The Hot List 2018: Last day to vote for the media industry’s best thinkers, creators and products

Hottest Magazine

Nadia, the winner of the Supreme magazine of the year at the 2017 Magazine Media Awards, is a clever collaboration between celebrity chef Nadia Lim and Bauer and it has resulted in a magazine that judges credited as having editorial vision and journalistic craft as well as a smart business and distribution model. It’s delivered to selected My Food Bag subscribers, and it has quickly carved out an audience for itself at a time when eyes in print are harder than ever to find.

While Nadia is not quite two years old, Mindfood celebrated 10 years of serving up content across a range of editorial platforms including community, culture, health, beauty, style, décor, travel, food and drink. The magazine is fat and full of ads and its digital metrics show a Facebook reach of 279,000, an e-newsletter circulation of 360,000 per week and 18,900 Instagram followers.

Another Magazine Media Awards winner, Homestyle has embraced the national property obsession and the DIY boom to carve out a slice of one of the few growing areas of magazine publishing. It has managed to attract a solid audience in print with its curatorial skills, aesthetic appeal and inspiring home-, style-, and living-themed content; its branded content ideas and execution are always top notch; and it’s also increasingly putting its skills to use outside the magazine by offering its styling services to clients like Citta and Fisher & Paykel.

Another independent title proving to be a standout, as both a startup and magazine, is Together Journal. Founded by Greta Kenyon, who’s worked for two-startups, been a fashion house brand manager and founder of a photography business, the magazine shares local, accessible wedding trends with the rest of the world in a design-oriented aesthetic that almost crosses over to being a book

Denizen turns eight this year and, while there is much more competition in the city guide space from online players like Urban List and Concrete Playground (and old dogs like Metro), it continues to get noticed, partially as the result of some savvy distribution strategies with the likes of Giltrap Group. To the chagrin of some, the magazine isn’t audited, but that hasn’t stopped the premium advertisers from piling in.

While there’s a plethora of recipes available online for free, not all recipes are created equal and Dish has a range of readers who are willing to pay to access its quality. The print version is beautiful and useful, it hosts a range of sell-out events, and it’s performing well online (its Facebook page was recognised as the 15th most influential in New Zealand last year in the The New Zealand Facebook Report 2017 and its Instagram platform has grown 78 percent in the past 12 months, to reach 30,500 followers).

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Hottest Editor

With Vice New Zealand regularly covering stories outside of mainstream media’s scope, head of content Frances Morton does not have an easy job. Trust is integral and the tone of all stories told by Vice, no matter the theme, aims to be authentic, immersive and empathetic (with a bit of sass and subversion thrown in). Beyond the tone, she ensures Vice isn’t Auckland-centric with a contributor pool across the country, and works to keep the type of content relevant to audiences by going into video production, like The Zealandia series, which told stories of New Zealand’s drug epidemic and the growing LGBTQ community among Māori and Pacific Islanders.

Well-connected politically, extremely funny and astute in his musings and now presiding over a newsroom that’s constantly coming up with good story ideas and breaking a few big stories, Toby Manhire, who took over from Duncan Greive as the editor of ‘online magazine’ The Spinoff last year, has well and truly maintained the brand’s momentum.

Flying the flag of progressive business, Elly Strang has ascended the ranks at ICG Media over the past few years and now helms a media brand renowned for its intelligent optimism. She and the team continue to tell the tales of the country’s best business people and new ideas across technology, entertainment and design – and she’s doing it across print, online, social and events.

It may be a NIM (newspaper inserted magazine), something that often gives magazine publishers the heeby-jeebies, but, as some cads have said, it might not be too long before it’s a MIN (magazine inserted newspaper), such is the power of Viva. Managing editor Amanda Linnell has been there for a while and has an eye for a good story – and an eye for luxury – and the weekly insert remains plump.  

Premium print is still in a pretty good space, with readers loving the quality and luxury advertisers still ponying up to be seen in that environment. Sally-Ann Mullin is running the fashion ship at Bauer and, with a solid print audience, a growing social presence, a new title in the form of the youth-focused Miss FQ, and, like Linnell, she’s a powerful, influential force in the industry.

As Rebekah White said at last year’s Magazine Media Awards, she gets to edit her favourite magazine, New Zealand Geographic. At a time when sugary, snackable content is all the rage, the magazine continues to invest in quality and depth – and continues to attract paying readers and win awards. And while the print product is still the piece de resistance, like many magazine editors she has had to think much more broadly than just print.

