14 Apr 2023

Dominion Post newspaper to change name

4:55 pm on 14 April 2023
Weekend Dominion Post tribute to QE2.

The Dominion Post will be changing its name after 21 years. Photo:

The capital's last daily paper The Dominion Post is dropping the word "dominion" from its name - and its parent company is signalling further change.

"The Dom", which was started 21 years ago as a merger of The Dominion and The Evening Post, is being rebranded to just The Post.

Writing in the paper today, editor Caitlin Cherry said New Zealand's status as a dominion ended in 1945 when it joined the United Nations, so it is time for the word to go.

"We thought carefully about what we wanted The Post to represent now and into the future."

She declined RNZ's request for an interview today, saying the team was focused on giving The Dominion Post "a fitting farewell" over the next fortnight before launching The Post.

However, founding editor Tim Pankhurst was skeptical about the name change.

"When we merged the papers we did market research, and we found those masthead titles were so entrenched in Wellington, they had better brand-name recognition than Coca Cola.

"So I think to deny the past is a bit short-sighted."

A media commentator said it remains to be seen whether the name change for the capital's last remaining daily paper will be followed by more substantial changes.

Colin Peacock from RNZ's Mediawatch programme told Midday Report the loss of the evening title years ago was a major change, whereas this was just a brand change.

"This is a name change, a bit of branding, really, but changing the masthead is a big deal.

"Newspaper subscribers are often quite traditional long-standing customers, so there may be a bit of blowback on it."

Peacock said the paper's parent company, Stuff, has signalled another major announcement in a fortnight, and there is speculation that could involve some form of paywall for the website.

Invites went out for a function on 27 April, Peacock said, "which they said there will be at 5.30pm full disclosure of something interesting."

"It could in a couple of weeks they will announce something more substantial than a name change."

Stuff's owner Sinead Boucher bought the company from its Australian owners Nine Entertainment three years ago for just $1, returning it to New Zealand ownership.

Figures have shown dropping circulation for print titles for some time, and the media companies are strongly pivoting to digital, Peacock said.

Figures for June 2022 showed that across their newspapers and online content Stuff was bringing in 379,000 people engaging with them.

The figures are "still significant", Peacock said, "even if not selling the same amount of the printed papers, which of course bring in the crucial advertising revenue".

Tim Pankhurst was part of a secret group of five executives charged with the job of merging the two papers back in 2002.

Everything had to be kept under wraps in case subscribers and advertisers got spooked, he said.

"There were just so many aspects that we need to cover, right down to signage in dairies to placating all the delivery boys and girls, we gave each of them farewell gifts.

"And we needed obviously to keep all the subscribers and advertisers on board, and we did that very successfully.

"At its height, the combined paper was making a million dollars' profit a week."

Pankhurst, who edited the paper until 2009, said an online paywall would be good news if it meant the business could be sustainable.

"Because at the moment, I love the Hugh Rennie [QC, co-founder of The National Business Review] description of the Stuff model as 'Free bread today, stale bread for sale tomorrow'."

It was actually under Pankhurst's editorship that The Dominion Post ran a campaign to make New Zealand a republic.

However, the current editor's claim of the dominion's demise might have been a little premature.

Republican Movement chair Lewis Holden said the 1907 royal proclamation of dominion status has never been revoked, so technically New Zealand was still a dominion.

Even so, he fully supported the paper's name change.

"It's really a landmark decision by them because of the course the dominion status is what came after being a colony, so it's yet another a step in the progression towards full independence."

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