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NIM wits: when is a magazine not a magazine? —UPDATED

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September is shaping up to be a watershed month for APN NZ—and, more broadly, New Zealand's newspaper publishing sector. The New Zealand Herald is set to reveal its new compact weekday edition on 10 September and the newly redesigned nzherald.co.nz site will go live around the same time. There's also a new Newspaper Inserted Magazine (NIM) on Mondays about food, health and well-being and readers will also be treated to a one-off premium glossy magazine on launch day called, appropriately enough, The Magazine. But what exactly is a magazine? Why are NIMs so appealing for newspaper publishers? And why is ACP's Paul Dykzeul so fired up? 

The compact Herald is set to be launched with a big multi-media campaign and The Magazine will be inserted in all copies on launch day, with APN claiming the publication, which is being edited by Jane Phare and is designed to be kept by readers, offers the reach of the country’s best-read daily newspaper (566,000 people), 62 percent of whom are in the top three socio-economic levels.

While this is a one-off to celebrate a new era for the paper, it's also part of a long-running trend that has seen newspapers replicating some of the tricks of the magazine trade. 

ACP chief executive Paul Dykzeul isn't renowned for mincing his words and he finds it slightly ironic that APN is celebrating the launch of its compact newspaper by promoting a magazine. In fact, he jokes that it won't be long before they're inserting newspapers into magazines given the state of the newspaper industry. 

He says NIMS were originally created to, as the publishers tend to say, attract women. But he believes it was always about trying to find more ad dollars, something papers have been losing quite a few of in recent years. And he believes "the vast majority of that stuff gets binned" and "it doesn't get to the audience". 

In many cases, magazines with a specific target are doing quite well at present. But he says newspapers don't need to know anything about targeting and, as far as the content goes, he offers an analogy: you don't need to wrap freight well if you're moving it in a big truck. 

APN's business marketing manager Stephanie Gray responds to Dykzeul's claims succinctly with "yeah, good one", pointing out that readership is recorded for all of its NIMS and the results are very strong. 

  • Nielsen readership numbers = Travel (Tuesday): 356,000, Viva (Wednesday): 349,000, TimeOut (Thursday): 436,000, The Business (Friday): 387,000, Weekend (Saturday): 400,000, Canvas (Saturday): 413,000. 

These numbers are deduced by combining those who read the Herald and are then asked if they read certain sections or NIMS, as well as those who may read, for example, Canvas in the cafe without reading the paper. When the methodology was launched a few years back, ACP protested that it inflated the numbers. And, given the sense there has been a market share shift of advertising from mass-market weeklies into NIMS, possibly due to the speed to market newspapers can offer, that attitude isn't entirely surprising. 

Some have pointed out the papers haven't released any of the 'time spent reading' data for NIMs, either because they don't make for great reading or because they don't have them. But Gray says, "hand on heart", it's not a measure they ever talk about in the office and she wasn't aware those statistics were available. 

Nielsen's new CMI programme records time spent reading for magazines, but when we asked Nielsen if it calculated that for NIMS, we were told to get in touch with the publishers. 

"We have released time spent reading for all our main masthead publications i.e. The New Zealand Herald, Herald on Sunday, NZ Woman’s Weekly, New Idea, Listener etc just like other newspaper and magazine publishers," says APN's market information director Carin Hercock (we then asked specifically whether NIMs were measured but hadn't heard back before pushing publish). 

UPDATE: "There has been some NIM data collected by Nielsen but it doesn’t reflect our own internal data on NIM readership and since this is a new measure we are working with Nielsen to understand the differences and methodology to ensure we get an accurate reflection of consumer behaviour. NIMs are measured differently to magazines, they are essentially a specific issue readership compared with magazines which are a measure of the readership of any issue within a publication period so the approach we take for time spent reading may need to be different."

The MPA is trying to move away from the catch-all title of 'print' and create more of a distinction between magazines and newspapers and he says part of the reason for that is "the newspaper business model is fundamentally broken and magazines are still a terrific business" (another bugbear for Dykzeul and others in the magazine industry is the fact that ad revenue from NIMS goes into the newspaper coffers for ASA ad spend figures, rather than into magazines). 

"It's a terrible irony that the size of the newspaper is catching up with the direction of the paper. They're selling it as a compact, but it's become a tabloid. I love newspapers and I think they're critically important for journalism, but what's happening to The Herald is a disgrace."

It's certainly not all beer and skittles for magazines, of course. But New Zealand is something of an anomaly when compared to some other markets and, as Dykzeul says, New Zealanders are by and large still willing to pay for magazines. Conversely, he says there is now an expectation from many consumers that daily news will be free. And the more they move to giving it away for free, the more the quality drops, he says. 

The New Zealand market is also something of an anomaly for newspapers, with strong regional titles and a big focus on subscriptions rather than newsagent sales meaning the rate of circulation and ad revenue decline has been slower here than it has overseas. The last round of readership and circ numbers showed papers staying fairly static and some even rising (although some believe the numbers are being propped up because the newspaper sector recently decided to count paid copies at 30 percent of the cover price, rather than the previous measure of 50 percent that the magazine sector has stuck with).

The loss of ad revenue is a different, much more troubling story, and, as David Mitchell points out brilliantly in the below video, this new environment is not a challenge, it's a massive problem. But as Newspaper Publisher's Association chair Tim Pankhurst said when we chatted a while back, $582 million is still a big chunk of change and, according to the recent PwC entertainment and media report for the Australian market, print revenue is expected to plateau by 2015.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdYe2w8pwsM

Another issue currently being debated is the difference between a catalogue and a magazine. Hunting & Fishing is counted on Nielsen's readership survey, despite the fact it consists mostly of products for sale. Dyzeul says a magazine needs to have "a high percentage of editorial content that isn't related to the specifics of the brand under which it sits" and points to Air New Zealand's Kia Ora as an example of something that has a small amount of required information surrounded by interesting related content.  

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