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Opinion: How to profitably publish financial news online for free

Posted in News

By Bernard Hickey

Earlier today NBR publisher Barry Colman announced he was going to charge a discounted NZ$89 for a six month subscription to see about 20% of the news and commentary at NBR's website.

He argued it was only a matter of time before the business model of free news online collapsed and media generally was at a 'tipping point in The Great New Journalism Adventure.'

I agree that we are at or near a tipping point for a great new journalism adventure and I'm having a ball embarking on that adventure.

But I think Barry has tipped the wrong way and I'd like to suggest another better and more profitable way.

Firstly, it's worth looking closely at what Barry said to his email subscribers announcing the change. In the spirit of the underlying ethos of blogging I encourage you to click on the link to the announcement, where he is getting a pounding from his own readers (congrats to Barry by the way for leaving comments open and I admire what he has done up until today with

Here's how the tirade started.

As you know, there has been endless discussion for a number of years about the crazy model adopted by newspapers in most parts of the free world in which they pay the enormous costs of running professional newsrooms only to give their content away free "“ while at the same time slashing newsroom numbers to save money as circulation and advertising revenues fall.

Barry is right about the endless discussion among print publishers and how it's bubbled up again in recent months.

They are all under intense pressure from those falling circulation and advertising revenues, particularly in the United States where most newspapers have very fat cost structures and have faced hot competition online for longer.

But I didn't think Barry faced the same immediate pressures, given the NBR dominates the weekly business newspaper market and New Zealand's economy has fared better than the US or Europe. 

He has form in this area, however. My understanding is that he has tried to invest online and build a profitable audience in 1999, but failed.

His second attempt in the last year had, I thought, done very well, but it seems to have failed to meet his expectations. Hence the palpable anger in this comment.

And to add to the madness it has been the aggregators that have profited the most from the supply of that free news copy. Worse still the model has spawned a huge band of amateur, untrained, unqualified bloggers who have swarmed over the internet pouring out columns of unsubstantiated "facts" and hysterical opinion. Most of these "citizen journalists" don't have access to decision makers and are infamous for their biased and inaccurate reporting on almost any subject under the sun (while invariably criticising professional news coverage whose original material they depend on to base their diatribes).

Just turn it off

It's not clear what he's referring to when he talks about aggregators.

If he's talking about search engines like Google or google/news then he has a simple solution. He can very easily turn them off. Google, helpfully, has a few tips.

For more than a decade, search engines have routinely checked for permissions before fetching pages from a web site. Millions of webmasters around the world, including news publishers, use a technical standard known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP) to tell search engines whether or not their sites, or even just a particular web page, can be crawled. Webmasters who do not wish their sites to be indexed can and do use the following two lines to deny permission: User-agent: * Disallow: / If a webmaster wants to stop us from crawling a specific page, he or she can do so by adding '<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">' to the page. In short, if you don't want to show up in Google search results, it doesn't require more than one or two lines of code. And REP isn't specific to Google; all major search engines honor its commands.

Go on Barry. Do it.

You'll lose at least a quarter of your traffic overnight, but it will stop google 'profiting from all that free copy' (I doubt it does by the way,)

The other point worth noting in Barry's comments about 'hysterical, untrained, unqualified bloggers and citizen journalists' is that he has a couple of the best bloggers in New Zealand on his payroll -- David Farrar and Chris Keall.

They are probably better connected, more hard working, more relevant, more useful and set the news agenda more often than any of his regular journalists, or any other for that matter.

David Farrar's Kiwiblog is the gold standard for blogs in New Zealand because he works so damn hard.

He also is very well connected, scoops the mainstream media almost daily and actively works to foster a community.

He's already posted on this issue and beat me to the punch.

David single-handedly set the agenda for the public upwelling of opposition to the Electoral Finance Act last year, which Barry also opposed with vigour.

Barry likes him so much he invited him to write a column on Go figure, as the Americans say.

Chris Keall has done a fantastic job at the NBR covering tech and telecom stories since starting this year. I only hope his stuff remains in front of the paywall. It is today. That's brilliant.

Many bloggers are not journalists, but often they have more expertise and better contacts in their particular field than most journalists.

The good ones often write better as well.

I point to Lance Wiggs' blog as an example of a non-journalist writing excellent business analysis independently of a mainstream publication. As a former McKinsey consultant and advisor to Sam Morgan TradeMe, he has the insight and experience no business journalist here would ever have. (Disclosure: I worked with Lance at Fairfax.)

Blogging is an intensely democratic area. The better the content, the bigger the audience. That may be why Kiwiblog has an audience and traffic that is not much smaller than NBR's.

Then Barry goes on to say the model for free news online is going to break.

It is only a matter of time before the model collapses. The alternative is newsrooms decimated to the point of processing public relations handouts or unedited government propaganda from their fully staffed team of spin doctors.

Barry is right that his traditional model of print journalism is collapsing, albeit slowly in New Zealand. The idea that somehow a print publisher could make a smooth transition from advertising-and-subscription-funded journalism in print to advertising-funded journalism online is a pipedream.

His model of a hybrid print-online publication is also collapsing, but more on that later.

Cut costs 80%

Barry has two basic problems. Firstly, he has a cost structure problem.

His costs are too high and there's nothing shameful in that because all print publishers have high costs.

He has to support contracts with a printing press firm, an ad sales and marketing team, a fancy office in the CBD, editors, sub editors, journalists, software licenses, promotional advertising and the sponsorship for the Opera.

Secondly, he has a revenue problem. Advertising online earns about 10% of the equivalent advertising in print when you compare demographics and page impressions in a like for like way.

I reckon the online CPM rate (cost per thousand page impressions) for a financial news site in New Zealand is about NZ$50, while I suspect the similar CPM rate in a glossy print publication like Barrry's would be over NZ$500. Either online isn't earning enough or print is overcharging. I suspect the latter.

That means Barry has to cut his production costs by at least 80% to break-even in an online only world, let alone make a profit.

Barry then makes the mistake of assuming his only method of cost reduction is firing journalists in the following comment.

Our move to Subscriber Only Content has been driven by our belief that laying off journalists as a cost-cutting tactic is a route to oblivion for newspapers. I know there have been previous attempts by New Zealand publishers to charge for their news and these have failed and left them so far scared to attempt new initiatives.

