Why 'The Haitch' should get a fair go
Australian-owned Auckland-based tabloid The Haitch lives up to feel-good form with its new look this morning.
There is little new in it.
But that should not necessarily stop the bold venture turning its APN-owners lack of fortune around to make a bigger quid.
In ascerbic NBR columnist Matthew Hooton’s opinion, the new tabloid design is better aligned with the paper’s content than the old broadsheet model.
“As a result, it is sure to be a commercial success, attracting new readers, while those seeking high-quality content will be able to access it from The Economist, the NBR, Metro, The Atlantic and so forth,” Mr Hooton says.
NBR media columnist Tom Frewen says there is a sense of relief the new paper is finally out “and readers can now get on with the rest of their lives”.
“So much fuss over a downsizing! It’s what’s inside that counts.
"I expected it to be mutton dressed up as lamb but it’s more like lamb dressed up as mince,” Mr Frewen says.
And according to NBR’s other media writer, David Cohen, “Granny Herald's new-found mix of tabloid size and broadsheet sensibility is welcome, and the hard work that’s gone into repackaging the old dear has been impressive.”
“But the new look also feels a bit like a case of too much, too little, too late – too much self-referential hype from a masthead that has lost considerable commercial allure, hardly enough new content (a number of the “new” voices in the editorial mix date back to the 1970s) and probably some years behind the ball in discovering the compact size.”
“And the unfortunate flipside of emphasising what a dramatic change all this represents is the implicit admission that everything that went before it was kind of inferior.
“Day one of the new experiment also seems to have been blighted with an oversupply of 'What does-it-mean-to-be-a-Kiwi?' stories and something of an undersupply of the promised new investigative reportage,” Mr Cohen says.
Formerly a bigger paper known as the New Zealand Herald, The Haitch – while looking sharper and easier to handle – is heavy on recycled columnists, people who try to be funny and yet more advice on what, where and how to eat.
The least said the better about an insert with the paper titled the magazine – a rambling attempt apparently aimed at connecting good old nostalgic Kiwi values with what passes for Kiwi-ness today.
Hopefully, this was a one-off.
It is what judges call form over substance when lawyers over-sell a flimsy case.
Those expecting gutsy news would be disappointed today – but The Haitch cannot be totally blamed for that.
New Zealand is a small country and Auckland is a big provincial town, which means gutsy news and “investigations” are few and far between.
Any mug can re-angle a “worthy cause” campaign calling for “something to be done about anything” and recycle a juicy court story from last week.
They can do a fair job of “this day in history 10, 50, 500 years on”.
But telling folk something they don’t know is a bigger ask, and whether The Haitch can answer is yet to be seen.
Editor Shayne Currie has already admitted stepping back from the shock, gasp tabloid style of his former stomping ground, the Herald on Sunday.
But that does not mean the new-look paper should pull its horns in on the news front.
At the end of the day it is advertisers – who are much less interested in news content than reaching a mass market – who will determine commercial success.
Who knows, The Haitch may just be the little battler which succeeds.
Meanwhile, when the Dominion-Post launched its limited-fanfare “new look” last week, readers complained they couldn’t find the puzzle page.
If that’s all that upset them maybe hope continues to spring eternal for newspapers after all…