NBR publisher Todd Scott doesn't regret any of the controversial tweets he's published over the last week.

In a style that could perhaps be compared to US President Donald Trump, Scott has used Twitter to take on ad agencies, the NZX, mainstream news media and lobbyists who moonlight as columnists.

While his upfront style has garnered some backlash and a recommendation from National Business Review (NBR) presenter Simon Dallow to tone it down, Scott told the Herald he's always been straight forward whether online or in person.

"Nobody has ever left wondering what I'm thinking or feeling," he said.

Pinned to the top of Scott's Twitter profile until recently was an announcement that the NBR would no longer be offering commissions to ad agencies.

"Your gravy train reign is over," he declared.

Scott said he made this decision out of frustration with junior agency staff who did not understand the NBR or what it offered.

"There are some who don't even know the newspaper comes out once a week," he said.

"These pimply faced teenagers are not the people who turned up in suits to win the business in the first place from the client," Scott said.

"We're holding them [agencies] to account. We're saying, 'Get those people involved again'. You won the business by sending your best people. And now we want to work with the best people to get a better result for clients."

Scott isn't alone in this view. Last year, Bauer Media executive Paul Gardiner told NZ Marketing his company arranged training sessions for younger agency staff, who had grown up not consuming any print content.

Scott remained open to working with agencies, but only if they gave the NBR the opportunity to provide strategic input on what would work best for the client. He said this was a case of rejecting commission-bearing "token bookings" that were simply tagged onto a media plan.

Another frustration Scott has recently expressed on Twitter involved the NZX, which he believed offered little value for the money publishers pay to give a rundown of stock moves.

"To quote our head of digital Chris Keall, 'This is not your dad's NBR', and I don't [know] anybody under the age of 65 who would find those [stock changes] useful," Scott said.

"Instead of paying $30,000 a year to the NZX for a job they should be doing on their own, I'm saying that we should turn those three pages into more business news that our paying subscribers can use."

The move toward news "subscribers can use" also underpins Scott's recent decision to part ways with columnist Matthew Hooton, who has since joined the Herald.

Despite Hooton's popularity as a writer, Scott said he did not see a place for opinion crafted to push a particular world view on readers.

"I think there needs to be greater transparency behind the motivations for strongly held opinion. I tweeted the other day that journalists are trained to set aside such bias, columnists not so much, and don't even get me started on lobbyists."

Scott said there was also a difference between opinion and analysis and that NBR was leaning toward the latter.

"Not everybody needs Mike Hosking or Lizzie Marvelly to do their thinking for them. What we're about is delivering timely, relevant, news and analysis that our member subscribers can use."

Asked whether Rodney Hide, another NBR columnist with a clear political leaning, would continue to write for the publication, Scott said he would.

"He's not a lobbyist," said the NBR publisher in explaining what separated Hide from Hooton.

On the topic of a vested interest impacting the quality of editorial, Scott also raised criticism of the sponsorship model that was currently being employed by a number of news start-ups, including Newsroom and The Spinoff.

"When a law firm or a university sponsors a news room and you have a big blow up like we did recently between universities and law firms, who's sponsoring who and why? Is it really neutral? I'm not saying it's not, but I'm asking the question. Does it stand on its own? Does it have integrity?"


Scott argued the only model to have "integrity" was one that was funded by its readers through payment of a subscription fee.

He said NBR currently had more than 5,100 online subscribers, including 108 enterprises employing more than 100 staff.

His aim was to increase this to 10,000 paying subscribers within the next 18 months, at which point NBR would look at launching into other verticals, such as science and medicine.

Scott said his long-term objective was to eventually make NBR "synonymous with intelligent content" well beyond the business remit.

"I've never been afraid of putting my ambitions out there," he said.

"Many years ago in 1997 I co-hosted the Lotto with Hilary Timmins, and before Grant Kareama even resigned, I told CTV that I was going to become the next Lotto presenter.

"The reason I have so much confidence, is because I am willing to do today what others will not do, so I can do tomorrow what others cannot do."

And Scott is already setting his sights well beyond the goal of 10,000 paying subscribers.

"If Sky, having done an appalling job can achieve what they have achieved, then with the very best talent and with a willingness for it to be funded by subscribers, I firmly believe that NBR in the future will knock over a 100,000 subscribers."

No doubt we'll find out about it on Twitter.