The only productive assets he should have in an online world are journalists and commentators. Their output is the only thing that will earn money.

That means slashing printing, marketing, accomodation and other overheads to as near to zero as possible. He has to think the unthinkable and turn off the presses.

He is probably nowhere near having to do that for another decade or so, but it will come. I also wonder how much profit he could sacrifice before sacking journalists.

NBR does not equal WSJ or FT

Barry also makes the mistake of assuming others have successfully erected pay walls and he can too.

Overseas the Wall Street Journal and The Australian Financial Review have successfully instigated subscriber paid policies for premium content and legendary publisher Rupert Murdoch has promised the days of the internet's "free lunch" news service from his newspapers is about to end.

There's a couple of problems with that assumption.

The Wall St Journal can charge for its premium content because it is the biggest financial news brand in the world covering the world's biggest economy and the world's biggest markets. And even then I bet it doesn't cover its costs, if it had to buy its journalism on an open market from the Wall St Journal newspaper. It is still being subsidised.

The Australian Financial Review's site is a debacle that earns nothing. Fairfax has essentially ceded the financial news space to Murdoch's The Australian and a startup called

The FT has been more successful with its tiered pricing strategy, but it too has struggled over more than a decade. I have seen that from the inside.

NBR plans to charge an annual fee (before discounts) of NZ$298 per year. The Wall St Journal charges US$129 (NZ$205) per year for its exclusive news. The charges US$182 (NZ$288) per year for its standard subscription level. I actually pay for both subscriptions because it's my job to know what's happening at a very  high level overseas. Would I pay for those if I was a regular reader or investor? Probably not.

I'm actually reviewing whether I can get away without paying for them at all. I'm finding lately that the key (and free) financial blogs are more useful. We'll see.

I'm certainly not going to pay more for the NBR than I do for the WSJ and FT. Sorry Barry, but you're not as good.

There's a cultural problem

I've worked inside big media companies trying to re-educate and change news cultures from the inside to be more online friendly. Eventually you end up hitting a brick wall of legacy costs and legacy revenues. 

Behind that is a cultural legacy of running a news monopoly to maximise free cash flow.

That means maximising revenue with high advertising to news ratios, mutliple advertising inserts and steadily rising subscription and cover prices.

That means minimising outgoings by cutting journalism costs because there's no need to provide better content when you think you have no competition in your monopoly area.

Over the 1980s and 1990s New Zealand's newspapers rationalised themselves into a carefully segregated set of geographies and niches. Often they were built around the logistics and economics of a big printing plant and a news gathering process that is wedded to an increasingly early nightly deadline.

The high start up costs of building a printing plant (at least NZ$50 million) essentially walled off these monopolies so they could comfortably churn out the cash for APN (Tony O'Reilly), News Corporation and then Fairfax.

That cash churn was so comfortable it convinced the shareholders to leverage up and suck up even more cash in the form of debt. That decision is really hurting them now.

I have no idea if Barry has this debt problem. I doubt it, given he sold the Property Press empire for a big whack a few years back.

As head of Digital for Fairfax and Head of Business News for Fairfax from 2006 to 2008, I tried very hard to integrate the online and print news organisations for business coverage. I failed because I was over-ruled by the editors of the respective Fairfax newspapers. They can't see how the two medias can work together.

They still don't for both major newspaper chains. The only way to move forward is to literally destroy these print-based cost structures and start again.

I'm convinced the unthinkable (turning off the presses) is now the only way forward in the long run. That's partly why I'm doing what I'm doing now. I'm part of the creative destruction process.

And here's how it can be done

In January 2008 I left Fairfax and joined David Chaston here at to see if we could build an interest rates comparison and news service that made us money.

I really had no idea how it could be done.

I was sceptical and nervous, given the struggles I'd been part of at Reuters, the FT Group, Telecom and Fairfax at making money online from free news. I helped in a small way to build a 20 million pound online publishing system at Reuters called News2Web that as far as I know has never been used.

Even the FT never made real money online without a big subsidy from the print operation. Ditto for Fairfax. Telecom had no real desire or ability to make money from online media through XtraMSN. It still doesn't with YahooXtra.

So how have we done it?

Here's our own 10 commandments for making money by 'giving away' news online.

1. Keep your costs brutally low

Given the essential problem of earning only 10% of the revenue from the same audience you have to keep your costs brutally low. We use the free open source software Wordpress to publish. We never pay for advertising, even google adwords. We use free multi-media publishing platforms whenever we can, including Youtube, scribd, slideshare and twitter.

We simply embed the code for these platforms in Wordpress. Our videos are made with gear costing no more than NZ$3,000 in total. We take budget flights to Wellington for Reserve Bank press conferences and the budget. We hold our meetings with customers and partners in cafes. We drink instant coffee. We celebrate saving money. We hate spending money with a passion.

2. Treat Google as god

We worship and fear Google in equal measure. It is the major source of traffic to our site and to most sites. We obsess about our Pagerank and how to raise it.

We work like dogs to get sensible links into our site from highly ranked sites elsewhere. Almost the first question we ask before anything we do is: how can we boost our Google juice.

Just like any decent deity, Google can take life and give it. Often Google's giving and the taking of life appears not to have any logic. It is the mystery of the faith, but we never lose the faith. If I could get my hands on the Google's Pagerank algorithm I would be the richest man in the world. Come to think of it, the two men (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) who dreamed it up are the 26th richest men in the world (US$12 billion each).

This algorithm is the font of everything online. Does Barry know that? Apparently not if he's even thinking of turning it off. Just a quick illustration of how endemic Google is. TradeMe and Trade Me are two of the top 10 Google search terms in New Zealand because people apparently don't know the TradeMe URL. I suspect a good chunk of people would go to NBR do it by typing NBR into Google and then clicking on the link at the top of the search rankings.

3. Worship your community, which is the holy spirit

I stumbled on this after adopting Wordpress as our content management system because it cost nothing. Our community is everything. I love eliciting comment and insight from our readers. Often they know a lot more than us about a subject and can say it much better. They tip us off to stuff all the time. I am forever asking for help and getting it. I always read all our comments and regularly go in to respond to comments. It's worth the time and is a lot of fun. It improves the quality of the articles immeasurably.

