News media should 'stick to knitting'

The news media should stick to its knitting by focusing on local content, says internet ratings researcher Brian Milne.

The news media should stick to its knitting by focusing on local content, says internet ratings researcher Brian Milne.

The advice comes after Wilson & Horton Interactive announced the axing of about a quarter of its staff “to face market reality, " (see Herald trims its internet ambitions)

Ten jobs will go as the online division of the New Zealand Herald mostly aborts future projects, claiming internet growth has not been as fast as expected.

Milne, who is AC Nielsen eRatings.com Pacific managing director, says internet use has been growing at a similar rate to previous years and maybe Wilson & Horton was too bullish.

This sector has also become “extremely competitive”, with INL’s Stuff website and more Kiwi content from Yahoo.

“The competitive nature of it is something that must be a factor,” he says.

Milne says it is easy to get international news from anywhere, but local news and sport was “still the preserve of the traditional media. That has to be the part they build up on,” he says.

On hearing W&H is focussing on the Herald brand, he says “that makes sense”.

W&H Interactive general manager Mark Ottaway says the heads that will roll are “mainly on the management front”; his own job is among those at risk.

“We are determined wherever possible to maintain the engine room … No position is sacrosanct,” he says.

The online division's editorial staff will be integrated within the New Zealand Herald, and may soon be followed by its advertising and marketing functions.

Since the Herald’s website was launched a few years ago, it has been upgraded and relaunched with new features, winning several awards, and now receiving ten million page impressions a month.

The sites include the main Herald news site, Stockwatch (sharetrading), Travel and My Town (regional sites). Ottaway stresses these are core functions that will not suffer and will instead see new features.

“What [the review] affects will be future development. We will put projects on hold or we cancel. Some of the R&D won’t happen. It would be non-core, non-New Zealand Herald [projects] affected,” he says.

Ottaway says these abandoned projects are commercially sensitive but might be resurrected.

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