NZME chief executive Jane Hastings said she believes the focus of newsrooms should be on brand rather than the channel, as the company formally announced its plans to merge its print, digital and radio news operations into one integrated newsroom.
“Newsrooms today have changed in that they have become more diverse, and have needed to diversify in order to make sure that they continue to grow their brand audience,” Ms Hastings said.
“It’s no longer a channel audience, it’s about a brand audience,” she told The Newspaper Works at the Future Forum earlier this month.
NZME made the formal announcement of the merger of the three businesses last week. The company has spent the past 12 months testing the model, and Ms Hastings is confident of the benefits it will deliver.
The newsroom will be led by managing editor Shayne Currie. “We already think digital-first, and this will make it fully operational, allowing us to better serve rapidly growing mobile audiences,” Mr Currie said.
“We have engaged leading international newsroom consultants in addition to gaining first-hand experience of best practice newsrooms around the world to ensure we create a newsroom that can leverage NZME’s unique mix of print, digital and radio.”
Changes have been made to staff, with new appointments, such as digital editor Irene Chapple.
NZME chief operating officer Phil Eustace has stepped down, and will finish up at the end of the year. In a short statement released by NZME this week, Mr Eustace said it was the right time to step away from the position. So far, no replacement has been announced.
Earlier this month, The New Zealand Herald took out the top award at the 2015 Newspaper of the Year Awards, winning the PANPA for National/Metropolitan Newspaper of the Year.
The $10,000 Hegarty Award scholarship also went to its investigations editor Jared Savage.
“The judges’ comments indicated that the Herald is leading the way in how it presents the news in print and online,” Ms Hastings said in a statement.
“The campaigns and stories they referred to are all part of our new strategy and direction, proving we are absolutely on the right track with our approach.”
Mr Currie told The Newspaper Works in May that classifications such as print or radio journalist would become a thing of the past. “Journalists would be trained across at least two platforms, not only creating greater opportunities for content but benefiting their careers,” he said.
“We’re building here a world-class newsroom – a state-of-the-art news centre that brings together the best digital, print, and radio talent and allows us to expand our journalistic and broadcasting capabilities. Our readers and audiences will be the big winners.”
The integration will begin with the New Zealand Herald’s Albert Street office implementing a seven-day newsroom, with the teams moving to an integrated newsroom in Auckland later this year.
Ms Hastings said it was important for the company to be clear about its goals for the rebranding of NZME to be a success – particularly in regard to content.
She said the company needed to be “really clear about being a content-led business, being very clear that there’s never going to be a day that people wake up and are not interested in news, sport, or entertainment content”.
“Sure the channels are going to change, don’t sweat on that; just keep creating great content, and it’s up to the business to evolve and adapt to the changing channels.”
While change is often dreaded, Ms Hastings believes it doesn’t need to be.
“Change is scary if it doesn’t have a clear reason for it, but if you take the time to set the direction and set the future, and encourage people to know it’s going to be okay if you follow this track, then change can be a little easier digested,” she said.