NBR continues their descent into madness

Here’s NBR homepage, above the fold, this morning.

I’ve helpfully crossed out in red the articles that are subscriber only, and in black the one article that has a bad link (which I suspect would be subscriber only anyway). Note that the articles in the Most Popular section on the right are all also in the main list on the left.

There are just five articles that are readable without subscribing, one bad link that isn’t readable by anyone and eleven articles that are behind the subscription barrier. Five out of seventeen is just 29% – versus the 80% that non subscribers are meant to be able to access.

Of the five readable articles, two are Chris Keall’s blog posts and one is written by mega blogger Dave Farrar, both of whom emerge from the “huge band of amateur, untrained, unqualified bloggers who have swarmed over the internet pouring out columns of unsubstantiated “facts” and hysterical opinion” <update – In case this isn’t clear – Chris is a professional journalist with excellent pedigree, and Dave’s writing transcends that of the masses>

That leaves just two traditional NBR news items above the fold.

Words fail me, so I’ll borrow from Barry Colman:

It is only a matter of time before the model collapses.

He was talking about the tradtional media model – but I think we can aply it to NBR’s subscription wall.

It’s also clear, from the top five list, that the NBR is gaming this somewhat. How do we account for two of the top five read articles being subscription only?

Are they perhaps counting clicks to those articles that result in the reader seeing only a subscription wall, or are they turning on the subscription wall once articles become popular?

Either way is disingenuous.

Most disturbingly for NBR and readers there is no indication of whether an article is subscriber content or free (aside from the lead article). That makes the NBR experience a fragmented and frustrating one – you see great headlines but can read nothing. Given the usurious cost to subscribe people will increasing chsse to do just that – read nothng.

<update. Let’s insert the latest traffic chart from Netratings.The worm turned before subscription was turned on, and I would guess that it will take a while before non-subscribers stop showing up en mass. But advertisers on NBR.co.nz cannot be happy with this trend.>

<update 2. Sigh. It seems I got the labels wrong. Sorry Bernard but the line going down is Interest.co.nz and the line staying flat is NBR. My apologies everyone.>

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27 Responses to NBR continues their descent into madness

  1. prm says:

    Lance, Mr Keall’s background is as a journo, ex editor of PC World – most defintiely not an amateur untrained blogger (Bernard Hickey made the same assumption). Nice piece!


  2. Yes, Iwas moved like prm to immeadiately point out that Chris Keall has been round as a professional writer for yonks and yonks. Either way, point well made.


  3. Fraser says:

    And even though their lead story about the Rich List is their own exclusive content nearly every other mainstream media outlet in New Zealand has a story with some info about the list. Mainstream media are their own worst enemy for why it’s a losing battle to charge for content.

    The NBR also made the pdf of the rich list freely available for download but I think that might have been an oversight on their part?


  4. Juha says:

    Make no mistake, Keall is blogger scum of long standing. Even at PC World, he brutally forced the poor SETON admins into whipping up a Movable Type blog for him.

    Evidence: http://blogs.pcworld.co.nz/pcworld/ck-live/


    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Fantastic Juha – do follow that link. My favorite of the top 10:

      8. GETTING HITCHED When I mistyped the address of a mildly flirtatious email sent to our receptionist of the time, it landed in the inbox of another staff member who shared the same first name. One email led to another, and we now have two kids.


  5. Paul Spence says:

    The traffic numbers speak for themselves.

    Does Barry seriously think anyone would pay to read Farrar BTW?


  6. Raf says:

    Life’s just too short to be bothered with stuff you can’t see. I have a zillion pages to get through on any given day.

    The NBR is not that important.

    And the Herald thoughtfully provided a summary of the whole thing anyway :-)


  7. prm says:

    Lance, i would respectfully point out that you wrote “…Keall blog posts and one is written by mega blogger Dave Farrar, both of whom emerge from the “huge band of amateur, untrained, unqualified bloggers…”

    Keall didnt emerge from the cesspool of bloggers – should have been clearer in my point. Cheers. Nice graph addition too.


  8. Lance,

    Great piece, but the chart made my day. I hadn’t actually seen that until now.
    It’s a sunny, sunny day in Auckland.



  9. @Lance – do you think that it would be worth while NBR ditching the printed version (with its large production & distribution costs) and becoming online only ?


    • Lance Wiggs says:

      Yes- but not for a long while. I’m thinking they are not even close to doing that, given the difference between print and online advertising income – but they should be looking at some serious process improvement.


  10. Liv says:

    Great post Lance.

    This whole NBR debacle defies belief. It seems like they must have tossed a coin to make the decision as there doesn’t seem to be a single rational argument toward them charging for content.

    I agree they’re not in a position to go solely online either.


  11. Just finished uploading Barry Coleman and Bernard Hickey discussing this issue with Russell Brown on Media 7 on TVNZ : http://bit.ly/uWF1X

    Lance I can send you the playlist embed code if you like.


  12. Seen on Twitter by cjlambert: “durty? @rowsell Watching the Media7 interview on the NBR site, NBR have “edited” out @bernardchickey Hmm, transparent and open?”


  13. Bloody hell NBR have edited out Bernard from their You Tube version of the Media 7 interview ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEFb2HIdhfs) , you can see the whole unedited version here : http://bit.ly/uWF1X


  14. Jimbo says:

    Barry, you have clearly lost the plot and if I was working at the NBR I would be very worried about my Job. Charging for content like this in lil ol NZ, what a joke!


  15. izogi says:

    Maybe they’re gauging popularity by only counting the views of registered and signed in users? ie. People who can un-biasedly read whatever they like on the site. Okay, perhaps not, but to me that would seem the fairest way for a partial subscription site to rank its content. It’d be nice regardless if they stated clearly where the rankings were coming from.


  16. Matt Harman says:

    You might want to double check the labels on your Nielsen graph – think you’ll find it’s actually the other way around (interest declining and NBR actually up)….your way makes more sense of course, but it’s not the numbers i’m seeing in Nielsen.


  17. I can see why you guys are so frustrated. The standard of your comments suggests to me that the concept of paid “journalism” is a mystery to you (actually interviewing people, obtaining documents, witnessing real events).
    Keep chattering among yourselves. Some of us have money to make out of uncovering “news” (something new, useful, interesting unusual, exclusive, insightful) as opposed to blathering about whatever passes by.


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