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Diversified revenues ensure journalism’s future: Stuff CEO

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With a large and engaged core audience, the unique, cyclical nature of the media company’s revenue streams is helping to ensure a sustainable future.

Talking to NewsMediaWorks ahead of her appearance at the INFORM News Media Summit on Friday, September 14, Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher explained how old and new revenue streams were working together to nourish its journalism.

“While we still have significant amounts of advertising and print subscription revenue, we wanted to build a news revenue stream that meant we were less reliant on any one or two streams of revenue for the future,” Ms Boucher said.

Stuff CEO Sinead Boucher.

The Kiwi arm of Australian publisher Fairfax Media has expanded its commercial offering into social media, broadband, electricity, health insurance, and movie streaming. The scale of audience generated from Stuff’s news site, stuff.co.nz, has aided the expanded company’s growth, with the brand the largest behind international players Facebook, Google and YouTube.

The benefit of this model is the company is relying less and less on revenues generated from advertising and print subscriptions to remain sustainable.

Each of the businesses are at different stages. Hyperlocal social media site Neighbourly and Stuff Fibre are well established within the News Zealand market, while the company’s competitor to iTunes and Google Play, Stuff Pix, is only eight months old.

However, the model does not work in isolation, relying on traditional revenue streams to grow the user bases of the various ventures.

“We still need our advertising and print subscriptions, they are really important components for us and hope they will be for a long time,’ Ms Boucher emphasised.

The company’s ad inventory has become crucial in growing its adjoining businesses.

“To be frank, while we saw advertising volumes declining in print and digital, we also saw that ad inventory grow, launch and develop our own businesses,” she said.

“I think it is absolutely our goal to build a company with a solid, sustainable revenue that means we can continue to produce very high quality News Zealand journalism.”

The revenue generated from these businesses is funnelled back into Stuff’s journalism, helping to fund the specialised national correspondents and investigative unit, Stuff Circuit.

Editorial benefits from savvy business decisions

“Our purpose across the whole company is to help New Zealand communities connect and thrive,” Ms Boucher says, explaining how the company has grown to have market power at scale.

In an editorial context, Stuff has invested in journalism at a local and national level, focussing on digital first, with copy retrospectively fitted for print.

“The way we are structured here is we have Stuff as our big news platform; it’s the biggest digital brand in New Zealand. We are in a really good position to harness the nature of that scale to deliver really high-quality journalism to New Zealanders wherever they are,” Ms Boucher said.

Stuff’s national correspondents are a key example of this investment. Established mid-2017, the team specialises in areas particularly related to New Zealand life, including Maori and native affairs, environment and future technology.

This group also aids the Stuff Circuit team – the company’s specialist investigative unit. Circuit works with other New Zealand media companies, creating cross-media, agenda setting storytelling. The team recently received a $500,000 grant from New Zealand on Air to produce digital content.

Ms Boucher says the team expertly tells important journalistic stories in innovative ways.

“They [Stuff Circuit] have a huge amount of autonomy and focus on those deep, important investigations but really, really creatively, telling them in very modern ways using all of the tools and storytelling devices we have out our disposal.”

Stuff Circuit’s investigation “The Valley” is a finalist in three 2018 News Media Award categories, including News Story of the Year.

Sinead Boucher will be a speaker the INFORM News Media Summit on Friday, September 14, at the Hilton, Sydney. Tickets are free for members and $275 for non-members. Click here for more information.

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