in the first half of 2020 search engines — mainly Google — received[13] $361 million in digital advertising revenue in New Zealand, along with the social media platforms gobbling up 72% of the country’s total digital advertising spend.

For its part, Google says[14] it has done more for the country’s journalism than providing financial aid, and has “trained almost 600 journalists in dozens of newsrooms across the country”.

Higher traffic and increased donations

News companies also got by with a little help from their readers during the pandemic. The NZ Herald reported[15] “overall print-digital readership […] at record levels and newspaper readership [at] its highest in almost a decade”.

Independent digital news outlets Newsroom[16] and The Spinoff[17] also reported spikes in readership and donations or subscriptions. Web analytics confirm overall news site traffic increased quite substantially during the pandemic.

Read more: Misinformation on social media fuels vaccine hesitancy: a global study shows the link[18]

According to data analysts SimilarWeb[19], total visits to the NZ Herald website grew from 36.5 million in May to 46.4 million in August. Similarly, total visits to the Stuff site went from 39.7 million in May to 43 million in August, while The Spinoff grew from 2.4 million in May to 2.9 million in July.

These positive developments were offset by plenty of negatives, however. Many commercial newsrooms shrank substantially, with hundreds of jobs lost. The full effects of the pandemic will not be known for some time, and what the industry will look like in 12 months is hard to predict.

What is clear, though, is that more government support will be needed in the coming years if New Zealand wants a healthy media system as part of its democracy.

References

  1. ^ announced the closure (www.stuff.co.nz)
  2. ^ New Zealand Media Ownership Report (www.aut.ac.nz)
  3. ^ selling (www.reuters.com)
  4. ^ made worse (www.bauermedia.com)
  5. ^ closed titles (www.theguardian.com)
  6. ^ sold (www.afr.com)
  7. ^ sold (www.nzherald.co.nz)
  8. ^ announced (www.rnz.co.nz)
  9. ^ Funding public interest journalism requires creative solutions. A tax rebate for news media could work (theconversation.com)
  10. ^ Journalism Emergency Relief Fund (newsinitiative.withgoogle.com)
  11. ^ Courting the chameleon: how the US election reveals Rupert Murdoch's political colours (theconversation.com)
  12. ^ Crux (crux.org.nz)
  13. ^ received (www.iab.org.nz)
  14. ^ Google says (newzealand.googleblog.com)
  15. ^ reported (www.nzherald.co.nz)
  16. ^ Newsroom (www.newsroom.co.nz)
  17. ^ The Spinoff (thespinoff.co.nz)
  18. ^ Misinformation on social media fuels vaccine hesitancy: a global study shows the link (theconversation.com)
  19. ^ SimilarWeb (www.similarweb.com)

Authors: Merja Myllylahti, Co-Director, JMAD Research Centre, Auckland University of Technology

Read more https://theconversation.com/closures-cuts-revival-and-rebirth-how-covid-19-reshaped-the-nz-media-landscape-in-2020-151020

Business Reports

TIP Group grows; appoints new senior executives

Teaminvest Private Group Limited (ASX:TIP) has appointed two new senior executives to further accelerate the company’s growth. Timothy Wong has been appointed Head of TIP Equity (the company’s private equity division) and...

What to Look for in a Point of Sale System

When you're looking for a point of sale system for your business, there are a lot of things to consider. What type of business do you have? How many employees do you have? What features are important to you? In this blog post...

Why Roe v. Wade's demise – unlike gay rights or Ukraine – isn't getting corporate America to speak up

Many Americans reacted with outrage to the Supreme Court's decision to dismantle the constitutional right to abortion.AP Photo/Rick BowmerCorporate America – once known for carefully avoiding public stances on hot button iss...

Donating to help women get abortions is a First Amendment right – protected by Supreme Court precedents

An abortion provider in San Antonio had to turn patients away after the June 24, 2022, Supreme Court ruling. Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesSeveral Texas abortion funds – which are charities that help people...

Feeling down and unmotivated at work? Insights show that it’s the space you’re in

It may come as a surprise, but over your lifetime you will spend an average of 90,000 hours on the job, according to data in the study, Happiness at Work1. This will likely equate to a whopping one-third of your life, between ...

Why focusing on social impact is good for business

How can social impact and behaviour change programs create ongoing and meaningful benefit to businesses and government? This is a question that drives our work at Atria Group and is something that I am personally passionate ...



NewsServices.com

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion