NZME, publisher of the NZ Herald, yesterday applied to the Commerce Commission for approval of a merger with its main rival in the business of news publishing, Fairfax NZ. The merger is desired because while Fairfax, owners of Wellington's Dominion Post, the Waikato Times and The Press in Christchurch among others, is our main rival in news publishing in this country, it is no longer our main competitor for the revenue that sustains our work.
A great deal of advertising has moved online, and not just to the newspapers' websites. An estimated 50 per cent of online advertising expenditure in New Zealand is now placed with the dominant international services, Google and Facebook. It is possible to read, hear and watch news, commentary and entertainment through these channels but they do not find it, produce it or pay for it. They skim it from those who do and aggregate it, making every media organisation's work universally available.
No wonder the aggregators are attracting audience and advertisers from the producers of the content it is taking, but unless this industry finds a way to make its business viable, reputable news brands will disappear everywhere.
The merger of many of New Zealand's leading news brands into one multimedia company may seem a hard pill to swallow but it will not remove competition between different titles and modes of news or the diversity of voices and views. The terms of the merger are still under discussion between the companies but better and stronger media in New Zealand is on the cards.
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