Hard News by Russell Brown


Media data

I've been too busy in the last week or so to cover three reports I'd normally have been all over: NZ On Air's annual report, the 2013 World Internet Project New Zealand report and The New Zealand Media Ownership Report 2013 published by AUT’s Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy.

Taken as a piece, they provide a good chunk of data on New Zealand's evolving media landscape.

The NZ On Air report emphasises the agency's new digital strategy, which replaces the original one conceived in 2007. In her introduction, chair Miriam Dean explains it this way:

The digital strategy remains focused on audiences. It acknowledges the need to seek multiple channels for funded content; enhances options for content discovery; and creates funding opportunities for specialist digital media.

This means we expect all our funded content to play on two or more platforms so the target audience has the best chance of finding it when it suits them to do so. We also expect a strong online presence and social media promotion of our content and we support a small number of lively aggregator sites to assist discovery. The Digital Media Fund will back online and mobile content for important audiences that may be less well served by mainstream media. This year that fund focused on Pacific audiences, which led to the world’s first Pacific web musical, The Factory, and the colourful information hub Coconet.tv.

In keeping with those goals, NZ On Air has for the first time reported the on-demand performance of its funded programmes (it's been doing this for a year or two with music videos, which are increasingly irrelevant on broadcast TV). And the numbers are reasonably impressive: New Zealand's Got Talent attracted 725,601 streams, just ahead of X-Factor with 721,042 and 7 Days with 430,803.

The highest-rating dramatic programme is Nothing Trivial, with 210,589 streams -- and there are four other scripted programmes (Go Girls, The Blue Rose, Harry and Agent Anna) in the top 11. Interestingly, these shows demonstrated relatively better performance in the on-demand setting than they did on broadcast TV, where Agent Anna was the only one to rate in the top 10 and the others more or less failed to meet expectations. 

But it's also important to keep these numbers in context: New Zealand's Got Talent's series total of 725,601 streams is less than the average 899,965 viewers it earned per broadcast episode.

Meanwhile, the new World Internet Project report will be of interest to the people behind NZ On Air's digital strategy. In the past, the survey has overturned some assumptions about Maori and Pasifika audiences and the internet -- indicating that those communities use social networking services in particular in quite an intensive way. This year, there's this news:

Māori and Pasifika internet users, especially those in lower income households, take the lead in subscriptions to music streaming services like Spotify. More than one in five Māori (21%) and Pasifika (23%) users in households with annual incomes of less than $50,000 have paid for a subscription to a music streaming service in the past year.

Also, for the first time, the survey asked about porn, and discovered that more than a quarter of New Zealanders look at "sites with sexual content" at least occasionally. Just over 60% of men aged 30-44 do, and one in five women under the age of 30.

The digital divide is still with us, however: Household income remains an influence on internet use. Almost everyone under 40 is an internet user and the number of non-users gradually increases with age, to 27% for the 70+ demographic. There is clearly soem crossover between the two, given that some of the low-income householders are also pensioners living alone.

The JMAD ownership report is more a useful summary of existing information than a source of new insights, but it does make the point that although newspaper profits are improving, news rooms continue to shrink.

And it leaves us this to ponder:

Over the past three years JMAD’s report has revealed a major structural trend in New Zealand media ownership. There has been a shift from corporate to financial media ownership. APN News and Media is now the only major media company in New Zealand with a substantial corporate owner. Financial ownership has brought an exclusive focus upon revenue streams and profit rates.

It should be added that the owner of the former APC (home to Metro, North and South, Waoman's Day et al) and prospective owner of The Listener and Woman's Weekly, Bauer Media Group, is privately held by the Bauer and not beholden to banks. But the principle is simply enough: media are likely to fare better in the hands of companies which actually want to make media.

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