Last week, the venerable Hawke’s Bay Today (winner of the … what year was that?) announced that it would become a morning paper as of March 19, available at 7am.
“Thank god” exclaimed entrepreneur Rod Drury when BayBuzz informed him.
“I’m sick and tired of needing to go online or use precious battery time on my iPhone to get the news when I wake up in the morning. I can’t really begin the day unless I have the latest Hawke’s Bay traffic accident rundown. The thought — “Did anyone I know crash last night?” — weighs on my mind each morning, distracting me from my work until the Noon HBT arrives. But no more … my productivity is going to skyrocket.”
“Plus, I don’t really want to swat flies with my iPad.”
Business Hawke’s Bay chief Murray Douglas agreed and made a larger point. “I know Rod is not the only one in Hawke’s Bay who can’t really function at full speed until they get their daily dose of trivia. I expect that by going to morning delivery, HBT will provide a huge boost to the region’s productivity. This could be the breakthrough the region’s economy needs.”
Even local politicians were pleased with the news. “Waiting all morning to see if I’ll be quoted can be quite stressful,” said Napier councillor Bill Dalton. “You know it’s really a Hastings paper, and they love to mis-represent what’s happening in Napier.”
Loyal HBT advertiser Didyu Seeit was also cheered by the news … mostly. “Yes, I figure our ads will get 4-5 hours more exposure before readers toss the day’s paper into the recycling bin. And HBT has shown us research data indicating that consumers are most susceptible to advertising messages in the morning, when their minds are a blank slate. However, they’re also going to hike the ad rates, given that our ads are getting 50% more shelf-life. So it’s a bit of a mixed blessing.”
Less trumpeted by HBT is research just compiled by the Ministry of Education indicating that reading speed and comprehension in Hawke’s Bay has been in slow decline.
Off the record, HBT executives hope the additional hours the paper is available each day will enable more readers to make it through each edition by bedtime. Executives note that this will offer a great social well-being outcome for the Bay, but they also confide that all the captivating new Dannevirke information just makes for too heavy a read when it’s all squeezed into the afternoon. And they admit they also hope the extra hours will lift the paper’s ‘Time spent with paper’ stats, justifying higher ad rates.
Leaks from the HB Today newsroom suggest that not all journos are happy about the change. “It’s the same news at 7am as it would have been at Noon … now I just have to write it up at day’s end when my brain is mush,” one was heard to whinge.
And indeed, HBT has not — so far — claimed that the paper’s content will actually improve as a result of the timing change.
Complaints have also been heard from the area’s cafe owners. Said Hawthorne’s Tom Ormond, “Our patrons already make a mess of the morning papers, mixing up the DomPost sections with the Herald sections. With HB Today adding to the confusion, no one will know what they’re reading!”
Overlooked in the buzz about the publishing change was one possible fly in the ointment.
HBT has not yet reached agreement with the International Brotherhood of Newspaper Delivery Technicians, who are demanding a special ‘before dawn’ delivery bonus as part of their pay packet. Says union spokesman J Singh, “Hawke’s Bay’s streets are dangerous when it’s still dark out … that higher risk and associated stress needs to be reflected in our pay. No sunrise pay, no sunrise delivery.” So while the paper will soon be printed in the wee hours, it might or might not actually arrive in time for your morning cuppa.
HBT general manager Russell Broughton would not comment on the labour dispute, citing “commercial sensitivities”. However, he was overheard grousing that “Ant (HBT editor Antony Phillips) has the easy job around here … anybody can make up some news, but try getting it delivered.”
Enjoy your new morning edition!
P.S. Most of you know HBT editor Antony Phillips is heading back to Australia at month’s end. While BayBuzz exists in part to poke fun, Ant has lifted the editorial bar at the paper during his tenure. Sorry to see him leave.