One publisher to rule them all What would happen to competing websites? (Updated)

Upheavals lie ahead in the media sector with a trading halt on APN shares and a suggested merger of New Zealand assets of APN and Fairfax. Such a move would bring a massive change to the landscape for New Zealand media. It might bring together Stuff and nzherald,co.nz. Fairfax New Zealand owns half the country’s newspapers and some magazines. NZME owns the other half of newspapers and half the commercial radio sector. The other half of radio is owned by MediaWorks.

One industry pal I spoke to suggested that one option would be to have  Stuff and nzherald.co.nz branded with one offering with more light and bright tabloid stories, and the other offering more serious fare. I’ll leave you to surmise which site would have the former role and which one the latter. 

An announcement on the the break off of NZME from APN is expected soon, and it will be clearer whether the Fairfax merger is part of the deal, But the issue is theoretical at this point, since neither party has spelt out plans.images-7 But in my opinion such a change would likely diminish consumer choice and further reduce staffing levels. From a competition perspective, print might not be a big issue as apart from the Sunday newspapers, the two companies’ interests are geographically split.

NZME – owner of the NZ Herald – is focused on Auckland and the northern part of North Island, Fairfax on the rest of the country.  But the future of the media business is in digital and it is changing at a breakneck pace. Merger of the online arms of Stuff and nzherald would raise questions about competition that would be assessed by the Commerce Commission. A key issue would be whether such a merger caused less competition and increases advertising rates. There are other players like MediaWorks, Sky TV and TVNZ active in the market. But in my opinion advocates for such a merger would have a simple argument. New Zealand media is awash with competition. Global online companies like Google and Facebook are making big inroads into the local advertising market and hitting hard at the bottom lines for traditional media companies. There is no signs that that trend is going to slow down, so a merger makes sense if local players are to survive. Updated

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