Readers of this blog will be aware of my life-long affection for newspapers, notwithstanding their sunset industry status. Sadly, it’s odds on, (like me) none will exist in a decade or so.
So when last Friday I read the New Zealand Herald’s boss proudly proclaiming readership up and quoting figures to “prove” it, my heart sank. As someone acquainted with the newspaper world I knew instantly that was a harbinger of bad news.
And sure enough when a few minutes after, the latest New Zealand newspaper audited figures hit my desk, they showed the real story, specifically the Herald’s latest annual sales (get that – sales – not a made-up claimed readership) were down 8%.
Worse still the Dominion Post, despite being massively improved under the new editor, copped a historically bad sales collapse of 14%.
Like getting old I take no pleasure in this inevitable death march, nevertheless there’s a distasteful underlying hypocrisy involved here.
Currently our newspapers are hammering Winston Peters and his party for dishonesty, this over his seeming non-compliant funding reportage. That’s their job and Winston’s sudden departure abroad and the Party’s lawyer’s ludicrous $30million libel threat against MP Nick Smith, screams of panic.
But given that honesty is the newspapers underlying goal in pursuing these attacks, let’s have some consistency when it comes to reporting their own difficulties.
This readership lark only began in recent years, specifically when their circulations began to nose-dive. The truth is they have no idea, nor can they, how many people read each copy.
Unwittingly they daily publish the names of their non-renewing subscribers. You will find these in the Death notices.
The generation now dying is the generation who were habitual newspaper readers. Today virtually no-one under 30 (to their loss) has ever as much as held a newspaper.