John Drinnan on business

John Drinnan is a Herald business writer and media commentator

Media: It's raining weather bombs

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TVNZ reporter Matt McLean has gone to extreme lengths to cover the weather. Photo / Supplied
TVNZ reporter Matt McLean has gone to extreme lengths to cover the weather. Photo / Supplied

Remember the days when we had plain old storms instead of weather bombs, when it just rained, not poured, and windy days happened without much huffing and puffing?

Weather bombs do exist, they have a technical meaning, and New Zealand's weather patterns can be volatile.

But weather coverage is such a big part of media and the marketing of news nowadays that experts say we're in danger of losing context.

The Meteorological Office has hired high-profile former BBC weather man Daniel Corbett to act as liaison with the media.

Coverage of weather events - and potential events - sometimes leaves you battening down the hatches for a disaster that ends up being drizzle.

Meteorologists are on the receiving end when bad weather arrives unexpectedly or a laughing stock when forecast storms are a fizzer.

But the Met Office says its role is to distribute information and they can't do much about the media spin.

Media commentator Gavin Ellis - a former editor-in-chief of the Herald - said the evolving treatment of the weather and use of more dramatic and tabloid-style language was part of a wider shift and a greater focus on marketing that applied to all media, not just television.

Apart from news stories before and during weather events, One News has incorporated weather into its news hour with several segments.

People are interested and hang on until the next segment, potentially boosting ratings, so in a marketing context it makes sense.

TV3 head of news and current affairs Mark Jennings says he hasn't followed that approach but 3 News has four and a half minutes of weather in each bulletin.

Weather events, be they storms or even regular phenomena such as snowfalls, made for good pictures but TV3 didn't agree with TVNZ's approach, which Jennings said was "sometimes hysterical" and due to TVNZ's use of American news consultants Magid Associates.

One Magid approach was to have reporters wading out into storms or floods to show they are in the thick of action. The approach has reached comical proportions, such as when One News reporter Matt McLean covered the destructive Nelson floods last year.

TWO TO TANGO

TVNZ's new head of news and current affairs, Ross Dagan, starts next week and one of his first decisions will be to fill the five-month-old political editor vacancy left by Guyon Espiner.

I'm told it's down to Jane Patterson, a parliamentary corespondent for Radio NZ, and another mystery candidate.

One News reporter Heather du Plessis Allan - the wife of veteran political reporter Barry Soper - put her hand up, but a source said she only got one interview and was seen as too young.

CLASH OF TITANS

TVNZ head of sales and marketing Paul Maher will be an interesting addition to the team at MediaWorks.

He's enjoying a lucrative gardening leave, believed to amount to up to $150,000, before he is able to take up the job.

Maher left after missing out on the top job, and will be taking a lot of marketing secrets to his new role heading MediaWorks' TV operations.

I know a couple of advertising folk who have enjoyed his tough-talking manner, but it will be interesting to see how his style goes down at TV3.

And how will he cohabit with MediaWorks managing director Sussan Turner? You might remember Jason Paris made the same transition from TVNZ marketing to TV3 but left, disappointed the job was not as promised and that he had to take orders from Turner.

LUCKY LUSH

Marcus Lush countered a slide for RadioLive in the latest radio ratings survey, and the small win shows challenges for the station and lack of traction for the RadioLive brand.

RadioLive is accentuating the positive from Lush with the arrival of new producer Cliff Joiner, but Lush remains a niche broadcaster who is not within cooee of Mike Hosking's ratings on Newstalk.

The survey covers February and part of March and it's unlikely there is any residual ill-feeling from RadioLive's mini-controversies over the past six months.

But it seems to get the wobbles very quickly and that's not going to help build up the brand as an alternative to the long-established dominance of Newstalk ZB.

RadioWorks seemed racked by problems last year, many of them related to issues of being a talk station as opposed to one offering music to a set demographic.

There were the serial fallings-out with too-smart-for-you host Michael Laws - who led the channel a merry dance before signing up again.

Then there was its hapless handling of the Prime Minister's Hour - the free hit given to National in the run-up to an election.

Most recently, Radio NZ's MediaWatch programme reprised the issue of Paul Henry and his commercial relationship with SkyCity and pointed toa sycophantic interview with CEO Nigel Morrison on RadioLive, raising questions about RadioWorks' claims it has oversight of editorial.

REVERSE DRIVE

RadioLive has made a hash of its drive-time show.

Maggie Barry was there for a while. It didn't work out and she left for a political career as the National MP for North Shore.

Former MediaWorks chief executive Brent Impey filled in, until he was replaced by Paul Henry.

After Henry defected to Ten Network in Australia, Impey was to fill in a second time.

Then MediaWorks realised he was a consultant to TPG, a company that was conducting a hostile takeover, and he dropped out.

The latest fill-in is TV3 reporter Samantha Hayes, whose talents are more visual than aural.

RadioLive manager Jana Rangooni said some aspects of the survey results were not ideal, but also not surprising given the recent departure of Henry.

"Paul's shoes are hard shoes to fill, but we're very close to announcing his permanent replacement," Rangooni said. Presumably she means TV3 reporter Duncan Garner, who I understand has been contracted to fill the role from December 1.

TALK TALK

The latest survey has highlighted the role of talk radio in the two-way competition between RadioLive and Newstalk.

Advertising consultant Martin Gillman said RadioLive was important for MediaWorks to maintain a hold on talk revenue audiences and the advertisers who wanted to reach them - preventing Newstalk ZB from taking all the cash.

He said that RadioLive had not grown as much as many advertisers had thought it would when Brent Impey launched it seven years ago.

But individual stations were more important for local retail customers for ad agencies, who bought time by network from the Radio Bureau.

Overall, RadioLive had a 3.5 per cent share of the nationwide audience aged over 10, down from 3.9 per cent last year, making it the 11th biggest network.

BRAYHAM BACK

Former Telecom media executive Ralph Brayham has taken a 50 per cent stake in ad agency Consortium, which has been fully owned by Paul Shale.

Brayham played key roles in Telecom ventures - online shopping venue Ferrit and TiVo - and left to become a part shareholder of Real Groovy records in Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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