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Nov 22 2022

Spotify opens audiobook streaming to NZ – but it’s costly

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In a bid to become the world’s most popular audio streaming service, Spotify has made 300,000 audiobooks available to New Zealand users for the first time. But you’ll need to pony up some serious cash to listen to them.

When The Spinoff browsed Spotify’s audiobooks landing page, listening to Stephen Fry narrate the first Harry Potter book, The Philosopher’s Stone, for eight hours will set you back $58.95, while Frank Herbert’s Dune costs $61.40 for 21 hours of audio entertainment.

If you want to hear Friends star Matthew Perry diss Keanu Reeves, his biography Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing costs $55.90. Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming is a little more respectable at $31.90.

In comparison, Spotify competitor Audible costs $A16.45 per month. Or there’s always Auckland library’s under-appreciated streaming service e-Audiobooks, which is free to use for local residents.

TV fans wake up to two hefty streaming price hikes

Not all streaming services will survive the next few years warns one expert. Image: Tina Tiller

Users of two major streaming services woke up to a nasty surprise in their inboxes this morning: the cost of subscribing to both Apple TV+ and Disney TV+ is rising, and the amount is significant.

Apple TV+, which charged $8.99 per month on launch, will now cost $12.99. Disney, which costed $9.99, will now cost $14.99. Apple also increased the price of its music streaming service from $12.99 to $16.99 per month.

An Apple spokesperson says its music service is increasing because of an increase in licensing costs, and it means artists and songwriters will earn more from their music being streamed. Apple TV+ is increasing “because we started at a very low price … with just a few shows and movies.” Now, it calls its range, which includes Severance, Slow Horses and Prehistoric Planet, “extensive”.

In a statement shared with customers, Disney says: “We are updating our prices as we continue to bring you even more great entertainment on Disney+.”

Netflix, which remains the most popular streaming service in Aotearoa, costs between $12.99-$24.99 depending on the package. It is slowly rolling out cheaper ad-supported packages overseas but has not said when these might be available here.

The rises come at a time when inflation is at 7.2% and the cost of living crisis hits headlines on a daily basis. It could lead to an increase in password sharing or “savvy switching” – the term given to users who binge all they can on one streaming service for a month, then switch to another for the next.

Substack measures ‘Musk bump’ amid Twitter meltdown

Musk speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington. (Image: Win McNamee, Getty; design magic Tina Tiller.)

The maelstrom around the US $44bn acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, replete with ultimatums, sackings, resignations, volatile edicts from the throne and perceptions of a death rattle, has prompted countless users to announce their migration to other platforms, including Mastodon, BeReal and Substack. At Substack, the publishing platform centred on a newsletter product, Twitter evacuees are being actively courted, while high-profile tweeters are directing their followers to their Substack pages.

In an interview with The Spinoff, Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie said that had resulted in a noticeable “Musk bump” – or, if you prefer, “Elon-gation” – for the platform.

Image: Tina Tiller

“A lot of people are saying, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen here on Twitter, but, just in case, you can find me over at Substack.’ That’s a good message for us,” said McKenzie. “It underlines the importance of owning your audience. On Twitter you’re vulnerable to whatever the king’s going to do. On Substack you can be more in control of your audience.”

While Substack is less reliant on referrals from third parties such as Twitter than it once was, a Twitter collapse on balance “would be bad for us”, McKenzie said.

McKenzie has close-up experience of Musk. He wrote a book about the entrepreneur and Tesla, and previously worked for the company as “lead writer” for Tesla. “It was a crazy ride,” said McKenzie, “for reasons that might be now apparent.”

Musk, meanwhile, says Twitter usage has never been higher.

The Elon-gation superhighway

Residential property managers to be regulated

Photo: Getty Images; additional design Tina Tiller

Housing minister Megan Woods has made three announcements this morning on changes for the rental sector.

The first fulfills a Labour party manifesto commitment in 2020 to regulate residential property managers. Residential property managers will have to be registered, trained and licensed, and complaints and disciplinary matters will be dealt with through a new regulatory framework.

“This means that like many other professions such as real estate agents, builders and lawyers, they will have conduct and competency standards to abide by and if they don’t, they can be held to account,” said Woods

“Nearly one in three households rent their homes and 42% of these tenancies are managed by residential property managers, so they have a lot of access to rental homes and interaction with tenants. Having safeguards to ensure they meet minimum conduct and competency standards is in the best interests of both property owners and tenants,” she said.

The government will also consult the public before making binding rules on what an acceptable maximum allowable level of methamphetamine residue is, at what levels those homes need to be decontaminated to, and when tenancies can be terminated due to high levels of residue. Confusion over meth testing standards has been in the spotlight since 2018, when a report from former Chief Science Advisor Peter Gluckman found that no one was ever found to have gotten sick from the residue left over when someone smokes meth in a house.

“Currently there are two levels used – neither of which are legally binding – which create uncertainty for landlords and tenants,” Woods said.”

The proposals recommend a maximum acceptable level of surface methamphetamine residue of 15 micrograms per 100 square centimetres which is in keeping with Gluckman’s findings and advice from ESR.

Finally, the government is giving private landlords, Kāinga Ora, and community housing providers more time to comply with the Healthy Homes standards. Legislation will be introduced in the House today and passed under urgency before the end of the parliamentary year, to ensure certainty for landlords.

Private landlords have one more year to comply. Private rentals must comply by July 1, 2025, instead of July, 1 2024. The timeframe for compliance for a new or renewed tenancy shifts from 90 days to 120 days. Kāinga Ora and community housing providers have until July, 1 2024.

The Green party has responded to the announcements saying the government’s decision to exclude landlords from property management regulations “means more than half of kiwi rentals will be left out in the cold.” The party took the opportunity to once again advocate for its rental warrant of fitness and landlord and property register policies saying where the government is “kicking the can down the road on Healthy Homes standards, the government falls short on the basics that a rental warrant of fitness would fix.”

National’s housing spokesperson Chris Bishop said the extension of the Healthy Homes standards deadline for landlords comes as no surprise.

“The majority of private landlords have done the right thing, followed the rules and upgraded properties. This is a giant slap in the face from a government that simply can’t get anything done,” said Bishop. “It was one rule for them, and one rule for the government,” he said.

The Act party took credit for the Healthy Homes standards extension being granted to private landlords after it brought the issue to light last week.

“Thanks to Act exposing this, housing minister Megan Woods has now said that the extension is not just for Kainga Ora, everyone will get it,” said Act’s housing spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

The Bulletin: Ukraine’s president invited to address parliament

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to address parliament 
Photo: RNZ/AFP/Ukrainian presidential press service

As RNZ’s Katie Scotcher reports this morning, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to address parliament. RNZ understands arrangements are being made for Zelensky to speak via video link to MPs. He would be the second head of a foreign government to address New Zealand’s parliament. The first was Australian prime minister Julia Gillard in 2011. A date for Zelensky’s address has not yet been set, but it is understood it won’t be this week. It could happen before parliament adjourns for the summer.

It comes after defence minister Peeni Henare’s visit to Ukraine and Poland where Henare met with his counterpart, Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov. During his talks with Reznikov, Henare “reiterated New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and its people, and affirmed our ongoing unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s aggression.”

Reflecting on his time in the UK visiting Ukrainian soldiers and on the ground in Kyiv, Henare said “You just can’t get this from reading a report”.

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