PR insight into NZME's new newsroom

New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME) is one of the world’s few companies to have combined all of its channels into an integrated newsroom.

In addition to bringing a number of radio, digital, e-commerce and print brands under one overarching banner, NZME has taken the hub concept a step further by relocating the different arms (NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB, etc.) in a new, purpose-built building. Significantly, New Zealand is one of only three countries to have integrated media brands.

What does this all mean for public relations professionals and our clients?  To find out, I recently toured the new multi-media newsroom and met Shayne Currie, NZME/NZ Herald’s Managing Editor.

How NZME operates

NZME is on an exciting, forward-thinking journey - a journey that has no known destination. The cross-over between print, digital and radio is evident in the newsroom’s configuration. For example, Radio ZB and NZ Herald sport journalists sit next to each other. There is one head of sport for both radio and NZ Herald’s print and online versions. Naturally they create and share content across the media platforms.

Currie says the audience lies at the heart of decision-making and that creating good content - delivered when and where they want it – drives NZME’s editorial decisions.

However, he did admit there’s a fine balance between frivolous ‘click bait’ content versus serious stories.

Ultimately the audience decides.  NZME uses analytics such as Chartbeat software to monitor who is watching and reading what. This means that for every click of the mouse, NZME knows what we’re reading, where we’re from and on what device we are using. Sometimes they can even tell who is engaging.

This means that idle click-throughs for topics that are only of mild interest – such as finding out the juicy details about Madonna’s divorce – carries the risk that important content gets sidelined because Madonna gets more clicks over the serious issues.

Having robust news media is closely linked with a strong democracy and I fear that quality journalism could be adversely affected by media organisations’ bottom lines.

Not so, says Currie. NZME has implemented an investigations division where journalists (led by Jarard Savage) are afforded the time to investigate stories that matter. Furthermore, when the NZ Herald has a story it thinks is important to New Zealanders, the headline can be reworked to make it more ‘clickable’, thus ensuring the story gets a good run across the online platform.

 Sometimes feels like you have to peel away the layers of click bait and up-to-the-minute accident and crime reporting to reach the meaningful stuff so this was heartening to hear.

 Social media is driving their NZME’s news distribution engine to the point where the social team can influence editorial decisions. That’s because more people are using social media to get their news. I know my own habit of using Twitter as my news feed – so this comes as little surprise.

Into the future

 What does the future hold for NZME? Head of innovation, Marcus Forbes thinks about this all day. No one really knows what the future will hold in the fast-moving world of digital news but creating good content lies firmly at the core.  This content is disseminated across multiple platforms and a younger audience is being targeted so they become loyal and move through all parts of the NZME brand lifecycle.

 So, what does all this mean for PR practitioners and our clients?

Dean Buchanan, head of NZME’s video production, says video is a top priority. NZME reporters are being skilled up on how to shoot and edit off their Iphone 6.  We were told if you want video, give the newsroom ample time to plan.

 Bringing advertising to life with native content or advertising that is integrated into content and entertainment is going to grow. Advertising is merging into PR and PR is merging into advertising.

 If you have a story no-one clicks on, it will get buried under layers of the news site. Conversely, going viral is gold. Having well written and compelling content will help generate more views and shares.

This model puts NZME very much in the ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ driving seat. Submitting one’s own content isn’t out of the question but it appears that this isn’t really being encouraged. 

 As has always been the case with effective PR, the best approach is to develop content that’s so good that they would find it difficult to say ‘no’ to it. 

 If you would like to raise your organisation’s profile or cause through NZME, then talk to us about how to create irresistible content.