ODT circulation mutterings

L A S T ● W E E K ● T H E ● O D T ● P A Y W A L L ● H I T

This week a new reader at What if? Dunedin, Jonathon O’Donohue, mentioned he’d heard that “ODT circulation has dropped 40%”.

With no timeframe to qualify that, we rang around only to be told that “at peak” (whenever that was ?) ODT had had a circulation of 55,000 —now dropped to about 33-34,000.

Welcome to the Internet.

Interestingly, this came to one of my Twitter accounts yesterday from ODT’s Chris Morris. Thanks! Depressing graph [click to enlarge].

ABC on NZ newspaper circulation Received 8.8.16 10.08 am from @JournoMan

█ Find out more at the New Zealand Audit Bureau of Circulations Inc (ABC):
http://www.abc.org.nz/ (magazine and newspaper circulations)

█ For more at What if? Dunedin, use the search terms *allied press*, *odt* or *editor* in the search box at right.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

Election Year. This post is offered in the public interest.


Filed under Business, Democracy, Dunedin, Economics, Finance, Geography, Heritage, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Public interest, Travesty

32 responses to “ODT circulation mutterings

  1. Richard Stedman

    For clarity Elizabeth. The Evening Star ceased publication in November 1979. As a result the ODT circulation grew to 55,000 during 1980 and it maintained a circulation above 50,000 for a good decade or more and then began to slowly drift downwards. I am surprised that it is still around the 34,000 mark, because it was there when I retired four years or so ago, so no sudden decline in circulation as suggested, but certainly difficult times maintaining readership/viewers and advertising dollars for all in the media, which is under pressure from the diversity of information supplied on the internet. Newspapers are having a hard time working out how to make their websites viable because many of their advertisers in the print media have their own websites and talk directly to their customers. The only way that I can see for a newspaper to thrive is to be relevant and compelling, a concept that largely escapes most of them.

    • Elizabeth

      Excellent, thanks.

    • alanbec

      Relevant now for the selling, how they say? like the hot cakes? :

      Delta in Vito Corleone type shock
      South Dunedin in Doomsday prediction Shock
      No one wants to be a Councillor horror
      Pathological cat killers shock
      Enraged driver still at large after aiming at cyclists shock
      Violent crim still at large possibly in Mosgiel horror

    • russandbev

      A long time ago when TV3 was about to appear, I was invited to a TVNZ course to address commercial competition. The highlight was by far a guy from commercial radio that identified the components that drive success. Imagine a triangle with the three corners labelled as broadcaster, viewer and advertiser. The vital thing is to identify what each gives and takes from the other.

      The broadcaster gives the viewer good programmes, the viewer gives the broadcaster good ratings. The broadcaster gives those ratings to the advertiser who then pays the broadcaster premium rates for advertising. The viewer pays the advertiser for their product or services and receives information from the advertiser.

      As can be seen, if the broadcaster fails to deliver quality programming, the ratings fall, the advertiser pays less and sales fall.

      Translate this to the ODT.

      Is it delivering a quality product (source of news) that people rate highly by buying the paper?

      Is advertising falling to reflect declining circulation?

      Are retail sales as a reflection of ODT ads falling?

      The crucial component in this is to up the quality of the paper but I suspect the owner’s direction has been to cut costs instead. Result will be lowered circulation, less advertising and gradual demise.

      The Smiths have made millions from Allied Press – time to invest some of those millions into a heap of good reporters, a new direction and make the paper something to be valued.

      • Peter

        Excellent summation of the ODT’s dilemma, Russell. Will they staunch the bleed? Somehow l doubt it.
        Has the ODT in recent times surveyed its readers and asked them what they both like and dislike about the paper? What regular columns they like or not? etc etc.
        Or have they just believed their own self belief about what a great paper it is?
        If they have not done a readership survey and if l was one of the Smith Bros l would be asking the editor, why has this not been done?
        Such a survey would have to be independent to allow for authenticity and of course, the paper’s survival and rebirth.

  2. JournoMan

    Always wise for a paper to maintain credibility, especially when sales are heading south. Credibility, you may ask?
    Well, for example, fabricated stories that cause trouble. Better to pull such stories before they backfire. Eh.

    • Elizabeth

      Site Notice
      There may be two Journo-men in town. The graph is from ODT’s @JournoMan, confirmed.

    • ab

      Chapel! Journalists Chapel (Union), would not countenance the continuation of membership of any certificated journos who fabricated or manipulated the news. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just not supplied from the Newsroom./Journeyman carbon sandwich ripper, 19..mumble (fired).

      • Richard Stedman

        What on earth are you taking ab?

        • ab

          Richard, it is my opinion that no one ‘makes the news up’, on newspapers. The rest is arcane reference to broadcasting, not print, newsrooms, in the days of Telex and typewriter. It’s a History thing, but, fairplay to ye, a glossary is in order.

          Chapel: Branch, NZ Journalists Union or Association of Broadcasting Journalists, now incorporated PSA/Printers Engineers.

          19 mumble. A way to indicate an era without mentioning Age.

          Carbon sandwich. Quarto carbon backed copy paper x 8 in a separable bundle, so all news crew get a copy.

