Gordon Campbell on The Listener

May 1, 2008

I don’t know Gordon himself but his work on various publications has always been thoughtful and interesting. He’s an ex-Listener staffer so I wondered if he’d weigh in on the whole “let’s sue the opposition” debate and he has. Hattip: Mysterious Dave.

“In my experience, we at the Listener tended to have a healthy skepticism towards everyone – including Labour when in power in the 80s ( the Listener invented the term ‘Rogernomics’ and it wasn’t meant as flattery) National in the 90s, and Labour again early this decade. Consistently, the Listener bit the hand of power, and would then explain in 2,500 reasoned words why it felt the need to do so.”

Dead right. That’s why I read The Listener – and that’s exactly why I don’t today.

The whole column is worth a read but the real proof is in the numbers. Gordon again:

Circulation figures could eventually decide whether the Listener goes the same way. Finlay Macdonald recalls that circulation fell from the high or mid 80s to around 74,000 over the five years of his tenure. Stirling once characterized this performance to me as the magazine being in‘ free fall’ when she took it over.

Well, break out the parachutes. The last audited survey has the Listener net circulation at 65,559. In all likelihood, some 40-42,000 of that weekly figure comes from prepaid subscriptions. This would suggest the Listener is managing to sell only about 23-25,000 copies over the counter nationwide, in most weeks. Pretty slim pickings if the master plan was for a new mass readership to materialize from the ruins, as compensation for the trashing of the old Listener template.

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