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Hottest Indie Publisher

While big media players consider mergers and adapt their offers, The Spinoff proves there’s still a slice of the audience to go around if the content is good – and some money available from brands who want to bask in its reflected glow by funding its various sections. It’s been growing since its launch in 2014, with a recent addition being Ātea, a dedicated Māori perspectives section on its site. It now keeps its audience up to date with everything from the power rankings of reality TV stars to politics and investigations into where World’s clothes are really made. And while it didn’t quite win everything at the 2018 Voyager Awards Media Awards – as its follow-up headline suggest – its writers did take home six awards, including Best Artwork/Graphics (Toby Morris); Feature Writing – Arts, Entertainment and Lifestyle (Simon Wilson) and Feature Writing – Best First-Person Essay or Features (Peter Wells).

Another newcomer to the media landscape is Newsroom, which launched in 2017 and demonstrated its impact by winning Website of The Year (alongside Stuff) at the 2018 Voyager Awards Media Awards. And rightly so: it broke the news about sexual assault allegations involving Russell McVeagh and was responsible for the ‘Taken by the state’ investigation into children being removed from their homes. It’s hard to make a buck on online media, but Newsroom is giving it a good crack and hoping that its growing audience will lead to a sustainable news business.

Kowhai Media has shrunk in the past few years, with Pro Photographer closing and Mana leaving the stable. But its favourite child, New Zealand Geographic, has benefitted from the extra attention. Publisher James Frankham has handed over the editorial reins and focused on turning it into a multi-media company. It has solid numbers, it has struck up deals with a range of schools and its photographic expertise now sees it experimenting heavily with VR production in the wild.

Unfiltered, started by Jake Millar and his high school friend Yuuki Ogino in 2015, has always had big ambitions – and an interesting model. The company raised $1.2 million to expand into the US, where Millar seems to be in his element, and where a bunch of big names are willing to share their wisdom. While it started off as a paid-for platform, it’s recently removed the paywall in a bid to increase its audience and pool of potential interviews – as many big interviewees will give their time to an audience giving substantial exposure.

McHugh Media, the publishers of Mindfood, have taken on the big boys and succeeded, profiting from the large, high-quality audience it has gained in the ten years since it launched (its ten-year anniversary issue with Oprah Winfrey on the cover was the biggest yet at 288 pages). In 2014, it ‘laughed in the face of magazine doomsayers’ and launched brand extension Mindfood Style, a bi-annual fashion magazine, before launching Mindfood Décor a year later, which targets the home and living environment.

As the big media companies struggle to compete against the free content on the internet, a range of publishers have seen potential in focusing intently on a specific region. Uno, a magazine focused on the Bay of Plenty, was early on that trend – and it has also tapped into a booming Bay area to create a magazine with an obvious energy and passion for its place.

Stone Soup Syndicate is “an evolving congregation of creatives who have founded a fresh take on food publishing: a free, independent street press and digital platform with a counter-cultural spirit; fostering a space for a boisterous yet convivial discussion about food and its place in all of our lives.” Great writing, beautiful photography, quality vids and a uniquely New Zealand tone make it stand out.

Tourism is one of the country’s biggest sectors, but Paul Yandall and Bridget O’Connell felt it wasn’t adequately served in terms of industry media, so it created a new online news service called Tourism Ticker in 2017. Since then, it’s gained a loyal audience with its essential coverage, and it’s soon to test that loyalty by launching a paywall.

Unlike many modern media outlets, OhBaby! started out as a website and then launched in print format around 10 years ago. Since then it’s developed a solid audience (and a massive social following), it concocts clever retail promotions, it’s created an awards programme and, despite a plethora of online content on this topic, it’s become a major, aspirational player in the local parent and parent-to-be media market.

ICG Media, the parent company of brands like Dish, Good, Idealog and, ahem, StopPress, sits in a reasonably unique position: the printers and the people making the content are in the same building and that means that, in addition to ad space and content, it can also offer a range of other marketing services, from car wraps to retail activations. Its print products are world class, its editorial skills are regularly harnessed for content marketing and its various communities reach around 1.9 million people across different channels.

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Hottest Radio Brand

A radio station that can afford Ronan Keating to star in its advertising deserves a spot on the list. The Breeze is on the up, recording the biggest growth of all the stations in the first survey of this year with 52,100 new listeners tuning in.

