Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel Smalley: Why 3News died - it just wasn't relevant

Hillary Barry and Mike McRoberts will be fronting the rebranded 3 News.
Hillary Barry and Mike McRoberts will be fronting the rebranded 3 News.

I want to know about your viewing habits.

How do you get your news? Where do you go to feel informed? Because the way we absorb information now, the way we connect with the world is changing at a rapid pace, and the commercial media is facing huge challenges to keep up with ever-changing consumer habits.

Evening news bulletins, once appointment viewing, target a weighty 25-54 year old demograph to satisfy their advertisers. Most care little for the size of a network's cumulative audience.

Instead, they focus on the 25- to 54-year-old age bracket - the age bracket most likely to buy a new car or a set of white, fluffy towels in Briscoes' "biggest ever sale". And that's why in the last 24 hours, TV3 has revealed it is overhauling the 3News brand.

3News is being monstered in the ratings by the One News bulletin. TVNZ has forged ahead. Its reporting is slick, professional and better resourced and its website and digital engagement is light years ahead of TV3.

In contrast, 3News has lost its brazen, agenda-setting way and appears tired, dated and formulaic in its presentation. Its traditionally younger, hipper and digitally-connected audience has all-but deserted it.

The key challenge facing 3News and every media outlet is how the under-30s absorb their news. Unlike the generation before them, they watch, read and listen to what they want, when they want using tablets, work desktops and iPhones. They want to interact with the news, challenge it and engage in debate. And they want to do it now.

The question for TV news editors is how do you stay fresh, relevant and essential to a news audience which is already informed about the day's major developments? The only option is to add value to your reporting - more analysis, more context. It's less about what happened, more about why.

It's futile, for example, to report on changes to the All Blacks team in the 6pm news because websites, Twitter, Facebook and radio have carried that story since the embargo lifted at 11am. Likewise, the weather app on your phone will tell you the likelihood of rain in the next hour, or if the surf will be pumping on the East Coast this weekend.

What the audience perhaps doesn't know is why the All Blacks coach chose to play a fullback on the wing, or whether today's storm signals the start of an early autumn. Audiences want news but it's called news for a reason - it's new. It's new and it's now.

And so we're seeing great change in this country at the moment as viewing habits change and the media tries to keep pace with it. I, for one, am sorry to see the end of the 3News brand. I worked for the company, on and off for the best part of 15 years. It's a strong and credible brand and it can't have been an easy decision to drop it.

But TV3 is simply trying to do what every commercial operation strives to achieve - stay relevant, commercially viable and meet the needs of its consumers. And the great challenge it faces now is to get that right.

* This story first appeared on Newstalk ZB.

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Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel’s career in journalism is extensive. She has reported from Europe, Africa, Asia and America, covering elections in Britain, the United States, France and New Zealand. She joined Newstalk ZB as host of KPMG Early Edition in 2013 and also works on TVNZ’s Sunday and Q&A current affairs programmes.

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