Herald announces digital subscription model for premium content

NZ Herald has announced pricing for it’s ‘premium’ digital subscription – $5 per week, although a ‘special introductory offer’ will be offered next week when the premium content launches.

That’s $260 a year, quite a bit for part of one media company’s content. It’s a risk, especially if the free content is watered down too much and keeps promoting so much trivial click bait content.

This has been a long time coming, it has been talked about for years.

NZ Herald launches digital subscriptions for premium journalism, reveals pricing

NZME will become the first major New Zealand media business to unveil digital subscriptions – costing $5 a week, with a special introductory offer to be announced next week.

While much of the content on nzherald.co.nz will remain free, digital subscribers will access a range of premium content across business, politics, news, sport, lifestyle and entertainment including indepth investigations, exclusive reports, columns and analysis. There will also be more foreign, premium content from a range of internationally renowned mastheads.

I can get all the international news and analysis I want now.

People who have five-, six- or seven-day subscriptions to the NZ Herald or one of NZME’s five regional newspapers – the Northern Advocate, Bay of Plenty Times, Rotorua Daily Post, Hawke’s Bay Today and Whanganui Chronicle – will have automatic access to premium content. Print subscribers will be contacted next week with details of how to activate their digital subscription.

So it’s free for newspaper subscribers – for now at least.

They say it will help support ‘quality journalism’ and will provide ‘indepth analysis and insight’. If it allows them to do more of this that will be a good thing, provided they get sufficient subscriptions to keep funding it.

One problem with important investigations being limited subscriptions is that it will limit the impact.  The glare of publicity can sometimes impact on negative things that have been happening or have been done, and that publicity will be reduced if limited to subscription content.

I presume they will promote summaries or teasers of premium content so people know what they might be missing out on.

On a related matter – three years ago my household decided to drop our ODT print subscription, because we found we were hardly reading it, and could get sufficient news online.

Last year we restarted our ODT subscription. We found we missed it, especially for local (Dunedin and Otago) news, and also information about what was happening in the area. It does a good job generally on local news, and we felt it was worth supporting. And we are reading it more now – there’s something about flicking the large paper pages and browsing.

This is one reason why I won’t be subscribing to the Herald online.

The ODT republishes some Herald content – I wonder if this will continue and will include premium content?

Trust the Herald enough to pay for news online?

NZ Herald is moving towards a payment model for ‘premium news’ online. Preparing for this they are advertising in their own newspaper about trust of media and news – as criticism increases over dubious news and and click-bait trivia becoming more prominent.

I just don’t trust them to provide value for money in a crowded media market.

If NZH puts in place a subscription only premium news (and views?) online service they face a real risk – removing their better news from free coverage, they may lose a lot of online readers who aren’t prepared for serious content.

So they may make something out of online subscriptions, while at the same time reduce their free-to-view audience and advertising potential.

Newsroom MediaRoom: Putting a price on trust

The New Zealand Herald has been running a smart advertising campaign for itself involving whole pages of the newspaper with just a few words in the middle emphasising its values of truth, facts and trust.

“In an age of misinformation, it pays to get your news from a source you can trust,” says one, above the gothic ‘H’ of the Herald‘s masthead.

They make you think – about who or what you should trust in the media in this age of misinformation. They should also make you think about that Herald brand, a 156 year-old totem of our media.

The reason you are likely seeing the ads now – after years of some real risk to that brand from its fine journalism being overwhelmed online by a waterfall of average tabloid clickbait – is that the Herald very soon needs to trade on its trustworthiness and factual journalism.

It is about to ask New Zealanders to start paying online for Herald content, which has for many years been entirely free on nzherald.co.nz.

Advertising and therefore revenue has plummeted in print versions of newspapers, which has made things very tough to survive in the news business. One reaction has been to cut back on staff – but fewer journalists means fewer serious investigations, less journalism, less serious news. It has become a spiral downwards.

Belatedly introducing a premium subscription service might help the Herald recover, it may stem the bleeding, or it may make things worse.  It is a big risk.

I currently work around international subscription news at the likes of NY Times and Washington Post. I avoid others like The Telegraph. I work around Politik and largely ignore NBR because of their paywalls.

I pay for some media content, but that’s largely entertainment from Sky and Netflix.

I dumped my ODT subscription a couple of years ago, but resumed that six months ago because of it’s good local content. And because It think it is worth supporting independent local media.

Later this month NZME will front up to the market with its annual financial results, and the promise of new revenues from the Premium paywall will hang heavily over chief executive Michael Boggs.

