This is the 280th edition of the Herald on Sunday – and my last as editor. Some people will be relieved about this. Mike Hosking, perhaps. He’s not the paper’s biggest fan.
Charlotte Dawson has not really been a happy camper, either. She has always thought, wrongly, we have had it in for her and she takes particular offence at anything written by our irrepressible gossip columnist Rachel Glucina.
Thankfully, Hosking and Dawson aren’t the norm. In five years, we’ve grown our readership to more than 370,000, become the third-biggest newspaper in New Zealand, and won every major newspaper award.
It is no small thing to start a new newspaper from scratch. You need to earn every single reader, and the HoS has done very well in bringing back competition to the Sunday newspaper market. It is almost the only newspaper market in NZ where we still have choice.
Over the years we’ve become known as the property paper, the car crash paper, the Tony Veitch paper, the All Blacks paper and the Millie Elder paper. We don’t mind any of this.
We’ve always tried to adapt to what our readers want – and buy. Selling the paper is of utmost importance, and to achieve that it’s not always what might be considered the best, traditional journalism that makes the front page.
The front page has to excite, titillate and capture your interest within three seconds – we rely much more heavily on retail sales than a daily newspaper with its larger subscriber base. Of everything we do, the front page is always the most frequently discussed aspect of the HoS. (Except when we stuff up the crossword grid – then all hell breaks loose.)
That is a fair point about the lack of a subscriber base, so the need to give people a reason to buy the newspaper.
The worst thing we can do is be boring. A good guideline is National Radio. If its media commentators start tut-tutting about one of our stories, it usually means we’re on the right track. National Radio staff have no concept of working in a commercial market.
The point is, if we don’t sell the newspaper, we won’t have a product or pages to present the work of some of New Zealand’s best journalists and columnists.
The HoS is quite heavy with columnists, and relatively light on news reporting. But I actually quite like that as I get straight news reporting from other sources, and like getting analysis and opinion.
It will be interesting to see who gets appointed as the new editor, and what changes she or he may make to the paper.