Flame Tree Media is more than an interested party in what goes down in the New Zealand media market. One of our key clients is Fairfax NZ and we have also consulted for independent publishers there.
We believe the proposed merger between Fairfax NZ and NZME would be a good thing for New Zealand, those businesses, journalism and, most importantly, for Kiwis.
We produced this submission for the NZ Commerce Commission, which is considering whether to clear the merger. It is expected to make its final decision by March 15, 2017. Coincidentally the Ides of March.
Communication units have learned a lot in recent years about leveraging social media, but if they really want to supercharge their messaging they should adopt the best behaviours of modern newsrooms.
Newsrooms have the attributes, processes and energy that power content for ultimate audience engagement.
Over 30 years, I’ve run or worked in dozens of newsrooms in Australia and New Zealand - the biggest and smallest. I’ve also seen how exceptional operations like The Sun and The Guardian in London, and the Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe have operated. Each of those newsrooms have a personality and idiosyncrasies that exude their target market.
Like any organisation, no one newsroom does everything superbly.
But here’s 10 traits of newsrooms, compiled from the best of the best, that comms teams could use as a checklist when considering how to better position themselves.
I’m still shaking my head.
Yes, that Donald Trump was elected President. But also at the staggering and anachronistic decision by New Zealand’s competition watchdog to reject the proposed NZME and Fairfax NZ merger.
In a 195-page draft determination, the Commerce Commission found the merger would substantially lessen competition in the market.
The commission stated NZ would only be behind China for concentration of newspaper ownership. A merged company would account for 90 per cent of daily newspaper sales in the country - a far more dominant position than Rupert Murdoch has across Australian media.
On every front, from a reduction in competition in discrete local markets through to the impact on ad buyers, the report paints a grim picture post-merger. It is particularly damning of how the merger would materially diminish the plurality of views across NZ.
Muhammad Ali's passing should remind us that not only did he redefine boxing, but he was the consummate innovator - a man who provides lessons to anyone who wants to survive and thrive in a dog-eat-dog world.
Ali teaches us that innovation is not about iteration - it's about blazing trails.
"I don't have to be what you want me to be, " Ali told reporters after the bout against Sonny Liston in 1964 that launched his career. "I'm free to be what I want."
Publishers, who have suffered an unprecedented pummelling in recent years, could do with some of that self-belief.
One media organisation that is displaying its own brand of magic is Fairfax Media New Zealand. Like a young Cassius Clay, the Fairfax team is willing to do things its own way.
For the past 18 months, Flame Tree Media has helped design and implement the company's signature editorial transformation program News Rewired.
In May, Fairfax NZ won the award for corporate innovation at the International News Media Association (INMA) awards in London - along with best in show for Asia/Pacific. In all, Fairfax NZ won four first places - more than any media brand. In the world.
So, what are the Kiwis doing that others aren't?
Five traits are common to those who become world beaters.
Unlocked: 10 secrets about editors and their mysterious, marvellous, manic ways - and why we should love them
A sad reality about today's digitally driven and metric-obsessed newsrooms is the diminished standing of the never-humble newspaper editor.
Less and less, we have editors of newspapers. More and more, we have content directors across platforms.
Less and less, editors are kings and queens of their domain - the personification of their masthead's place in the community. More and more, slick marketing of digital assets takes prime position.
Oh, well, that's the media business today and let's not get too romantic about it all.
That said, I'd like to think there's a little bit of the old editor in all of today's news hounds. Particularly, the good bits, of which there are many.
So in a rather dubious salute to my editor colleagues I'd like to unlock the top 10 secrets about them - and what makes them tick.
He looked me in the eye, held out his arm and slowly motioned his hand towards the floor.
Here, one of the captains of the publishing world - a Prince of Print - was explaining to me in unequivocal terms where he saw newspapers going.
“Down, down, down. It’s just too late for many of them,” he said.
Most would agree. As the way society connects has screamed ahead online, the newspaper industry has been left behind. Newspapers are now emblematic of life pre-Apple.
But is the show really over? Are newspapers as we know them doomed? Is it too late to save print?
Plummeting circulations across much of the western world would indicate so.
In Australia, total audience measurements paint a rosy picture of how big media groups are faring across platforms. In isolation, print numbers make for depressing reading.
As a former editor of daily newspapers, I was generally confident that hard work in the newsroom could bring a circulation dividend. That was not long ago. But, today, not even Moses could put a dent in the sea of red circ numbers.
Stuart Howie is a Canberra-based communications consultant. He has worked with organisations, private and public, in Australia and New Zealand, helping them to discover, shape and tell their stories. He is the author of The DIY Newsroom, which won Social Media Book of the Year at the Australian Business Book Awards. Stuart has worked in media, publishing and communications for more than 30 years as an executive, editor and strategist.