Buy apartment, have sex

Is this the “value proposition” for purchasing an apartment in Auckland’s trendy Viaduct Harbour?

A prominent advertisement in yesterday’s Weekend Herald (full-colour, on the front page of the Review section) shows a man and woman, both naked, in an amorous embrace.

You have to look closely at the other side of the ad to realise that the product being promoted is an apartment complex. There are a couple of small photos that actually show the apartments, but the main photo is all about sex.

I’m not qualified to judge whether the sex really is better by the harbour than in humbler suburbs (and with “apartments priced from $750,000” I’m unlikely to find out soon).

But I believe this advertisement will have offended many New Zealanders and done no credit to the people who produced it.

Pacific Islands media talk about the web

Thanks to John Utanga and the Pacific Islands Media Association for inviting me to participate in a panel discussion at their conference in Auckland today. It’s always great to see journalists looking to spread their work and interact with their readers online.

Here are key points from the panel members in the order in which they spoke:

Neil Sanderson (editor, nzherald.co.nz)

  • There are about 50 staff working in the New Zealand Herald’s online operation, but a small (and more narrowly focused) news website could be run with a single part-timer. At many of our company’s smaller newspapers a newspaper sub-editor also updates the website.
  • It isn’t necessary to spend huge amounts of money to get online. A very simple site could be built on free blogging software (such as WordPress) for example.
  • Content can be supplemented with free news headline services such as nzherald’s RSS feeds.
  • If you already have a traditional media channel (e.g. newspaper, magazine or radio station) try to find ways for it and your website to complement and promote each other.
  • Engage with “the people formerly known as the audience” any way you can [and read Jay Rosen for more on this subject].
  • Once you become a real-time online publisher, your customers will start to expect you to continuously update your site around the clock (with a vast army of online journalists to rival the BBC). Get used to the criticism and look for ways to get maximum benefit from the resources you have at your disposal. What valuable services can you provide that are available nowhere else?

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One year on, nytimes sticking with charges

Almost a year ago I sat down with the editor-in-chief of nytimes.com at his office in New York to compare notes on running an online news service. One of the things I most wanted to talk with Len Apcar about was his site’s recent introduction of Times Select or – to put it less euphemistically – “paid content”.

Coincidentally, nytimes.com and nzherald.co.nz (where I work) introduced very similar systems of charging visitors to read some of their content within a few days of each other in September 2005. Neither of us could know where it would lead but I was reassured that nzherald was taking this bold step in very good company.

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The King’s treasures

The announcement that Tonga’s new king plans to sell his many business interests in the country raises a number of questions, including:

  1. How did the former Crown Prince acquire so many assets in a country that is reported to be close to bankruptcy?
  2. What are the chances of finding Tongan investors to buy his business interests? Will the ownership of infrastructure such as electricity, telecommunications and broadcasting simply transfer to other privileged members of the Tongan nobility or end up in foreign hands and further impoverish the country?
  3. What does the king plan to do with the proceeds of sale? And why not turn over his wealth to the nation?

Surviving cancer

Having grown up in Canada, I always thought NHL stood for the National (ice) Hockey League.

Thanks to Paul Brislen on PublicAddress.net, however, I will from now on associate NHL with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It’s cancer, and Paul has had it for, as he says, “longer than I’ve had an email address”.

Paul’s story, timed to coincide with Lymphoma Awareness Day, reveals a terrifying disease that we don’t hear much about. I urge you to read it.

Skins too thin

How sad is it when New Zealanders (or maybe it’s just the New Zealand media?) feel obliged to take offence at comments in a travel guide? According to xtramsn.co.nz, the latest Lonely Planet book on New Zealand is “likely to ruffle a few feathers” with its description of some places in this country.

What scathing words could these be? The book apparently judges that Gisborne has morphed from a redneck backwater into a progressive town, and that Invercargill is in no danger of being swamped by tourists. Such nerve.

I thought the job of a travel book was to advise on what to see and what to skip when visiting a place. So can’t we just let the travel writers do their job and take their comments with some good grace?

Xtra quotes a Lonely Planet editor as saying the publication does not exist to provide free advertising for New Zealand.

A fair and accurate description of this exceptional land is really all that our tourism industry – and the rest of us too – ought to need.

Remembering September 11

It’s going to be hard to avoid references to the Sept 11 attacks during the next few days. Over at nzherald.co.nz readers are sharing their thoughts, and their “learnings”, five years after the attacks which killed 3000 people.

For many Americans, it’s a time to recall where they were at the time. Readers of Manhattan-based Rocketboom for example, and Brooklyn video blogger Ze Frank.

Posted in USA

‘Prepare to be shocked’

That – or words to that effect – is what police have said in three incidents involving their new stun guns (currently being trialled by about 150 officers in Wellington and Auckland).

In each case, the offender has decided to co-operate rather than experience a very painful 50,000 volt shock. Or maybe they’ve realised that there’s not much hope of fighting back while their muscles are locked up and they’re lying paralysed on the ground.

It’s an encouraging start to the stun gun trial. And good on the police who, during their training on handling the devices, volunteered to experience the shock themselves. I’ll stay safely behind my computer keyboard thanks.