          Journeyman. Apprentice.

  3. pb

    National Business Review bucking the trend?


    Most papers have devolved into trash in the last dozen years. Perhaps NBR hasn’t degenerated into a women’s gossip magazine format.

    • Elizabeth

      NBR keeps a stiff business lip. Has some interesting writers and commentators.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Most of us read the “women’s gossip magazine” pieces, don’t we? A light skim between articles that use some mental effort, or checking that for a change it’s not shallow as steam on a window, or intrigued by what appears to fascinate such large numbers of the population, or because we’d been wondering what a Kardashian is and why it’s important (judging by column inches and TV hours).
      This must surely give an erroneous impression to surveyors of what readers want in their newspaper. “Star’s shock discovery” – nearly everyone at least glanced. “Republican other than Trump”, “Australian detention centres”, “Value of the Euro”, “Fonterra”, “DCC report on__” and “Hockey rules change” – a few would read all of them, most are highly interested in some but not so much in others.
      If measuring clicks per web page it’s obvious (!) that we want more shallow crap about celebrities. I don’t know how interest in paper newspapers is measured but suppose there must be something similar for gauging what’s of importance to readers. And maybe it’s been saying the same thing as clicks.
      Another thing, it’s “elitist” to complain about “Star’s Secret Fear” and since elite are by definition small in number their complaints may be ignored, while “Why are you printing all this boring stuff about Brexit, the Poms made there [sic] disicion [sic] and thats [sic] there [sic] business” is the Voice of the Majority. Gawd’elpus.

  4. Calvin Oaten

    There is no dearth of stories of interest to the citizens for the ODT to concentrate on.
    A really deep dig into the Stadium and its operations. The truth about DVML’s grandiose claims. The total mess up of the ill thought out ‘Cycleways.’ The truth of the 2014 South Dunedin floods. The deplorable suppression of the ‘Citifleet’ fiasco. The DCC/DCHL/Delta land purchase/development disasters. City Forests and the messy performances of the multitude of high remuneration Directors. The Mayor’s constant infatuation with overseas visiting to China and other destinations complete with retinue of hangers on. The unseemly conduct of the Mayor and his treatment of councillors who don’t agree with his peculiar autocratic methods of chairmanship. The purchase of Carisbrook and subsequent resale for less than half the purchase price. The Invermay Research Centre demise. The St Clair Sea Wall and its unsatisfactory state.
    The performances of our staff in their reliance on private consultants and the resultant lax contractor outcomes .The City’s financial indebtedness.
    These are a few really substantial stories that would all stand serious in- depth investigations with tenacious truth seeking. Independent Investigative journalism without bias is what the ODT could/should thrive on, bringing back the interest and belief of the readers, not the ‘bland easy take of the news briefs from the ‘spin doctors’ and regurgitating the feel good fictitious economic benefits claimed for any event that ‘fogs a mirror’. Then there is the blatant ‘cosy’ arrangement with and funding of ‘rugby’. That is what a good community newspaper would base its future on. Fulfilling the need to protect the citizens from the ‘troughers,’ ‘malingerers,’ ‘do-gooders’ and ‘sad sacks,’ with their agendas and having a free ride without accounting for their actions.
    Then there is the Southern District Heajth Board’s constant wrestle with sackings , commissioners, failings in all directions plus central government’s barely concealed disdain for Dunedin’s situation.
    All in all, no shortage whatsoever for good, searching honest journalists to hone their trade on.
    It is the exposing and holding to account which could be the saving of the ODT and by extension the city. We, the people need this protection and if the ODT performed it would be well rewarded I’m sure. It is over to management to ensure the survival of it’s future.

    • ab

      Good stuff. I wish you were the man on City Desk, distributing assignments. Not quite sure what ‘do gooders’ are. Some say monomaniacal busybodies, others say Presbyterians. Social Services do the work the govt should, but won’t.

    • Peter

      Calvin. With this extensive litany of truths you will be interested to know that on Dave’s election billboard it says:
      Together we are building a great city.

      • Richard Stedman

        The great city was built in the 19th century. We spent the greater part of the 20th century wrecking it. Dave has gone from building a great “small” city to building a great city. The trouble is he was building the “great small city” out of the great city, which of course we all know is simply not true, but when you have a downtown spiny agency on your team, you say anything. Now he just grates instead of “Small” greats.

    • Richard Stedman

      Calvin, I well recall when I was editor of the Star and embroiled in the art gallery argument and being threatened on a weekly basis by the DCC, being told by JCS Smith that “we shouldn’t get involved”, to which I replied “How are people going to know if we don’t tell them?” to which he replied: “We shouldn’t get involved”. The ODT has not had the intestines to tackle anything that looked controversial since the late Keith Eunson was editor (retired mid-1980s). The record shows they have only campaigned on stuff that everyone agrees with. So don’t wait at your letterbox for something to happen anytime soon. When I look at the ODT all I can see is a lack of advertising revenue. Why should we be surprised. I could not agree with your assessment more.