I spend a lot of time dreaming up polls and finding ways to trigger a debate. It's so much better than writing just a plain article.

4. Share the link love and ye shall receive

The bloggers' ethos is all about link love. Whenever you source a document or another media report you must hyperlink to it. This is not just to be polite, although that is part of the ethos. This is all about driving traffic to each others' sites and being open and transparent.

It's also all about worshipping in front of the Pagerank algorithm. It means we source what we have whenever we can and it allows our readers to check our facts and then debate them with us.

5. Donate the news and sell the data

This is at the core of how we make a profit. We collect an awful lot of data about interest rates, the housing market, the economy, financial markets and commodity prices. We display these in charts and tables for free and use them in free news and commentary on our website. A major source of traffic to our site is to our rates comparison pages (mortgages, term deposits under one year, term deposits over one year, and credit cards) and that's where many advertisers want to be for obvious reasons.

We then collect and store the data for these pages and sell that in various concentrated forms and formats to banks, regulators and other media. We mine these data sets constantly for story ideas and new ways to profit from them.

Some might say this an impossible business model for others. It's obviously more difficult outside the financial realm, but not as hard as you might think. Just imagine if journalists collected data on their areas of interest, including courts, fires, crime, entertainment, council issues and general business issues? If it was properly structured and maintained it would become very valuable to lots of people, particularly when mashed up with maps and other data. Real estate agents, businesses, councils and all sorts of people would pay for it or that data would generate much higher CPM rates from advertisers.

Just imagine if you could look at a map studded with data and reports on crime, school quality, community events, sports reports, economic reports and anything else linked to that region or town or street? Or perhaps sliced and diced another way? There's money in that sort of targeted usefulness. Check out Dominic Adrian Holovaty's ideas on making money from data here and his site.

He also spoke recently at Webstock in New Zealand and Julie Starr has a great summary of what he's about with a video.

6. Be generous, open and tolerant

Open up comments on all stories and allow unmoderated comments from all. Moderate after publication and only ban or block comments when they are clearly defamatory or abusive. This is a big issue for big media. They can't let go of their perfect publication and are paranoid about legal action or upsetting anyone.

There are no legal precedents yet, but I've seen a legal opinion saying moderation after comment is just as effective in protecting the publisher as moderation before the comment. Having a journalist approve or moderate every comment before publication is too expensive and blocks the flow of debate. It is the reason the NZHerald blogs have so few comments despite being very heavily read. Commenters want instant gratification from instant publication and the joy of being part of an active debate. Invite dissent and debate. Give credit to other sites and competitors. It's the internet. That's how it works.

7. Spread the gospel through all media

Many old media journalists shun or block appearances or publication on other media. This protectiveness is a product of the old monopoly culture. If you have the news and there is no other way of getting it because the paper can't be printed or distributed in your geography or niche then it makes no sense to publish your content in another media.

The problem online is that news and comment is very easy to find through google, very cheap to produce and endemic. You have to rely on your content being better than anyone elses and finding other ways to make money from your content or the brand you've built around that content. Geographic news monopolies don't work any more.

I appear regularly on television (TV3, TVNZ, Prime andTVNZ7), radio (Radio Live, NewstalkZB and Radio New Zealand National) and in print (Herald on Sunday). Some of this is paid for and some of it is free. I even blog on (Don't tell anyone but it has a very high Pagerank...).

All of this multi-media odd jobbing helps spread our brand and our content to a wider group of people. This means people think of when they think about anything to do with interest rates, house prices and the economy. They will come to us eventually, even if it's after hearing about us elsewhere.

8. Open your source and be happy

Open source everything. It's much cheaper and it's the 'internet way'. Never pay a licence fee for anything. Again, this is partly about keeping your costs brutally low, but it's also about being more engaged, more community-minded and 'bloggy'.

Open up your articles to challenge by linking to every document our raw source. Invite comment and correct openly and immediately when it's clear you're wrong.

9. Be the best and link to the rest

The temptation when you're in the Old Media is to believe that you have to have everything. You believe that you are the only source of news for your reader and therefore you have to be the 'journal of record' and 'cover the waterfront'. This is all part of the monopoly news culture.

There's no point trying to do this in an Internet era. Choices are a google search away and there is always someone else who has covered a public event. If we don't have it first, we simply link to the website that has it. If we can't find a fresh angle or a way to explain it better to our audience, then we simply don't cover it or we link to someone else.

We know we're not the only website people look at. Being best for us means being first, fast, accurate, useful and incisive. If we aren't at least one or two of those things, we don't waste our time (and our readers' time) doing the story.

10. Focus on a lucrative niche and nail it

We are focusing on those 2 million New Zealanders who have term deposits, mortgages, credit cards and car loans. They make decisions on about NZ$170 billion of mortgages and NZ$90 billion of term deposits every 6 to 18 months. They want accurate and useful information to help them decide whether to fix or to float, how long to fix for, and which bank or non bank they want to use. There are at least 10 very large and profitable companies advertising to these New Zealanders. We aim to help them reach that audience.

Over the coming years they will need to market to their customers directly online and much of that will happen through rates comparisons sites. We have the biggest and best in New Zealand at the moment. Our advertisers are happy to pay to reach those customers online at the moment they are making decisions about those NZ$260 billion of assets and liabilities. That's where we make money from advertising. It is a niche market, but a growing and profitable one.

All we need is 0.01% of the NZ$260 billion being rolled over every 18 months to be spent on online marketing and some of that NZ$26 million will trickle to us. If it's 0.1% then we could be talking some real money.

People in New Zealand forget online in New Zealand is big business.

Trade Me makes at least NZ$1.5 million profit a week. Air New Zealand sells more than NZ$1 billion of tickets a year through its websites.

Trying to be all things to all people is a waste of time online. There are too many choices and too much excellent stuff. You simply have to be the very best in your chosen niche.

Barry might argue that the NBR is the best business news publication in New Zealand. That may be true for the niche of a weekly business newspaper, but that's not automatic online. There is hot competition from NZHerald/business, Stuff/businessday, ourselves and scoop/business.