The premium content effort has an editor, Miriyana Alexander, and NZME has been good to its word and recruited a range of top-shelf journalistic talent to feed its new money-maker, while progressively trimming non-premium teams covering sports and photography.

Put your money, though, on the Herald entering the digital subscriptions market very soon. Boggs could even sign up as its first paying guest when he reveals the company’s result in the next few weeks and then watch as the revenues roll in.

I am very unlikely to pay for premium Herald content. I will just look less often at their free content, and otherwise look elsewhere.


Unusually good looking ODT website

The Otago Daily Times has a new look website, and it looks unusually good for a news website.

While the home page packs in a lot of information it looks simple, clean and uncluttered, it’s easy to browse and it has a very modest and unobtrusive amount of advertising. This is unusual for a news website.


If you click on a link to a story this page is also clean and clear, also with relatively unobtrusive advertising. So far very good. But there is a big BUT.

In the top right of the screen are three links:Subscribe |Log in /Register

It looks like they have moved to their promised partial paywall. At this stage I can access news pages but presume there will either be a time limit or a number of links limit.


It is very easy to start your Otago Daily Times home delivery and/or digital edition subscriptions.

From as little as $5.76 per week you can have home delivery six days a week of the ODT plus access to the digital edition.

For each option below, digital access is available for no additional price. If you live outside the delivery area or you do not want to receive a paper copy of the ODT, the digital only subscriptions are available at the same price.

This is where I raise my eyebrows. The digital only subscription is “available at the same price” as the print plus digital.

I guess this is to try and stop people from dropping the print edition and going digital only. So from a retention of circulation point of view it may make sense, but I think it may deter many people from going digital only when it is presumably simpler and cheaper to deliver but costs the same for less.

And something that’s quite peculiar:

If you would like to set up a digital only subscription please call our circulation team…

Ringing up to arrange an online subscription seems bizarre. I can guess again, perhaps they want to force you to talk to a sales person to give them the opportunity to try and sell you up to a full print+digital subscription.

But I think that the people most likely to want a digital only subscription are less likely to bother to ring, especially if they are overseas.


I’ve been able to register a User Accoun…

  • Your account has been granted temporary access. You will need to click on the link in the account verification email to set a password and complete the account registration process.

  • Registration successful. You are now logged in.

but I haven’t received a confirmation email yet so I can’t complete the set up. If I can eventually complete…

If you are a subscriber to print or e-edition you will get unrestricted access to ODT online.

I don’t know what restricted access means.

My initial impression is that the new ODT website is unusually good looking for a news website, but it will take time to see whether the subscription options encourage or deter readers of both print and digital editions.

While I can’t find any news information about the ODT upgrade this story in March indicated where they were headed:

ODT Online relaunching with paywall

The Otago Daily Times plans to introduce a metered paywall for its online content next month as part of an exciting relaunch of its website.

The metered paywall will allow online users to read a certain number of free articles each month, after which they will be required to pay.

Existing print subscribers will get full access to www.odt.co.nz at no additional cost to their print subscription. Subscribers will also continue to enjoy free access to the ODT tablet (iPad/Android) edition, which is a replica of the printed newspaper.

The new website will be optimised to mobile and tablet devices as well as offer a refreshed look and feel.

It looks like this has just been implemented.

Paying for decent journalism

Strong journalism is essential in a strong democracy, but in some respects at least it appears that serious journalism is going down the gurgler.

Even attempts at serious journalism are questionable. Multiple news organisations put significant resources over the last couple of weeks into trying to analyse and report on the Panama papers.

Newsrooms cried wolf, in collaboration with a political activist, and seemingly in collaboration with opposition parties.

The result was overblown, a public turn off and proved and probably achieved very little.

Big news this week (amongst journalists) was the proposed merger of Fairfax Media and APN. Who knows whether that will turn journalism around or just dump a few more reporters on the scrapheap, reduce choice and impose paywalls (which will probably reduce choice further).

Today’s ODT editorial: Adapt, collaborate, or die?

Now of course, in the digital age, there is the expectation from the public that journalists will be everywhere, at all hours, that news, entertainment and opinion should be accessible at the touch of a screen, on a variety of platforms, online, live and instantaneous.

The mediums have changed. Technology has made news-gathering and presentation exciting, innovative, fast-paced, constantly evolving and challenging. It certainly does not allow for complacency, the enemy of good journalism.

Sadly, what has changed is that today’s “audiences” want and expect everything immediately – and for nothing. If they can’t get it for free, they’ll go somewhere they can.

