Paywalls: BusinessDesk and an evolving Kiwi media

TL;DR Fuseworks is now indexing and surfacing relevant story links in customer reports…

If you work in a prominent New Zealand organisation you probably know about BusinessDesk.

In its own words “it’s been reporting the New Zealand political economy and the fortunes of its listed and unlisted businesses since 2008, when two of New Zealand’s most experienced business journalists, Pattrick Smellie and Jonathan Underhill, established the service…”.

Traditionally it’s acted as a specialist news agency for NZ publishers of many shapes and sizes.

In 2019 it’s going direct – launching and stepping away from providing its news feed to third party publishers.

It’s a big deal, in part because whether you’ve been aware of it or not, you’ve undoubtedly read countless BusinessDesk stories. They are one of only a small number of Kiwi journalism teams that live and breathe business news.

They have a manifesto that’s hard to disagree with:

Intelligent, trusted news sources are more valuable than ever. At BusinessDesk, we publish essential, trustworthy and timely New Zealand business and economic news and analysis that is accessible to professional and general readers alike. Beyond quality journalism, we are keen to promote good government and good governance, and the sound and ethical decision-making that underpins both. Our experienced and professional team are committed not only to accuracy and fairness, but also to deliver depth and insight that justifies the faith our readers place in us when subscribing to the BusinessDesk news service.

Why does that matter to Fuseworks? Like many organisations we have an interest in ensuring that Kiwi media maintains a range of voices – and that its media companies are strong and vibrant. We know that when publishers and broadcasters fail – communities lose.

In 2019 we think that supporting Kiwi media means working alongside them, to help them achieve their business goals. With BusinessDesk, with the trailblazing NBR, and for an increasing range of publishers – that means helping them make a success of paywall initiatives.

That’s why we’re now indexing the full text of everything that’s published on – and surfacing relevant links to stories in customer reports.

Like with other sites we work with – that doesn’t mean creating a ‘loophole’ that bypasses their paywall – it means two things:

1. If you already subscribe to – then we’re going to help you get the maximum possible value out of your subscription, by finding every story we know you’re going to be interested in – and including them in your Fuseworks reports.

2. If you’re not a BusinessDesk subscriber – we’re going to tell you that they’ve published a story on a topic you care about – and hopefully BusinessDesk will be able to convert you into a customer.

BusinessDesk tell us that they’re going all in on the direct subscriber model – and are terminating the full text supply arrangements that they had in place with aggregators.

To us that’s the right decision. In a digital world they can and should have a direct relationship with their readers.

We do absolutely understand the convenience associated with the old model, where media monitoring providers ripped content out of its published context (stripping away the ads that paid for it), and presented full text clippings in a package that negated the need to subscribe directly to publisher offerings. The thing is though – that model has helped lead directly to a situation where many media companies are unsustainable. At least without evolution.

Digital publishing offers a new, better type of convenience – one where context is preserved, where multiple storytelling formats can be woven into a single narrative, equally suited for consumption on your phone, or on your desktop computer.

Paywalls are part of the evolution too. At their best, they can help publishers gain a much better understanding of what types of coverage are most valued by their readers. They lead to more direct communication channels, less resource wastage – and most importantly, they should help ensure when that stuff happens, journalists are watching – and make sure we know.

Here’s to the crazy ones.