We were chuffed earlier this year when won the Qantas award for Best Business News website HT to Lance Wiggs for this chart below, which we're proud of.

So why do I care what the NBR does?

Perhaps I should just shut up and let Barry make a big mistake. Fair enough.

But I am keen to share any ideas I have about making money from free news online.

I welcome any more ideas in the comments below.

I believe Barry cares a lot about finding a way to make quality business journalism sustainable. I think he's an old journo at heart and is trying to make a living for himself and a bunch of other journos at the same time. I wish him all the best.

I just think he's going about it the wrong way.

Cue free ad PS: Here's a presentation on this topic I gave to a Massey University Chancellor's Lecture Series at Albany on July 29.

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Absolutely brilliant post. I'd argue

Absolutely brilliant post. I'd argue that the 10 points hold true for *all* online media, not just news. But I'm pretty sure that's what you're saying too.

Ditto what Ben said -

Ditto what Ben said - pure poetry Bernard.

I'd also say that the disruption you talk about isn't just going to come for media, I see us as nearing a tipping point that will spell the end of the corporation (at least as we know it). Seeing the nimbleness and agility that startups and small enterprises have and the incredible inability to do anything even remotely innovative that seems to be a common trait of big business I can't help but feel that the end is nigh (and sorry to sound like some washed up hippie).

At the moment corporates are saving themselves by acquiring those who can innovate but dropping revenues, the economic crisis and diminishing cash reserves limit how long this can go on for..

Viva la revolution as they say!

Great to have the 10

Great to have the 10 points we touched on recently expanded and explained fully. Fantastic post Bernard.

Fantastic stuff Bernard - really

Fantastic stuff Bernard - really excellent.

One of the beauties of writing online is that each time we write we can reference others that come before (or after). The comments and other blog posts help us learn more, tighten our own turgid prose and challenge us to write compelling original content. It means a story evolves through the hours and days after it emerges.

The result in this case is that a good number of bloggers, business people, media experts and readers have now given Barry and other NBR leadership some excellent collective feedback, and it means that the quality of that feedback has risen along the way. Meanwhile enough people have given Barry his due credit - the NBR is a great paper and we don't want it or him to fail.

As a blogger who spent a bit of time on my post I have to say that it's hard to compete with Bernard - he not only writes well, but does so with authority and knowledge from years of business reporting and experience, and completes articles with speed that I can only dream of.

But, and here is the rub, we are actually not competing. On the internet we all read everything, and compelling, quick and original content will always win out. has a good mix of original prose, like this article, along with daily links, news and other analysis.

Bloggers can't hope to be news organisations - most of them have other things to do. However bloggers can and often do create compelling original content by providing reflective thinking on the issues that matter to them, and they often other highlight original and compelling content for us to find.

I would dearly like NBR to join with the rest of the community online, taking up the lead position that they deserve in shaping the way New Zealanders look at business.

That means a bit of a reversal, opening up their website, acquiring NBR bloggers and so forth as Bernard explains. It means reaching out via twitter and other channels to the audience and most of all it means listening - and reacting - to the other commentators out there.

So NBR - come down from the ivory tower and join in the fun.

Excellent analysis. Not your usual

Excellent analysis.

Not your usual content, but material where you have passion, insight and real depth of understanding. Perhaps some vested interests as well. I will read it again tomorrow.

You are a clever man

You are a clever man Bernard Hickey. I wonder if Barry would read the brilliant new book "What Would Google Do?" if someone sent him a copy anonymously?

It's strange that there are

It's strange that there are claims of no money in online publishing. I'm probably a case in point, I threw out the tv and never buy a news paper.

How are advertisers going to find there target markets for products if they don't learn to em-braise and pay, for internet advertising?

Having worked in advertising, most of the claims are unsubstantiated anyway, just a general feeling from the purchaser that it has a tangible value

Chris Keall has never been

Chris Keall has never been a member of the " huge band of amateur, untrained, unqualified bloggers who have swarmed over the internet pouring out columns of unsubstantiated"facts"and hysterical opinion"- hes a trained journalist.

You have gone up a

You have gone up a notch or two in my estimation, Bernard. Bravo, very good piece.

Lance, Many thanks. You showed

Many thanks. You showed me much of this stuff a while ago.
Others reading this should have a look at Lance's angle


Great summary Bernard. Did you

Great summary Bernard.

Did you see the sensationalist headline they used for their first subscriber only article? Content didn't really live up to headline hype.

Hardly upholding the values of quality journalism...

On Open Source software: NBR

On Open Source software: NBR uses Drupal, MySQL and runs on Debian.

This debate has just led

This debate has just led me to add a whole bunch of blogs to my regular reading list. Nice one Barry!

Berend de Boer. Not a

Berend de Boer.

Not a bad combination. I am using the same, but moving to Ubuntu Server with Xen, and expecting to replace MySQL with Ingres.

Can someone please paste/summarise the

Can someone please paste/summarise the main event? Did we miss anything by not paying?

Hi Bernard I see that

Hi Bernard

I see that has a page rank of 5, which is ok, and my own small company website also has the same rank. I think your website is great and have been visiting it for the last year. I started visiting to compare the interest rates, but then got hooked on the news and blogs. I do think it differs somewhat from NBR, in that you aren't actually selling news stories, your website is more an advertising vehicle for getting your name out there, and gives the data you sell creditability and a brand. You make the money from selling data to organisations, which if you didn't have this website, it would have probably been a lot more difficult. NBR however don't sell a product like that, just news, so it is a lot more difficult for them. They have diversify. Instead they have gone to a 20th century method of charging for premium content, which some of their readers will pay for, but it will turn other readers off. I note that newspapers in the US, such as the New York times are also going back to this, so is it the future, I don't think so.

I'm working with open sauce

I'm working with open sauce too, it's still where I left it on the table.

I think NBR is being

I think NBR is being myopic....The beauty of blogs is you can be an amatur journalist but actually an expert in your field(s). When I read places like Stuff I shake my head, the pieces are often poorly written, have no depth and are quite often wrong....Reading blogs they might be poorly written but frequently have depth, links and are correct as the writer knows his/her field....if they dont well you quickly click elsewhere.