But if good journalism is not valued, there is a huge cost – to media companies, and ultimately to the public they serve. The public often bemoan what is perceived as dropping standards of journalism, yet it is fuelling the change.

As long as the watchdog role of the fourth estate is undervalued in every sense, the democratic ideals of transparency and accountability are at risk. The ultimate winners of this race to the bottom? Those already at the top, who are striving to stay there: the Government, churches, judiciary, police, army, big business.

If a merger allows the new major entity to put up a paywall for digital content, it may safeguard its future – and that of others seeking to do the same, such as this newspaper.

We all need to go back to the future to a certain extent: back to valuing journalism and the work that goes into producing content – and back to paying for it (on whatever platform). Now more than ever, in an age of spin doctors, gatekeepers and public relations staff, we need a healthy, competent, independent and well-resourced media.

The ODT is keen on paywalled news, I thought they had announced they would have moved to subscription news by now.

How much is decent journalism worth?

I used to subscribe to the ODT but stopped that last year when I realised I was hardly ever reading it. I do most of my reading online.

I guess I pay indirectly by having to navigate a mass of advertising online – but I can’t remember if I have ever bought something prompted by an online advertisement.

I’m very practised at ignoring them and I don’t impulse shop anyway. I’m far more inclined towards research shopping online, comparing products and prices, looking for reviews and opinions.

I have subscribed to Consumer online for this purpose, but occasionally  ponder whether that’s good value for money. I think I probably get a return on that investment.

I have subscribed to a couple of overseas publications but underutilised them and am unlikely to do it again, probably.

The problem for me with paying for a print subscription for online access to the ODT is that it would only be a small part of my news sourcing.

If a joint APN/Fairfax media also paywalled that would be an additional cost – and I would still want to view other news sources.

One of the key things I do is research across multiple sources, and I don’t feel inclined to subscribe to a heap of them. Publicly funded and free (currently) RNZ would get more attractive, but I would want much wider coverage.

I value good journalism and good news, and detest a lot of the media junk food.

I’m an on again off again subscriber to Sky and hate all the crap and self promotion (advertising on a subscription service).

I don’t think a bunch of separate news subscriptions are the answer. Especially when they want print prices for online access, that just doesn’t add up to me.

I would happily pay something for good journalism and good news and analysis, up to a point.

But I have seen nothing yet that attracts my custom.

And I really have no idea what would. I haven’t seen any yet that’s attractive.

I’d really like to hear other opinions on this. I think it’s an important issue with no obvious or easy answers.

First INCITE: Politics newsletter today

The first monthly newsletter from INCITE: Politics is due out today. As it is by subscription, and as it is  featuring political and business mercenary Cameron Slater I won’t be paying for it and won’t be quoting it here.

The name INCITE is a curious choice – at a glance it might seem like it’s taking the piss but editors Cameron Slater and Simon Lusk appear to be serious about this project.

Lusk allowing himself to be promoted on Story with Duncan Garner recently may not have been a coincidence.

When launched launched last week – see Incite Politics by subscription announced – contributing commentators were listed:

Comment will be provided across the political spectrum with contributions from:

Carrick Graham, Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, Chris Trotter, Jordan Williams, Cam Slater, Simon Lusk, Willie Jackson and many others.

Graham, Lusk and Hooton are well known political and business lobbiests who promote business or political interests for fees. It is known that Graham and Lusk have paid Slater for posts at Whale Oil – there have been claims that they have written material that has been posted under Slater’s name.

There must be some scepticism about the claim INCITE will be “a practical, dispassionate analysis of politics”.

By yesterday the contributor list had shrunk.

Carrick Graham, Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, Cam Slater, Simon Lusk, Willie Jackson and many others.

There had been questions asked about why a political subscription newsletter would be launched just as politics is winding down for the long summer break. Slater tried to explain yesterday:

Well, there are a number of reasons for that.

Firstly this report and the coming monthly reports are a bit different. All the contributors in the first issue and contributors in coming issues have signed up to deliver their thoughts in this report because it is going to be different. We are going to be forward looking not backwards looking. Have a look at all the political commentary since parliament rose for the break. It is all about what happened in the past year and nothing at all about what should happen. In due course Fairfax will do their annual prediction post but that is more about flippancy than about accuracy.

Politics for me has been a life long addiction/hobby/career. Just because lazy and inept politicians and the equally lazy media have gone on holiday doesn’t mean we should stop talking about politics. The issues that matter to voters don’t go away over Christmas.

But interest in thinking and talking about the issues does dissipate for at least a month. It’s bills that don’t go away, and some have suggested this is an alternative revenue attempt as Whale Oil business model seems to be waning.

