Stuff vs NZ Herald on Facebook 2014

You can be sure that the news media in New Zealand keeps close tabs on their online viewing stats. But who really does better on Facebook? Stuff or NZHerald? We surveyed 2.5 million Facebook interactions with them to find out.

New Zealand operates with two main players in its print media environment. Fairfax, which owns Stuff, and Newcapi Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME), which owns the New Zealand Herald. Between them they own a slew of subsidiary regional newspapers across New Zealand. Missing from this is the Otago Daily Times, which is operated independently from the duopoly.

Wikipedia has a good enough list of what Fairfax owns and also what NZME owns. Both media conglomerates have made a concerted push to step up competition in the online marketplace in recent years. The culmination of this head-to-head fight primarily occurs through Fairfax’s flagship website Stuff, and NZME’s New Zealand Herald

It’s a tight race, and battle is still ongoing. The website appears to have a slight advantage currently in its total audience reach and unique user base. Both news agencies have an established and significant social media presence in New Zealand. And it would seem they also have formal strategies for engagement on social media.

This is a large area to examine comparatively. While we track all social media activity of both the main players, including their regional operations, here we will only compare the Stuff and NZHerald flagship Facebook pages for 2014.

This analysis tracked roughly two and a half million engagements (likes and comments) which were publicly available on both Facebook pages in 2014. Shares have been excluded as it is a significantly lower volume metric. In the year ending 31st December 2014, Stuff made 1,440 individual news posts to their Facebook page, and NZHerald 1,514. These posts accrued the following engagement metadata:

Post Metric Stuff NZHerald Total
Likes 518,602 1,294,286 1,812,888
Comments 229,704 403,227 632,931
Total 748,305 1,697,513 2,445,819

The above table shows a clear dominance in the aggregated totals of NZHerald’s Facebook account. Obviously, some people who engage comment and like more than once, so this table doesn’t reflect the number of unique people who engaged on Facebook. So let’s look at the totals for this:

Metric Stuff NZHerald Total
Unique Users 202,013 369,965 488,369

Here the total engaged accounts is a lower number, because many accounts engaged in material from both Facebook pages, and this reflects the total number of unique users across both accounts.

Metric Stuff NZHerald Total
Engagement per Unique User 3.7 4.6

So we can establish here that not only does NZHerald dominate Facebook when compared to Stuff, but also gets slightly more back from every user it reaches who engages at least once.

A year is a very long time on Facebook, and engagement with news media is exploding. A different way of viewing these data is over time:

Figure 1: Head to head: Likes and Comments on Facebook for New Zealand’s two primary print media flagship websites

This way of viewing it is not as tough on Stuff. We can see that as Stuff have pushed for Facebook market penetration, they are swiftly catching up to where NZHerald was. In fact, the most interesting point about this graph is it truly shows the explosion of engagement with formal media occurring on Facebook. It’s hard to gauge just how much of this was tied to the election, as the most engaged posts from both news agencies were routinely not election-related, but concerned more family orientated content.

Figure 2: Stacked: If we stack Stuff and NZHerald engagement on top of each other, the explosion of social media interaction in New Zealand’s primary news sources becomes apparent. December through January is a traditionally quiet time for social media engagement in New Zealand, so we will only be able to ascertain the legitimacy of these trends by comparing it to data in 2015 as it becomes available. This graph strongly correlates with a strong growth in the acquisition of new Facebook users in New Zealand among the “older” demographic.

Of those who engaged, there was a small but core group of users who would do so repeatedly, and generated a statistically significant percentage of the interaction totals. For example one Facebook user made 3,781 likes or comments (roughly ten a day) across both the Stuff and NZHerald Facebook pages, and was a top participant for both individually. However the largest group were lone Facebook users interacting once in the year with either news agency’s Facebook page. It appears both news agencies are at present reaching ever larger numbers of genuine personal Facebook accounts.

In conclusion, it’s apparent that NZHerald is the clear winner over Stuff for courting engagement in New Zealand news on Facebook in 2014. However this dominance is not assured, and could change quickly.

Frank Dowling's Twitter LogoAbout the Author:
Frank Dowling is a social media researcher in Christchurch, New Zealand. Email him at

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