We are in / entering the age of specialist journalism, I read sites that interest me, I dont read (usually) as it rarely has what I want....Someone (Murdock? Fairfax?) recently commented that the way forward was chargng people individialused feeds for info they wanted, an agrigator I guess in effect, (ho the opposite to NBR?). This also misses a point, we are not forced to use their conduit....unlike a newspaper...unless of course they want to lock down the free Internet? so we go back to compuserve days (anybody remember them?). Which I dont think will or could happen, there is an assumption that we want to get in, we dont....Take pirating DVDs/Music, in order to stop this, companies add DRM, but this DRM is dodgy, hacking off legit users when it doesnt work on their legit player and their legit DVD, I have spent $40 on DVDs only to find them unsuable, taking them back a nightmare. DRM then gets used to extend the rights of copyright beyond what is fair or intended....or lockdown of DVDs so you have to watch their adverts everytime before seeing the know, kids can watch a new movie 5 ~ 10 times that same day, watching the adverts time and time again gets irritating....What is the result of this? ppl give up, they either swap hacked movies or buy pirated copies because its easier and more flexible to use, no one wants region locked dvd players, no one wants locked down PCs.....and that's my point....on line news can go the same way....ppl will just will just walk away and even be forced to totally sit outside the the long run its the system that will lose IMHO, you have to work with it....

I just log on to

I just log on to see what Wally will say next

Fascinating insight into how your

Fascinating insight into how your site works. Thank you Bernard.

I value your independence and your links. The links are so good. As you say, the newspaper people just don't get their value. Glad to see some of my favourite sources cropping up recently - Michael Hudson, Eric Janzen, Janet Tavakoli (go get'em Janet you are wonderful).

Bernard you are right on

Bernard you are right on the nail, and have a very good understanding of SEO (search engine optimisation)
And i say this as a server /web administrator who has taken our NZ web sites to #1 in all Search engines, (ask, Jeeves, dog pile, bing, yahoo, Google, NZsearch, answers excite, hotbot, webcrawler, Netscape, altavista, lycos, info...etc etc) and in the top 5 of country search engines (ie as against across at least 64 countries...

One thing I have noticed over the last 15 yrs in journalism, is a trend to simply publishing news releases, and taking them at face investigative reporting...or assessment, if they are self serving or even based an accurate information....
Time and time again, we see bloggers here , damn near en-mass, getting stuck into so called economists who are handing out press releases that could only be described as
propaganda news releases.

News is about creditablity...sure we dont get it right all the time, or maybe only bit a weather forecast...
but while the media simply employs a receptionist to receive news releases at face value, and doesnt follow up with background investigation, as some of the mags and newspapers now do....they will loose out.

Over the last yr or so, I notice often picks up on a small comment, several have even been mine...then not long after we have a blog or even a poll that covers the subject in great depth.....
News is all about following the truth, not publishing press releases taken at face value
Journalists in general are like IT people, lazy and cant be bothered to follow up , look after the details....
Something I cant say applies to in journalism or their IT.

Interesting times for our press,too

Interesting times for our press,too many bloggers,too much, the mainstream press misses for various reasons.

The Property Press division must

The Property Press division must be suffering - pretty thin editions these days and not home delivered any more in Auckland City to St Heliers/Remuera area.

Or is it simply that real estate internet sites/trademe has taken over from real estate print media?

Berend de Boer Many thanks.

Berend de Boer
Many thanks. NBR is a great site technically now. It encourages comments. It seems fast and clean. My beef is with the subscription decision. NBR's technology may be open source, but I think much of its journalism is not.


I think that future of

I think that future of online news/journalism is going to be the rich benefactor model. A 'for profit' model will continue to struggle in a global online world where much of the content is free, people expect it to be free and their preparedness to pay is low.

Since, as Bernard points out, online production and distribution costs are low a rich benefactor can now get a lot of bang for a modest buck. Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire has recently purchased a stake in the New York Times. I doubt he is expecting a monetary return on his investment.

Future Model: Rich person makes donation - lots of journalists employed - content provided online for free. I see this as being a win win for everyone.

"Worse still the model has

"Worse still the model has spawned a huge band of amateur, untrained, unqualified bloggers ...."

I just hope he doesn't believe that. As I tried to point out here, at least as far as economics goes, there are many (free) blogs out there that give much better analysis of economic issues than you find in the NBR, or most other newspapers. The Economist being the main exception. Does he really think that people like Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker or leading law and economics scholar Richard Posner provide analysis of issues inferior to the NBR? Or to take a local example, the coverage of the BERL report on the social costs of alcohol. The NBR has done the best job of covering the story of the mainstream media but the analysis at the Offsetting Behaviour blog is better still.

But may be this is one of his problems. People can get better analysis for nothing.

Congrats again to Bernard et

Congrats again to Bernard et al for delivering a new medium for discussion on monetary matters and well done for earning a crust from it.

Makes me wonder when NZ cafes are going to stick in free Wifi....we'd all be in their full time eating breakfast, lunch and dinner :-)

As to where print media is going we had this discussion a few year ago when Murdoch was tilting at the WSJ.

The deconstruction of the media system is interesting to watch but its no different to what is happening in other areas of the economy. Why should Barry Colman be so precious about the NBR? No sector of the economy is safe from the web: media, advertising, entertainment, banking, law, medicine.....all the walls are coming down.

Thanks Bernard. Good blog.

Thanks Bernard. Good blog.

An excellent commentary Bernard and

An excellent commentary Bernard and NBR would be well advised to listen carefully to the points you have made.

However, I think the day of ad-funded online news content is all but over (not that it ever really took off in the first place).

It is possible to make money from news but the money won't come from simply displaying advertisements alongside that news.

The future is where news is used as a currency to provide some kind of value-exchange with readers. The majority of revenue won't come from simply allowing advertisers to piggy-back their messages alongside the news stories - a changing culture and technology are making that increasingly less viable.

There are at least two increasingly viable ways to turn news into money and one or both of those (I'm picking) will take over as the online publishing business model that will replace the ad-funded and subscriber-based models of today.

Interestingly enough, you hit the nail on the head when you talk of legacy overheads. They are what will ankle-tap the existing MSM's transition to the new online models. After decades/centuries of reliance on the old models, most of them are simply too afraid to move away from the models they know and embrace the models that must be created to ensure their continued profitability.

