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,

  • 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?

Cam Swainson (’s Tagata Pasifika)

a) Promote your website at no cost by:

  • Driving traffic through the site (e.g. instead of having people email your company to enter a competition, require that they go to the website for competition details and to enter
  • Identify other sites with larger readership of your target market and ask them to link to your site (e.g. Tagata Pasifika has prominent links from US site PolyCafe)
  • Show people what’s most popular (e.g. the Video links on the Tagata Pasifika homepage)

b) Promote your site at low cost:

  • Purchase Google AdWords. Use Overture’s resource centre to see how often those words are entered into search engines.

c) Make money:

George Weir (Adventlabs)

  • Know what your site is meant to do. Are you really ready to sell via your website? If not, skip the e-commerce system until you know there is demand to purchase online. A modest site could cost as little as $700.
  • Similarly, do you really need flashy (and expensive) graphics? And “be wary of web design companies who design sites for their portfolios”.
  • Always focus on creating a user-friendly site.
  • Arrange your web design and web hosting at the same time, so that the people can talk with each other.
  • A good web designer should help you ensure that your pages rank well on search engine results.
  • Use local firms for both design and hosting so you have a better chance of getting ongoing support.

For more on the PIMA conference


  1. John Utanga
    28 September 2006

    That was a great workshop. Thanks for taking part in it Neil. People I spoke with afterwards remarked at just how helpful it was for them. The net as news/messaging tool for Pacific communities has huge potential in my view especially as more Pacific people here in Aotearoa and the region get hooked up. For many smaller PI communities, it’s such a great way to reach people spread out all over large geographical areas. Now to just figure out how to make it pay for itself.

    John Utanga
    Chairman PIMA

  2. Cheers John. I think the online revenue models are looking better all the time, and Cam’s suggestions might get people started. There are also online ad brokerages, including one run by my employer APN. Neil

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