The launch of INCITE on Whale Oil last week didn’t attract much attention, with only ten comments, five of which were by Slater and Pete Belt. Yesterday’s promo only attracted one comment.

That suggests a lack of interest in paid content from Slater. His free content has hardly been riveting lately. Whale Oilers will also be aware that any criticism or questioning would be inviting bans. Message control has been draconian there for the last eighteen months.

In what looks like vote of no confidence in the Whale Oil readership yesterday David Farrar posted a discount promo: 15% off for Kiwiblog readers.

Kiwiblog readers who want to subscribe to the monthly newsletter can get a 15% discount at this link.

Discounting via a rival website just prior to the first edition is certainly an interesting move. The on Kiwiblog will not be encouraging for INCITE.

One example, from Jimbo:

Most of those named commentators are well known for pushing unacknowledged interests and crafting opinions for murky paymasters.

Not sure why you would want to keep that sort of company, DPF. I certainly won’t subscribe.

Currently 20 upticks, 1 downtick.

Farrar responded:

I am happy to write and do polls for whomever will pay me.

That confirms presumptions that Farrar’s Curia polling company will be involved in “exclusive polling and polling analysis”.

The cost to produce INCITE won’t be insignificant. Contributions from Slater, Lusk and possibly Graham may be for free – cynics may suggest that Lusk and Graham may pay to have their client’s views promoted as has happened at Whale Oil.

But polling isn’t cheap. Farrar says he will be paid for his contributions, and others may want something for their efforts sold as exclusive as well.

Unless special mate’s rates and deferred payments are involved the cost of each edition must be in the thousands.

One hundred subscriptions at the monthly premium of $35 is only $3,500 which presumably includes GST.

On subscriptions, Tom Barker at Kiwiblog:

Annual subscribers beware. Slater was appointed editor of “Truth”- and it folded five months later. Don’t expect a refund on the balance of your subscription when his latest venture does the same.

A three month subscription has no discount, so those who are curious and not winding down for the year may take a one off look. They may be satisfied enough to keep paying for more. Or not.

The last comment currently on Kiwiblog: “I dunno. I admire the chutzpah.”

NOTE: If anyone has subscribed it will be interesting to hear what you think. Quoting examples is fine (I think Slater quotes paywalled NBR articles) but as it is subscription not too much please.

Incite Politics by subscription announced

Today Whale Oil has announced the launch of a new monthly “premium report called INCITE: Politics” (I checked that it wasn’t April 1 and it seems to be serious).

Announcing Incite: Politics Monthly

This is a new initiative and we will be producing a monthly insiders report on politics in New Zealand.

I have commissioned exclusive polling information and will be adding comprehensive analysis and political insight from across the political spectrum.

This is an exclusive report. None of the information contained in INCITE: Politics will be available either on this blog or in any other publication.

We have also secured commentary from insiders across the political spectrum and the first MP we are featuring will surprise some.

The name is a bit odd.


Comment will be provided across the political spectrum with contributions from:

Carrick Graham, Matthew Hooton, David Farrar, Chris Trotter, Jordan Williams, Cam Slater, Simon Lusk, Willie Jackson and many others.

Guest MP columns

One MP per issue will be invited to contribute an op-ed piece and also answer a short Q&A.

The cost:

The next two years will be exciting politically with the local body elections and the general election. Subscribe Now  to INCITE: Politics and be amongst the best informed in New Zealand on politics, policy and insider knowledge.

  • NZ$35 / mo
  • NZ$105 / 3mo
  • NZ$180 / 6m
  • NZ$295 /year

As it is by subscription only it may be hard to know what’s in it or how successful it is.



Listener online now by subscription

The Listener has announced on Twitter:

New Zealand Listener ‏@nzlistener

We’ve relaunched our website – now subscription-based. http://bit.ly/em7pG4 

I enjoy reading the Listener’s politic columns and blogs so I checked it out. They now show an introduction to articles and links to log in or subscribe.

Subscriptions can be for Print and  Digital, or Digital only. The Digital costs are:

Digital Subscription Options

  • 1 Week (Snack) $5.00 (non-recurring)
  • 3 Months $36.00
  • 6 Months $70.00
  • 12 Months $129.00

I understand the need for online media to try and get sufficient revenue to cover costs and make a reasonable profit, but it will be difficult to convince online users who are used to more free information than they can use to pay any subscriptions.

The price will be critically important, as always. That’s far too much for me for something that’s far from essential.

They seem to be targeting an elite rather than a mass market.