Of course this opens the door for new players to enter the market and spells the dramatic demise of the old-guard.

The next couple of years will be *very* interesting. Don't be surprised if something rather interesting appears out of NZ and starts new trends in online publishing.

NBR is a dinosaur. What

NBR is a dinosaur. What happens to Dinosaurs? Well they become extinct because they don't/can't adapt.
Blogs are great, interactive and when unmoderated allow for extremely robust argument and many points of view. All to be commended.
An example is Bernard's constant going on about LAQC's and the supposed danger they are to the tax take. He's wrong of course but that's what the debates about and we are allowed to say he is wrong and why.
Openness and transparency and a huge contest of idea's is refreshing and liberating so long may it stay that way.
And anyway news is just that and really belongs to no one and is public information. All Colemen is arguing over is the means of dissemination and he doesn't have a monopoly on that. If he wants to join in that he needs to find a way that works for him.
Next to Bernard the best diseminator of commentary that I know of is Roger Dickens.
He dots the I's just like Bernard but is a step ahead in the sale of his analysis.
He does avoid the blogging side in the dissemination of his free insights. for those that have never visited.

Keep it up Bernard and by the way Farrar wasn't the first nor the only leader when it came the EFA. Muriel Newmans blog at was right out there as it is with many subjects and Muriel writes extremely good political commentary as does Lindsay Mitchell.

Coleman is behaving like a dog who has had his bone taken away, well that won't work so he will either have to retire or change, no contest.

the old media have still

the old media have still not got their heads around the organic nature of online media and the refreshing transparency of it .

barry colman is making the fatal error of clinging archaicly to the old model of total control of a specific product and an assumption of it's worth in the modern idiom.

the boston globe has recently gone one step further, i believe, by going totally online and charging and they've been around in hard copy for a long, long maybe Barry you can use them as the canary in the mine? is an excellent brand because it has effortlessly built an open emotional relationship with all of us "would be global media giants" whilst providing a cutting edge list of services that are very necessary in these precipitous times.

i know a bit about traditional media having owned a successful publication that i built from the ground up and eventually sold to APN when they gave me lots of money and broke through...

a goodly rave Bernard..thanks!

Bernard I agree wholeheartedly with


I agree wholeheartedly with much of what you say. In addition, I have added to my knowledge through the thread.

My initial thoughts yesterday were posted here In those comments I reference Clay Shirky's and Steven Johnson's excellent essays on the future of newspapers.

However, I also think people should take a look at some of what Chris Anderson is saying in his new book Free and have posted some initial comment at

Those who visit Anderson's blog will find a whole lot of other relevant material.

Bernard I think that in some ways you and your colleagues are pursuing what Anderson calls the 'Fremium' path or a variant thereof.

Sorry for the long comment, but I find this whole topic endlessly fascinating, as we are seeing disruptive technology right here in front of our eyes and are all of us playing a part in what happens albeit minor roles.

A few months ago I

A few months ago I returned to the NBR website after an 8-year absence (since the last time Barry Colman tried to instigate a charging model). What drew me back were Chris Keall's excellent pieces of journalism on Tech.-related subjects.

If Barry decides to put a significant number of Chris's stories behind the paywall, then I just won't bother visiting the NBR site anymore. As many others have said above, there are plenty of other options. BTW, I thought that Barry's tirade against bloggers was unbelievable in its arrogance. It shows how bitter and out of touch he is.

Finally, I want to say a huge thanks to Bernard for being so up-front about the way this site makes its money. As someone who has responsibility for a decent-sized investment portfolio, I find to be an increasingly valuable resource.

Bernard has done us proud with such a well-written piece on this very topical issue. It was a damn fine read, as were many of the comments too. Cheers, Grant. is among the best is among the best portals I have found on the web, period. The community is small enough for contributors and commentators to get to know each other's pecadillos and open enough to invite newcomers to the discussion. The value is in the chat. If there is anything I find troubling it is the occassional feeling Bernard may take his ball and go home. Humility will have a huge role to play in the growth of this platform.

Bernard, Not much to add


Not much to add to the above comments other than to just tell you why I have made your website my no. 1 stop for news these days:

News that matters show up here (in various forms, articles, links and comments) and entertainment is the occasional peppercorn in the mix to give us a smile during our day. To add to that, we get many well informed critical analysis pieces of that news. The important bit that every one forgets is that so many people are starving for highly intelligent and CRITICAL ANALYSIS from a variety of viewpoints!! The quality of such analysis is the real point of difference between any so called 'news provider'. And of course not to forget doggedly determined journalists getting the true facts behind the 95% of spin that wraps any real news out there these days...

TV, or ANY other NZ mainstream (call it old fashioned, big or established if you like) media seem to have forgotten that a long time ago!

Keep up the good work.

PS: 'back to top' links are becoming more important as the comments pile up aplenty... I did ask a while if that could be implemented, and you were going to look into this I think.

ctnz, just grab that little

ctnz, just grab that little hoodacky thing above the whatsit with the black triangle down in the right corner of the big picture bill is going on about and drag the sucker to the top to go back in time like the good Doctor.

Of course, there's no reason

Of course, there's no reason why newspapers can't prosper alongside the internet. There's no reason why on-line newspapers can't remain free of charge, and still deliver most, if not all, of the paper's content; and to that end, I HAVE A CUNNING PLAN. Why not make toilet paper illegal? Newspapers would thrive, and the eco-warriors could celebrate a carbon victory.

I think that NBR could also then sell better with a full set of absorbent pages.

To all, Here's a couple

To all,
Here's a couple of great blogs from people who talk a lot of good sense about all this stuff.

Here's Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine on this issue here

Here's Clay Shirky with his epic "Thinking the Unthinkable" on this issue here

Here's Clay with his equally excellent TED video on how social media can make history.

Here's a great piece from BusinessWeek's Stephen Baker about how to fix BusinessWeek, which is losing money and is up for sale. Barry could probably buy it for US$1, but he should read this first. Hard to imagine that NBR is worth at least 10 million times more than BusinessWeek.


I've got a better idea.

