Media Visionary of the Year
Admittedly, the word ‘visionary’ is quite vague. For the purposes of this rundown, it refers to those who have responded to the challenging media conditions by either innovating with existing products or launching new ones from scratch.
Kowhai publisher James Frankham has, for instance, turned New Zealand Geographic into a multi-pronged, multi-award-winning beast that has a magazine readership of 318,000, a Facebook reach of 275,000 and also reached over 40,000 people through events over the last 12 months. And people (and a number of large organisations) are paying for the privilege.
Bauer’s Shelley Ferguson has been equally impressive in taking Your Home and Garden well beyond the page, including the launch of a homewares range sold at Farmers. In addition to her work with that publication, she also edits Taste and played an integral role in the launch of Nadia magazine last year (who would’ve thought we’d see new magazines launched in 2016? ) Her work with The Block NZ helped extend the reach of her magazine brands and she has harnessed her influence to front a number of impressive branded content campaigns.
On the topic of introducing something new to the market, The Spinoff founder Duncan Greive has built his digital brand from the ground up. What started as a tiny operation with two people to promote Lightbox, has, in a short few years, grown into a respectable (and extremely popular) multi-media organisation that today counts respected writers such Simon Wilson and Steve Braunias as contributors.
That said, sometimes being visionary doesn’t require you to invent anything from scratch, but rather be aware of what is actually happening in the industry. At a time when everyone was saying that TV was doomed, Julia Baylis launched a new free-to-air channel Choice TV, which Blue Ant Media later bought a majority stake in. Five years later, the channel is still running (with the addition of a new channel called HGTV), and Baylis hasn’t looked back since.
As any weathered inventor would attest, launching something doesn’t make it successful. This rule certainly applies to paywalls, which have proved particularly difficult for publishers to turn into a viable revenue stream. However, one person who has managed to do just that is National Business Review publisher Todd Scott whose business title currently has one of the few successful paywalls in journalism. In addition to getting consumers to pay for the content, Scott has also recently extended the brand into audio and video storytelling.
These days, it goes without saying that every media company needs to embrace digital channels. However, this is easier said than done for a state-owned broadcaster deeply embedded into decades-old grooves. As far as degree of difficulty goes, RNZ’s Paul Thompson certainly had his hands full when it came to reshaping RNZ to meet modern consumers’ needs. Under his watch, new platforms such as The Wireless have launched, John Campbell has started broadcasting through Facebook and the new RNZ website has become one of the most respected sources of news.
Another person who has experimented across channels is MediaWorks’ Sarah Bristow. As executive producer, she played an integral role in bringing the multi-channel Paul Henry Show to life and then tweaking it to accommodate Duncan Garner on The AM Show. Broadcasting across both radio and television was always going to be a huge risk, but she's delivered the goods for her employer.
As the lines blur between channels, brands can also take on a more active role in what is created. Kiwibank marketing communications manager Regan Savage saw this as a significant opportunity and took a major risk by financing a TVNZ show fronted by Nigel Latta. Fortunately for him, the move paid off, with early ratings placing the show among the broadcaster’s most-watched programmes. It will be interesting to see if Savage’s bravery leads to other broadcasters taking a similar risk.