Thursday, 6 December 2007

New paper to shake up Dunedin market

Two South Island newspaper publishers are joining forces to launch a new weekly paper in Dunedin - the home turf of Allied Press newspapers the Otago Daily Times and The Star.

The new Dunedin paper is being launched early next year by Scene Media - a joint venture between Queenstown-based Mountain Scene and the Ashburton Guardian.

The free weekly paper will be distributed to 45,000 homes in the Dunedin area, and plans to be "more hard-edged and editorially-driven" than Allied Press's community Star newspaper, or the daily ODT. A companion website will also be launched.

Allied Press has held a cosy near-monopoly in Dunedin for many years, and seems privately to be a little concerned about the upstart challenger.

The first major story about the new entrant was published in a Christchurch paper The Press, while Dunedin's local television station Channel 9 (also owned by Allied Press) was banned from running a story on Scene Media's venture.
The ODT (affectionately known in local media circles as "The Oddity") has been published since 1861, while The Star community tabloid came into being after the Otago Daily Times bought out and then closed down its long-running evening competitor, the Evening Star.

Scene Media insist they're not aiming to go head-to-head with the ODT, but admit they are prepared for competitive tactics by Allied Press.

Two newspapers attempted to break into the Dunedin market in the mid-90's - Inside Otago and The Exchange - but both folded after coming under financial pressure, following aggressive behaviour by Allied Press.

It's understood companies who advertised in the rival newspapers were given stern warnings by Allied Press sales staff, who threatened to withdraw any discounted rates treatment, while offering generous advertising deals if companies switched back to the ODT.

The Otago Daily Times also refused to publish tv listings for Dunedin's first local television station Channel 58 (despite publishing other tv channels for no charge), forcing Ch 58 to pay for a daily advertisement in the ODT paper (which wasn't always placed on the TV page).

Around twenty staff will be employed at the new paper, which is sure to be welcomed by Dunedin residents looking for an edgier and more challenging read.

* The Press: Newspaper set to enter Dunedin market

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