I've got a better idea. Why don't they give away free Kindles, which you can subscribe to their newspaper through it. Unless you subscribe the Kindle it useless. When you subscribe, you can also read other things on it, but as soon as the subscription lapses, it bricks, until you renew your subscription. The news would be transmitted in realtime, via the Cell network, so it would include a free connection whilst you are subscribed.
Teenage boy's report scares world's media bosses
James Kirby
July 19, 2009

WOULD you listen to a teenager's views about business? To be specific, would you take note of what a schoolboy has to say about the future of media?

Well, the giant stockbroking firm Morgan Stanley has paid attention by publishing a note on the media industry written by a 15-year-old. The note has gone off like a rocket.

The report has been a sensation all over the world "” with investors and media commentators falling over each other to get it.

Stockbroker notes "” especially notes that carry beyond the confines of the stockmarket "” can be very powerful.

I've read London teenager Matthew Robson's report: This is what it says:

1. Teenagers "rob" music, that is they refuse to pay for it.

2. They love social networking sites but are not interested in the "social tracker" site Twitter.

3. Teenagers text but they don't email.

4. They rarely watch live TV.

5. Teenagers avoid most elaborate phone functions such as video.

6. None of their number has ever handled a telephone directory.

7. They dislike all advertising and avoid it.

8. Teenagers use YouTube as a TV "” especially for cartoons.

9. Video game connections are used as an email alternative.

10. They don't read newspapers, unless they are free and in tabloid form.

Guess what? I reckon nearly everything he says is right, and it means the deeply depressed share prices of channels Seven and Ten, along with newspaper stocks such as Fairfax (owner of The Sunday Age) are priced just about right.

The report matters not because of its conclusions, which are largely conventional. Rather it's because the report was created and distributed by a leading financial institution "” it means the conclusions are now to be taken seriously. As Marshall McLuhan used to say, "The medium is the message".

At age 58, Paul Budde, a respected media analyst, is 43 years older than Matthew Robson. He argues that as Robson and his generation get older, they will be willing to pay more often for media products if they take less time.

"A lot of older media is dead or dying, but there are segments that will survive "” older people will pay subscriptions to watch or read niche information and they will certainly pay for quality music and video. It's not as bad as Morgan Stanley would have us believe. But a report like this can be a watershed because people finally take notice of something happening before our eyes," Budde says.

It turns out Matthew Robson got into Morgan Stanley as an intern because his parents brought their dog to the same park as a senior executive of the firm. His research was what you might call casual "” he turned out the "report" in a day after texting a circle of friends.

I asked my own teenager his expert opinion on Robson's conclusions and he backed them unreservedly, except on one point. Robson says teenagers use YouTube for anime, those Japanese-style cartoons. My expert says his mates look at YouTube for "funny stuff". So there you are "” don't forget that piece of research done with all the rigour of a Morgan Stanley report.

But seriously, the key point from the confection that is the "15-year-old scares global media industry" story is that so much of media is now free it has become much harder for organisations to make money from it. That is why media stocks are not bouncing back like banks and miners. Eventually media stocks will reinvent themselves but not until they listen more carefully to the Matthew Robsons of this world.

And here's a couple of

And here's a couple of other links.
This is Jeff Jarvis on his book 'What would Google do' HT Rob via email

And this is excellent from Felix Salmon at Reuters


Interesting whats popping up these

Interesting whats popping up these days. The second article is a link from the first. The media as we have known it, looks to be confined to history,the future is ? but I think will will find out about it from bloggs like this.
Have a great Monday

The best thing about this

The best thing about this is the debate. First off NBR & Barry Colman have done well for a very long time - but to a certain extent they are trapped by their own history and cost structures.

Now - hands up everyone here who makes more $ than Barry Colman out of media publishing. Respect for that - but there will be even greater respect for publishers who take the model forward and continue to create value for everyone which is a different paradigm entirely.

Crap bloggers don't really last while I can think of more than a few reactionary columnists in MSM who don't deserve reading but who are piggybacking off the back of a larger brand which tolerates them.

When Murdoch bought Dow Jones there was a lot of debate on print vs online. Some of which we covered (Thanks Raf for mentioning that.)

There is one subscription model variation that has been tried a few times and I think it certainly seems to work. It is sponsored access to a members only space.

Not sure who is doing this now but it works by giving short term access based on a sponsor paying some / all of the costs. So when I try to click through to one of the featured articles I see a message which says XYZ sponsor will give me a free pass of for x number of days/accesses.

From a publishers viewpoint you can then put sponsorship messages in front of the "hot traffic" flows and everyone wins. (FT does something like this.)

Also in terms of membership style access there are systems which apply micro payment charges to each different unit of measure but typically this is easier to manage by more of a flat fee access a zone or multiple zones.

Rethinking business models is not easy - witness the music industry who are still largely in denial over this - but it will come.

If you haven't already have a look at The news business- Tossed by a gale from May '09 at

Hi Bernard Interesting blog. I

Hi Bernard

Interesting blog. I cannot speak for our competitors but as chief editor of, I can say that integration between the website and our news service here is complete. We very much think of ourselves as a single entity.

I think it is interesting to see that TV news in New Zealand, although slower to launch websites, has been quicker to integrate. Interestingly, the Herald Online is moving out of the Herald newsroom according to some reports, which i would see as a negative move.

Your how to guide is spot on to my mind - especially the points about link sharing and fostering a community. All are things we try to incorporate into our own site.

Good to see some Jeff Jarvis links - one of my favourite new media bloggers.

Terrific stuff from Bernard and

Terrific stuff from Bernard and commenters. Eventually I hope to make it (phew) through all the links. Just a couple of quick thoughts on what I've read so far.
1. Old men tend not to "˜get it' because they don't use the technology. I've come across too many who take perverse pride in not even emailing (the PA does it). Of course, the real reason is they can't manage the technology and/or type and don't want to look stupid. Perhaps Murdoch has appeared to sort of sound ahead of the game but I wonder whether Coleman and others are more of the techno-phobe variety.

2. Teenagers won't always be teenagers. They might only text, not read newspapers (or online news) or watch tv news now but they will mature, and want to know more about the world. The generations before went through that metamorphosis. How many newspapers in their heyday actually made news selection on the basis of what teenagers wanted to know? None, I'd say (apart from NIE pages). News was selected on the basis of the mature, voting, (overwhelming) decision-making audience.

