Recent Trade Developments
Probably the most significant post-war development has been the establishment of a papermaking mill based on the man-made forests in the North Island. Until 1955, when the Tasman Pulp and Paper Co. began producing newsprint from its plant at Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty, newspapers had depended on imports of paper. Moreover, with only one newsprint machine operating at Kawerau, newspaper proprietors were loath to change over to wholly New Zealand supply lest they alienate traditional sources by not continuing with contracts that might be difficult to renew in the event of accident to the single machine. When, however, a second machine came into operation, many proprietors greatly increased their New Zealand orders. Some papers are now printed wholly on New Zealand made newsprint, except for special issues or important occasions. New Zealand newsprint is said to be furry, but tougher than most overseas brands (although delivery runners find it harder to fold). Canadian newsprint is fine but brittle and more liable to break as it races at high speed through the cylinders of a rotary printing press. Newspapers use over 52,000 tons of paper worth about £4 million a year. Daily newspapers produce over 290 million copies in a year. The value of these papers is over £105 million, nearly 75 per cent of it from the sale of advertising space. The rest comes from subscribers and from casual sales.
Other recent significant developments in the newspaper industry in the last few years have been a combination of newspapers and job-printing and publishing interests in three North Island cities; capital increases, some of them with the intention of combating rumoured take-over bids from Australian publishing organisations; the transition of the New Zealand Herald proprietary into a public company, including shareholding by members of the staff; the takeover of the Westport News to be printed in the home town of its purchaser, the Nelson Evening Mail; the direct linking of Parliament by teleprinter channels with some newspaper offices; the formation of an independent news reporting agency in Wellington with metropolitan and provincial subscribers; and steps by all newspapers to combat competition for advertising, news, and staff from improvements and innovations to the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation's radio and television services.
The acquisition of Palmerston North's morning Times (circulation 11,000) and its unexpected closure by the Wellington Publishing Co. was a significant event in 1963. In its wake came an amazingly successful weekly, the News, delivered free (mainly by milk vendors) to nearly every household in the city; and as it offered a cheap alternative avenue for local advertising it was supported enthusiastically by local businessmen. Its proprietor, D. A. Davies, was former managing editor of the Times and had been publishing the free Feilding Herald for more than a year. These developments indicated an important trend in New Zealand journalism. They certainly gave concern to the established papers, which depend on sales for about 25 per cent of their revenue, whereas the “throwaway”, usually of six to a dozen tabloid pages each week or month, was paid for by local advertising and circulated to every home in a district surrounding a suburban shopping area. Most “throwaways” are conducted by professional journalists and many have five-figure circulations envied by conventional daily papers.
At the beginning of 1964 the Wellington Publishing Co.'s Dominion was under pressure of a takeover bid by a London-based international publishing group headed by Lord Thomson. Earlier approaches by the Australian Consolidated Press (which has bought land in Auckland) had failed, but other Australian and Auckland newspaper interests have also entered the “takeover” field. As a result of the Government's attitude, the London takeover offer was withdrawn. In 1965 the News Media Ownership Act was passed which safeguards the present position.
Although business moves predominate in the list of developments, news is still the primary consideration of newspapers, whose outlook was summarised by a chairman of the New Zealand Press Association a few years ago when he said:
Circulations seem to vindicate the claim. The Timaru Herald, for example, has a near saturation coverage in South Canterbury, where it sells one paper for every four people in the total population of the district. The smallest of the metropolitan papers has a circulation of more than 30,000 papers a day. New Zealand's biggest paper, the New Zealand Herald, sells about 210,000 papers a day, about one and a half times the number sold by its rival, the Auckland Star, the biggest evening paper in the country.