RNZ Folding Liberal Wireless Into Main Website Is RNZ changing for the better?

Radio New Zealand is folding its struggling youth website “The Wireless” into RNZ.co.nz.

Partly this is because “The Wireless” has been superseded by commercial media like “The Spinoff” and Vice.

Three’s 7pm show “The Project” is also aimed at the young urban liberal audience. It is a well trodden path, and that is fine for private media companies.

That new competition was inevitable. it makes you wonder why the state broadcaster continued travelling down this path.

It was first cab off the rank.

Now it is pushed out by commercial competitors who see an attraction for advertisers.

Wireless alumni Megan Whelan has been made RNZ head of digital

Merger of “The Wireless” into the growing rnz.co.nz main website is a prelude to the government’s creating a new funding set-up for RNZ.

As part of the change, New Zealand On Air has said that as of November, it will no longer provide a $200,000 annual subsidy for Wireless content, 40 per cent of its claimed $500,000 budget.

So the Wireless was becoming unsustainable, and RNZ have had to dig in to its other taxpayer funding.

The transition is already underway for “The Wireless” into the vastly more popular mainstream site is already underway.

In a memo to RNZ staff on May 31, the head of news and digital, Glen Scanlon, who recently replaced Carol Hirschfeld as head of news, said that “The Wireless” content will remain accessible,

The technical transition is expected to happen in the background over the next three months. “The Wireless” team will be the foundation of the new long form investigative unit,” said the RNZ head of news.

“The Wireless” was launched in October 2013.

Support for the website was good in the first years. But a source familiar with the situation said it’s numbers have diminished substantially over the past two years.

Glen Scanlon

Nielsen figures for May 2018 show The Wireless had 44,534 unique browsers compared to 584,483 for its” commercial competitor “The Spinoff” and 1.7 million for the mainstream rnz.co.nz website.

So the change makes sense.

RNZ played down the May results from Nielsen, saying that unique results varied month by month. RNZ declined to provide requested details for specific dates.

On dates selected by RNZ “The Wireless” delivered 66,000 unique browsers, 82500 and 101,400. There was no need to announce anything publically, because the change was not yet apparent to the public.

There is no shame in trying and failing to reach a young demographic, All media are looking ways to tap into millennials and their media habits.

Former RNZ digital boss Glen Scanlon has replaced Carol Hirschfeld.

The question is why a cash-strapped public broadcaster targeted a specific social demographic, ignoring the mainstream youth audience. It appears to have misjudged its role as a public broadcaster.

Internally, some RNZ staff have neen antsy about the resources RNZ has pumped into The Wireless – and its video venture – while cutting costs on primary services such as news. and sound radio.

RNZ bosses insist that “The Wireless” met the same journalist standards as its main operations.

But three RNZ journalists who have worked in system said that was not the case. There was less scrutiny for content on The Wireless and lower expectations of a younger audience, they said.

Certainly, “The Wireless” appeared to have a greater concerns of identity politics, immigration, and human rights.  more than the challenges for Palmerston North twenty somethings getting a job

Which is not to say that these were relevant to a young urban liberal audience.

Maybe the hoi-polloi the non-politically correct audience does not consume online media, so there is no point in focusing on them.

There has been an overblown cliché about RNZ promoted by Right Wing – that it is Red Radio, divorced

Glen Scanlon

One event during the election campaign illustrated how The Wireless saw its role.

The Wireless commissioned a Green Party Young Greens co-convenor Meg Williams to interview Chloe Swarbrick.

The Spinoff had a similar schmooze fest. But it is a private company that had promoted Labour and the Greens in the run up to the election, Don’t we expect better from public radio? 

The Wireless perception was that the younger demographic was urban and liberal, like its staff.

Glen Scanlon – now the overall head of news – would not rule out similar items where activists get to interview allied politicians. Beyond that RNZ is in the midst of major changes that saw the departure of Carol Hirschfeld and a new push to develop more Maori content and closer ties with Maori TV

RNZ spokesman John Barr said “The Wireless” has broken new ground when it was launched and contributed some “strong journalism.”

The Wireless was feeding into and contributing the big growth in viewership for the main website, rnz.co.nz website.

He agreed the new competition had been a factor in the challenges,

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