John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Paywall high on agenda for new APN NZ boss

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APN's new NZ boss Jane Hastings takes charge next week, and payments for Herald webpage use will be a priority.

Jane Hastings has run The Radio Network since September 2012. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Jane Hastings has run The Radio Network since September 2012. Photo / Sarah Ivey

One of "Hurricane Jane" Hastings' first tasks in her expanded role as New Zealand boss of APN News & Media will be preparation for the Herald internet paywall - most likely in the third quarter of this year.

Hastings, who is being promoted from running APN's radio arm, The Radio Network, blows into the new job next week, with a reputation for keeping a sharp marketing focus and swiftly making over brands and the company culture at TRN. Hastings - who last year said she'd heard people use the "Hurricane Jane" tag to describe her - will be responsible for publishing, radio and digital businesses.

Beyond handling the wider upheavals facing traditional media, she will also have to deal with changes in the advertising world, if she is to develop more joint sales deals between print and radio.

She replaces Martin Simons, who will continue working for APN as a consultant. Simons, who has been with APN for more than 40 years as a journalist, editor and senior executive, says he is disappointed he will not be heading the wider company.

Winds of change

Hastings built her business reputation in casinos and cinemas. As head of marketing at SkyCity Entertainment, she revamped the casino company's marketing, earning the admiration of chief executive Nigel Morrison.

Morrison marked her for success and handed her the unloved SkyCity cinemas chain, where she introduced new marketing initiatives before it was sold to Australian chain AHI. She then became AHI's head of entertainment for both Australia and New Zealand.

She took over at TRN in September 2012; 20 months later she is running the wider APN operation in New Zealand.

At TRN she has overseen branding initiatives for Radio Hauraki, the re-branding of Classic Hits as The Hits and making changes to the ZM breakfast show.

Rude awakening

More changes are likely at Radio New Zealand this month, with chief executive Paul Thompson expected to target the news operation.

Job losses are unlikely, but the change will mean a rejig of the structure and how the wider RNZ is run, says an insider.

RNZ spokesman John Barr says there are no plans for further announcements and the company is still reviewing its operations.

Thompson will be out of the office for a week soon, and will give a keynote address to the Commonwealth Broadcasters Association in Glasgow. Barr says staff will be advised of the contents of that speech before they are provided to the wider media. It's not clear whether the changes will be unveiled in Scotland.

Thompson's revamp is expected to include a shake-up of the Auckland newsroom and studios. Staff have been told management wants the news operation to be more proactive and break more stories. It is understood the board of governors blames a tired culture at the broadcaster.

Staff I contacted feel the RNZ news product is being unfairly maligned because it provides a balanced news source and avoids the hype of commercial news.

Some staff are wary because Thompson was picked by board chairman Richard Griffin, a former RNZ political editor with ties to the National Government - though he is popular with both sides of the House. So there will be intense scrutiny internally of any changes to RNZ news coverage in this, an election year.

Collins and Slater

I was less than shocked by Judith Collins having a go at TVNZ journalist Katie Bradford last week. Clearly it was wrong, but it was done in the open - and refuted publicly. Media have thus been put on notice about the Justice Minister's approach to confidences.

That said, it was disturbing to hear veiled threats against other members of the press gallery. This might be dismissed, given the issues that led to Collins taking time out. But the idle threat was exacerbated by Collins' close relationship with Cameron Slater, the high profile blogger for whom personal attacks and invective are stock in trade.

Zealots away

New Zealanders take offence at many things in the media ... but attitudes differ according to the medium involved.

Last year blogger Giovanni Tiso and other social media zealots campaigned for an advertiser boycott against the Willie and JT show on RadioLive, after John Tamihere asked what were seen as the wrong questions in a discussion of the Roastbusters case.

Yet a highly sexualised advertisement on the back of an Auckland bus does not rate a mention. An ad for a new MTV show called Ex on The Beach is dominated by a close-up of a bikini-clad woman, her legs apart and backside pointed at onlookers.

No doubt the ad is reaching its target market - and every following motorist. It's tacky, but not a great outrage. It just seems weird that a broadcaster got the boot because of what he asked an anonymous caller, while the soft-porn bus ad is there for all to see. The zealots have not noticed, probably because there was too little publicity value in it.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

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