      • Calvin Oaten

        Today’s front page is a graphic example of my contentions. ‘City’s $1billion industry’. Reading deeper it extols the contribution to the city’ GDP of the University and Polytechnic. Page four stuff, surely. Face it, these institutions are Dunedin, and have been for 150 years. Not visitors in passing. Valuable sure, but then what’s new about that? Sometimes up, sometimes down. There was a brief period when the city’s GDP took a hit – albeit infinitesimal – due to me leaving on holiday for three weeks. Front page? Not even mentioned.
        What I mean is, there is more serious stuff going on that an instinctive journalist would sense was not right, then poke under the covers and see where it leads to.
        Back in the seventies one Bob Woodward of the Washington Post caught a whiff of something amiss in the Watergate affair. Result, the eventual downfall of the President of the USA. Momentous? Good investigative journalism and tenacity is all it took.

        ODT, unleash your hounds. Unless of course they are just all ‘puppy dogs’.

        • Richard Stedman

          Calvin, you forgot the ‘lap dogs’.

        • Peter

          I actually noticed that drop in Dunedin’s GDP when you went on holiday.
          Fair enough comment concerning educational institutions. This is old news, good as it is. We all know education is a big industry here as well as the hospital…or at least until it becomes a general hospital under the commissioners.
          But there is more to come.
          Chris Staynes on his billboard has: The energy behind Dunedin’s economic development.
          I’m not sure what those, who have contributed to any economic development that has occurred think about his pivotal position, so described, but I’m open to persuasion.
          It is also possible that this is a Good News slogan for an election campaign.

      • Anon

        Richard, what would have happened if an editor didn’t heed JCS Smith’s words: “We shouldn’t get involved”?

        • Richard Stedman

          Anon, That would have depended on the editor’s determination and shall we say “fibre”.

  5. Gurglars

    Well Done AB. Could you please go back a few weeks there are other matters on which I would like to get an understanding of your viewpoint.

    • ab

      Gurglars, mon brave, it takes me all my time to respond to readers’ questions as it is. Now, here is the secret of text, in whatever form: Received Text is what the reader does, or does not, make of it. The alleged writer writes and puts it on The Thing. The reader completes the process, receiving it according to their own Worldview. Oh, I don’t know, Montagnard, it could be some write merely to burlesque the act of writing. I bet you wouldn’t ask silly old William S Burroughs to explain his newspaper clippings.

      • Peter

        I prefer direct, straightforward language. Always better to explicitly say what you mean.lt has more impact.
        Best to kill your darlings.

  6. Pb

    Newspapers that give away free content online are trapped in a suicidal model. Unless you are able to capture a world monopoly like Google, with freebies on the side. Adblockers are awesome. Online advertising ineffective, mostly.

    Anyone notice that social media isn’t social. Or that Facebook friends aren’t friends. The digital creates a niche altar which emulates the social interaction we crave. Yet it is fake. The iPhone has supplanted the church. We worship our devices. And that God has an evil glint in its eye.

  7. Elizabeth

    Friday, 9 September 2016

    Today, the print edition of the Otago Daily Times was down to just 20 pages, not including the dreary Sport supplement.

    I paid $2.00 for a copy at the supermarket, since ODT won’t deliver to my apartment in Pitt St (central Dunedin), to read the Editorial and Opinion pages (2 pages!) and the death notices.

    On Fridays it’s far better to buy NBR or share it.

  8. Elizabeth

    Link received from Anonymous
    Thu, 15 Sep 2016 at 4:34 p.m.

    ### whaleoil.co.nz 15 Sep 2016 at 4:00pm
    Trust in main stream media plummets to an all-time low
    By Cameron Slater
    Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year. […] The same is happening in New Zealand. We have a media that is by-and-large pro left and anti-government, yet the largest party enjoys the support of centre-right voters. The question remains: why is it that the media are deliberately moving away from their readers?
    Read more

  9. Elizabeth

    Link received.
    Tue, 25 Oct 2016 at 6:08 p.m.

    ### whaleoil.co.nz Oct 25, 2016 at 5:00pm
    So, how is the click bait mentality working out for media?
    By Cameron Slater
    So, how is the click bait mentality working out for media?
    Not so well.

    [Source: David Farrar at Kiwiblog]table-via-whaleoil-25-10-16

    The latest newspaper circulations are out. The Sunday News and SST have had the biggest decline in the last year along with the Dominion Post which continues to manage to drive readers away.

    The ODT is doing relatively well with only a 2.6% drop.

    With the exception of the NZ Herald all those publications have less of an audience than I do. My audience grows, theirs shrinks. Perhaps that should tell them all something.
    Link: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2016/10/click-bait-mentality-working-media/#more-278500

  10. Peter

    The SST used to be a pretty good paper with some investigative journalism. Now it is absolute crap with a lot of infotainment. It even makes the ODT look better.
    If Fairfax had any sense it would fire the editorial team and bring in fresh blood.

    • russandbev

      Totally agree re SST Peter. I used to look forward to reading it, but now it seems to have shrunk and what is left is filled with prurient rubbish so I don’t waste my money. I wonder just who Fairfax thinks its readership is. The Listener continues to come up with great investigations on a fairly regular basis.

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