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MediaApril 13, 2020

A note for new (or newish) readers of The Spinoff

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Over the past month, The Spinoff audience has grown dramatically. Managing editor Duncan Greive explains what The Spinoff is, and how best to use it.

The Covid-19 crisis has been so ubiquitous and upending that it’s hard to think of anything that will not in some way be transformed by what we’ve witnessed. So it is for us at The Spinoff, a small media operation in a small country, covering New Zealand current affairs and culture across text, podcasts and video.

A month ago we were in our office, writing a little about Covid-19, and a lot about other things. Now we, like the media in New Zealand and throughout the world, are consumed by a huge and complex story that will run for years and leave a mark on all who live through it.

The purpose of this note is to welcome those new and newish to The Spinoff, to show you around and generally help you understand what we’re about. This is because it’s abundantly clear that our audience has massively expanded over the past month. Over the past four weeks, our site has seen 9m pageviews, with tens of millions more encountering it  Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris’s brilliant animations especially – on social media. While many will be pre-existing readers, our audience (per analytics from tripled from 1.5m to 4.5m over the last 28 days, and is staying that way. This is backed up by other metrics, including memberships (more on that shortly), which have more than doubled over the same span.

If you’ve been around a while, much of this will be familiar, so feel free to tune out (or drop me a line to tell me what I’ve forgotten). But if you’re a relatively recent reader, here are some things to help you get familiar with The Spinoff.

What we are

The Spinoff is an independent, New Zealand-owned media outlet, founded in 2014 as a site covering New Zealand television, with a mixture of reviews, interviews and opinion. Over the years we have grown and expanded our remit to cover politics, business, culture and more. From the start we conceived of ourselves as a magazine – not aiming to be fastest, or across everything, but to have a recognisable style and scope. We want to publish content that is smart, accessible, sometimes provocative with heart and, where appropriate, a sense of humour.

We employ over a dozen writers and editors, most Auckland-based, along with a network of freelancers, seeking out strong and diverse voices. We are nonpartisan – we have always and will continue to publish perspectives from across the political spectrum.

We explicitly aren’t trying to duplicate what’s already being done well by other media. We cover news through our email newsletter The Bulletin, and our daily live updates, but it’s not our core business. Most importantly, we publish a far smaller volume each day than our colleagues at larger sites. We aim to put out 10 to 15 crafted pieces of content, versus the hundreds posted by the big publishers.

How we’re funded

The Spinoff is funded by a mixture of commercial content and advertising, and by its audience through The Spinoff Members. We launched Members less than a year ago, to help our readers contribute to our work, and have been blown away by the response. It’s no exaggeration to say that, post-Covid-19, we would not be viable without the support of our audience. In early March we hired our first fully Members-funded reporter, who will join the press gallery as soon as he’s allowed onto a plane (a whole other story, coming next week), and we have been able to pivot to covering this crisis only because of those who have chosen to financially support us through this deeply troubled time for media. We have lost two of our longest-serving and largest clients, among others, through the commercial shock of Covid-19, yet the support of Members has helped us weather the storm.

The other part of our income – and still comfortably the largest – is commercial revenue, through businesses and other entities who partner with us to fund sections or content on the site. Where they have a role in a story, these are clearly labelled as “partner content”, and their advertising wraps certain sections on the site. (If you would like to talk to us about working with The Spinoff, please get in touch).

How to use The Spinoff

After becoming a Member, the best way to stay in touch with what we do is by downloading our app (for iPhone or Android) and by subscribing to one or more of our newsletters. The Bulletin is a cult favourite, with Alex Braae distilling the day’s key New Zealand news stories into a smart, readable email. What sets it apart from others is that it covers all the New Zealand media, not just The Spinoff, and is delivered with flashes of analysis to help make sense of it all. If you just want what we create, we have a daily and a weekly digest, subscribe according to your metabolism.

We also have an array of weekly and monthly podcasts, covering everything from politics to food, and a large selection of online video series, most funded thanks to NZ on Air. You can watch those on our site, or by following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. We love social followers – but the usual caveats apply: the platforms are algorithm-driven and temperamental, so the best way to stay connected is through your inbox.

One last thing

We’re thrilled to have you here. Particularly our Members – this month has been incredibly hard on our staff, as it has on all New Zealanders, adjusting to covering the pandemic, while processing its impact on their own lives. When Bauer Media fell, we all had friends who lost jobs, and it underscored again just how reliant we are on The Spinoff Members, both at an individual and organisation level, to be able to continue to do our work.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will slowly introduce more of the kind of content we’ve been known for prior to Covid-19. We’ll cover culture, from pop music to books to prestige drama. We’ll cover politics and business, from its impact on people to the behaviour of our biggest institutions. And we’ll publish writing that takes a wry look at New Zealand, in all its complexity.

Not all of it is for everyone. Despite our founding as a TV site, we still get infuriated Facebook comments when we publish writing on reality TV (read it, it’s some of the best stuff we do). But we will aim to cover both the new New Zealand that rises out of this extraordinary historical moment, and content that allows us to forget, momentarily, that we’re in it. Thanks for coming, and we hope you enjoy what you find, and if you have any questions or suggestions, we’re always keen to hear from you:

Keep going!