Lesson 1: your customers don’t need you

Lesson 1: your customers don’t need youFormer Herald on Sunday editor Bryce Johns at the 2013 Newspaper of the Year Awards

It is sobering moment for any business to admit its customers don’t need its products. However, the editor of New Zealand’s Herald on Sunday Bryce Johns has turned this realisation into a strength.

“It probably sounds negative, but we in print have to accept that the readers no longer need us,” he said. “There is plenty of competition in print and there are multi ways to access the good stories that we write.

“So once a week we acknowledge that we have to have a point of difference and we have to create community engagement. When you think like that it changes how you approach most parts of the job, and from that I mean everything changes.”

It was this philosophy that lead to the Herald on Sunday winning the Sunday Newspaper of the Year award at last week’s 2013 Newspaper of the Year awards.

“The staff were extremely proud . . . there was a round of applause when I walked back into the office. From an industry recognition point of view, this is the big one to get in this area of the world. We have won at the New Zealand Media awards multiple times but this award really shows that we are being recognised in Australia and in the Pacific as well.”

Mr Johns says he hopes the win will give his staff the confidence in their work to push the boundaries and make their journalism braver and better.

“I would hope that it makes us bolder about talking about the things we’re doing well, and rather than just asking people to do things, that we’re encouraging the staff to lead rather than follow.

“It’s not like we sat down one day and decided this really was right the right path for us. A few of us were very determined to do this and start the ball rolling and see if it snowballed – now our staff are seeing the value and there coming up with more and better ideas.”

Mr Bryce hoped the Sunday Newspaper of the Year award would allow people to see the Herald on Sunday in a new light, as a paper that is involved in the community in every aspect and has a business model which is growing, even in the current environment.

“The really special thing about the PANPA award is it came at a time when we’d made significant changes, and we were probably struggling a bit to get enough people to see that and change their perceptions of us,” he said.

“I’m hoping people look at our success and learn some lessons – it’s not all doom and gloom out there.”

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