These two things are confusing the debate. Teenagers are up with the technology so people ask their views about news. Old news men aren't up with the technology so they have made themselves redundant (or those with the power are making dubious decisions.)

Pippa is right, much of

Pippa is right, much of the reason Teenagers do stuff is because they are avoiding spending money, eg texting only on their phones. Once they get an income that will change. I'm 43 and the last time I touched a phone directory was to unwrap the new one, put it in the drawer and put the old one in the recycling. I use online yellow pages instead. I still borrow and read books from the library instead of buying them from amazon, but I renew them and reserve others online and use it to remind myself if I have all the books that need to be returned.

I will never twitter, but I have evolved from usenet (look it up) to web forums, but I still subscribe to some listserv groups (look it up). While there are universities, such things will always still be there and some people will never venture anywhere else.

Reallly well said Bernard

Reallly well said Bernard

Great post, particularly the 10

Great post, particularly the 10 Commandments.

I have been somewhat disillusioned that even the best web sites are still essentially reliant on an advertising driven revenue model. And I have, perhaps unfairly, felt somewhat disappointed that in spite of brilliance in the content the fundamental model has not been improved on.

But.. the channel to market is often the make or break of a great invention or innovation, so are these websites offering a channel (advertising) to a specific market actually in a more powerful position than I give them credit for? And is it actually the efficacy of their channel management that makes the difference between "˜just another website' and a market leader? Again I'm reminded of Rod Oram's maxim "˜be the point of pain' in your market. Is it the websites/businesses that have managed to become the point of pain for the channel that then can do well and command a premium e.g. Google.

So maybe its wrong to be dismissive of advertising driven revenue models, its a legitimate, time proven idea and, like any business model, the differentiation is in the strategy, the management and the insights into accessing, and "˜owning' that market through dominance of THE channel.

Advertising revenue streams are being reworked, revisited and generally rethinked, I wonder if the strong sites are being intentional in their work or if their channels are being rethunked around them?

this information very are

this information very are the UK's 1st Telecom comparison company with access to over 30 landline call tariffs from companies

I spend most of the

I spend most of the day coming back to this site...Much to my wife's disgust.

But then she has no INTEREST in money matters...only spending I tell her "MONEY MATTERS"...and get my fix as often as I am able between chores.

So you must be doing something....WRITE.

Bernard........ You have actually hit the hot topic button of the year/century. How can you fail.

The opinions are diverse, the content often annoying, but....strangely compulsive.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff is the problem.

However, when we do ...It helps to consolidate our thoughts and investment goals.

I hope our financial Masters and political Masters have Mastered it too.

The opinions here reflect the true situation affecting us all. The links as you rightly point out are often invaluable to ascertain the Global facts.

A little HONESTY from the BLOGGERS, beats the SPIN from those with their own AGENDA any day.

And you can and do make a difference with your VOICE for which you should be proud.

The CRAFAR case being a case in point.

Personally I think the brightest contributors here would never have got us into this mess.

Keep on Blogging.


I can get at you from anywhere overseas too... Way better than a month old newspaper.


A rant is a fine way to get things out of your system...with a little truth thrown in to make people THINK.


So here is the RANT.

FINALLY... take it from one who knows OPEN SYSTEMS and FREE CONTENT are the only way FORWARD. Being aware of your income/overheads/Goals is how you actually do make a PROFIT.







And finally the GREAT NZ GOVERNMENT who have to MANIPULATE us all to make a PROFIT.

Many Thanks.

Sore Loser Many thanks. I

Sore Loser
Many thanks. I have fun every day.
Very good point about disaster recovery. We're getting there.
Open is good, but so is open with good protection. We've learnt some of that the hard way. But we're learning.

Well said Brenard., fantastic post.............

Well said Brenard., fantastic post.............
Ur all 10 points about disaster recovery carries memorable meanings.
have a good day Bernard.............................!!!!!!!

Shawn Matthews

Nuke 'em , Alex :

Nuke 'em , Alex : spam Alert !

Interesting read. There is currently

Interesting read. There is currently quite a lot of information around this subject around and about on the net and some are most defintely better than others. You have caught the detail here just right which makes for a refreshing change - thanks.

Really interesting that there are

Really interesting that there are NO comments in here questioning your logic... kinda like North Korea... (but cheaper to run 'cause it's wordpress, not a country with infrastructure and costs and peasants to exploit to run it all... etc... of course.. I do get that... )

I don't understand your main point though, if everything should be free, why do you sell your data, why not give it away?

Following your logic no one will ever pay for anything; "free" (read indirect revenue streams) sounds good to the consumer because they get something for nothing, but there will always be someone willing to give away for free what you are trying to sell.

If no one ever pays for anything, the conclusion is obvious - Its a downward spiral and eventually nothing is worth anything.

It's a lot simpler if we just pay for stuff (and respect intellectual property rights like we do physical property rights).

TradeMe doesn't make $1.5m per week giving it away for free does it?

And I've never been on a free Air NZ flight.

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out over the next few years, that is for sure!

PS.. It doesn't take long to find out that the emperor is naked either - 5 mins to work out that Jeff Jarvis is not the genius he makes out - and he's not giving away the content of his book either...

Jon, I'm not saying everything


I'm not saying everything should be free. I'm saying it's impossible to charge for news online except for that which is extremely valuable in a business sense to a small group of people, and only then from those with big brands (WSJ, FT).

As much as anyone would like it to be true, regular readers expect their news for free online. You are welcome to try to turn back the tide, but I've spent the last decade learning it's not possible.

The best thing is to find another business model. We think we have.


" The horse has bolted

" The horse has bolted " as they say , on pay-for-view internet news . It is impossible to get consensus on the issue . Any maverick offering free access will undermine those seeking a pay-for-view model . ................ . And even Bernard has had to clear off to Oz , seeking his fortune in the gummy-bear mines ( all mine ! ) , as this wonderful site only affords him one latte per week ............ Life is tough !

[ Not just big brands like the WSJ , plenty of smaller specialist financial mags are subscriber only . Our own NZ Consumer magizine too . But no general new site can sell ther " service " ]