Today’s news is fluffy

The front pages of both Stuff and NZHerald today are a sad indictment of both media in NZ and of what readers want to read.

Let’s look at them article by article – and to do so I’ve helpfully colour coded the homepages for each. I’ve sampled each page this morning above the fold on my big screen, and categorised the articles. Your interpretation may vary, but overall I feel the ratio is sadly skewed towards fluff.

Let’s start with the NZHerald. Real news included Aussie business confidence, churches and schools dealing with flu, Obama’s new plan for the US financial system (arguably the most important piece – certain for business/economy) and new property listings down.

However they also had “Man jumps off Yellowstone falls”, “Is Joe Karam a good pundit choice?” and “Flash cars don’t reel in the girls”.

Pink is “fluff”, green is “fluffy – but still news” and dark purple is “real news”. Click on the picture to see a zoomed up version.

Stuff’s (and I blame them for starting me on this post) real news included “Swine flu hits prison”, “bodies suggest jet broke up in air”, Jetstar’s bad first week, Dows (pathetic) offer to clean up their chemicals and the postponing of the eviction of gang members from their house.
However they also had “Poolside photos with the Allblacks”, Michael Hill’s new house and “World’s most handsome man named”. (I didn’t click through, but I am guessing it wasn’t me)

Neither had anything on Iran’s post election story – which is the biggest geo-politial thing happening in the world right now.

However if you want to read world news, then you can scroll down on each site- which I did, searching for the Iran coverage:

Stuff had a 5 word link to an article:

NZHerald had a short paragraph link to an article, and a small photo – better, but sad for what are critical moments for Iran, the region and the global economy and politics. (Iran has oil, issues with Israel and so on).

I’m not an editor – in fact the only time I ever made an editorial decision at Fairfax resulted in Stuff inadvertently breaking a budget lockup embargo. Editorial decisions are best left to journalism professionals and I stayed well clear.

But yet – can the editorial teams at Fairfax and NZHerald be happy with the content of those home pages? How do they compare to the newspapers? Are both Stuff and NZHerald worrying too much about pageviews and not about content? The end of that particular path is well trodden by Rupert Murdoch, and it’s not pretty.

Surely we can do better.

NBR is doing better – their home page has a much lower fluff quotient, and is a remarkable effort for a group that was late to the party.

However these days I’m doing what many others are doing, and getting my news via twitter alerts from WSJ, NYTimes and fellow twitters, via RSS reader for blogs and sites like and the very occasional visit to a news home page.

Published by Lance Wiggs


6 replies on “Today’s news is fluffy”

  1. …Sigh… One of the reasons I don’t read Sunday papers is the lack of real news. I like to get my fluff from glossy gossip mags – they don’t pretend to be the news.

    However, Stuff and NZ Herald are impersonating newspapers, and I’m with you on this one. Check out the ‘Latest Headlines’ on Stuff right now:
    Latest Headlines
    11:37am Bruno camps it up for UK premiere (Fluff)
    11:30am March protests Yemen killings (News)
    11:30am Playboy boss wants Kendra’s baby at mansion (Fluff)
    11:26am Greenhouse debate lights up Parliament (News-ish)
    11:22am Drogba banned six games for outburst (Sports – sorry, I don’t count as news)
    11:18am Betty White’s nude requests denied (Fluff)

    If they could get Kendra to tell the story about her baby-daddy’s near-miss while a holiday in Yemen, they’ve got the Woman’s Day beat.


  2. Surely it’s not really the news that’s fluffy, it’s just that one particular view of it?

    It’s not like the ‘worthy’ content isn’t on Stuff or the NZH — it’s just that the homepage is designed to appeal to a certain audience profile — people that consumes their news by going to the homepage of their favourite site and looking for links to click. …And constant experimentation with link placement on these hompages shows editors that visitors who fit that ‘homepage profile’ want to see poolside pics with the all blacks.

    People following the Iran situation are probably typically consuming news in a different (less brand loyal) way – such as via Twitter recommendation or Google News. They still get to what they want to read on Stuff/NZH it’s just how they get to their destination is different.

    As you’d know from your time at Fairfax, the majority of visitors never even see the homepage of news websites. It’s a referral driven business.


  3. I was on today and thought **exactly** the same thing. The fluff percentage is at an all time high.

    Still, it is not just the newspapers. Watch the news on TV and you will also see a lot of fluff. How much news programming time has been devoted to a new variant of vegamite?!?! Too much in my humble opinion.


  4. So, how much would you pay for these stories if Fairfax and APN started piecemeal charging for news as suggested by Rupert Murdoch?

    Not much I guess.

    Personally I don’t see anything much on either paper that would have me reaching into my (virtual) pocket. The print editions still offer much better reading albeit at a (small) cost.

    I suspect the two papers are mainly set up as Google-bait to drag in passing traffic, which equals advertising dollars, either via Google News or search.

    Disclosure: I’ve 30 years experience as a journalist, editor and publisher and have worked in newspapers, magazines and online.


  5. Very much reflects my perception of local “news” coverage; Major Aussie papers are hardly better; they still seem to think (or to be trying to convince their readers) that TV talent and dancing shows are an important part of “reality”; they often get a large chunk of website home page real-estate (virtual estate?)

    I went looking for news in the local dailies about Iran too. The NZ Herald’s search engine brought up “related locations” that included Titirangi and a tag for “Maori Queen” (Te Atairangikaahu, geddit?)

    Search engine fail. The genuine “news” on Iran wasn’t much cop either.


  6. …what am I missing; I thought Rupert Murdoch was doing pretty well with the buy it up, dumb it down and spread it (circulation) out model. It’s a winning formula in the US. The Wall Street Journal is on course to be a coloring book any day now…with loooots of colorers…(isn’t it?)


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