Mai FM is another station on the that’s been on the way up over the last year. While its cumulative audience across New Zealand was down slightly in the first survey of the year, in Auckland, the station holds top spot. Also in Auckland, it’s the number one breakfast show ahead of all music and talkback stations.

RNZ might have slipped slightly in the last survey but its position as number one news station shows no sign of losing ground any time soon and its non-commercial model puts it in an enviable position when it comes to journalistic integrity. Its partnerships with other media organisations, including Stuff, MSN, TVNZ and Bauer, ensure its content is reaching more ears while podcast projects like ‘Ours: Treasures from Te Papa’, a podcast made in collaboration with Te Papa, shows how it’s adapting to the evolving multimedia environment.

The dance and electronic scene has become increasingly mainstream here and around the world and George FM lead the charge in this market. Its expansion across the country a few years ago has cemented that position, its DJs are world class, its promotions are top notch and it is increasingly using its influence to run successful events that it can actively promote to its audience.  

The Edge gets a shout out for its strong hold as number one station for having the biggest audience across the country. While last year’s surveys saw its number drop, its rank didn’t falter and this year it kicked off with a boost of 26,700 listeners. MediaWorks group content director of radio Leon Wratt credits the increase to the work its team has been doing on the brand and the audience’s response to the line-up changes. One of those is  Megan Annear taking Jay-Jay Harvey’s position to create the Dom, Meg & Randell show.

Another station that saw a boost in the first survey of the year was Radio Sport, which was kept busy over the summer with local and international competitions. Its summer sports commentary drew in 20,500 more listeners than the previous survey, with sports fans no doubt tuning into the station to keen to keep up with the action, including the cricket and the Commonwealth Games.

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Hottest Radio Show

Over on RNZ, the weekday Morning Report with Guyon Espiner and Susie Ferguson talk listeners through local and world events. The latter wins the breakfast show crown when compared to the commercial stations.

For those looking for music and banter, Jono, Ben & Sharyn is The Edge’s solution. Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce have been with the station since the start of 2017 after departing The Rock and since then the duo have been injecting their humour into The Edge’s afternoon alongside Sharyn Casey.

New to the airwaves this year is Jase & Jay-Jay’s More FM show after Jay-Jay Feeney moved from The Edge to join Jason Gunn for the afternoon show. When StopPress spoke to MediaWorks group content director of radio Leon Wratt about the recent radio survey, he said it was too early to assess how the new show’s performing but with Feeney and Gunn both long-standing radio talent it’s sure to get interest from listeners.

Over on Newstalk ZB, The Mike Hosking Breakfast might spark debate between Hosking fans and those who are not, but there’s no denying the show pulls in the biggest audience in the morning and Hosking’s win of Best Talk Presenter – Breakfast or Drive at this year’s New Zealand Radio Awards.

Over on George FM, the George Breakfast with Kara Rickard, Stu Tolan and Tammy Davis is full of laughs with contemporary music. Similarly, Mai FM’s Mai Morning Crew with Nickson, Nate and Lily get the day started with some laughs, enough to earn it the position of number one breakfast show in Auckland

Bhuja!, undoubtedly the best name ever for a radio show, is audio madness on Radio Hauraki. Some may call it an acquired taste, but when acquired, by god, Leigh Hart and Jason Hoyte are delicious – and mad as cut snakes. Lots of in-jokes, an amazing rapport and a hell of a lot of fun on the way home.

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Hottest TV Channel

Hot out of the MediaWorks labs, ThreeLife is MediaWorks’ new channel taking viewers to a lighter place with international shows fitting into a different theme each night, in a similar fashion to Choice TV. Monday is taste; Tuesday is explore; Wednesday’s fast; Thursday is DIY; Friday’s love; Saturday’s lifestyle; and Sunday is wildlife.

Say what you want about the future of Sky, but a summer of cricket and a winter of rugby, league, netball and football still makes Sky Sport a must have for the many hundreds of thousands of sports fans and its coverage of local sports still gives it an edge over the big global players and local players that are circling around this valuable catch. And with an enhanced online experience and cheaper prices, it could become even more appealing.  

Unlike live sport, drama is a tough sell for Sky given the increasing presence of Netflix and other streaming platforms, but curation is still important and Soho’s HBO line-up (and, by extension, Sky’s Neon and SkyGo offering) is still very compelling, with some of the most talked about shows including Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Americans and Silicon Valley.

It’s been a big year for TVNZ 1, with the Commonwealth Games action, an election coverage boost and some major personnel changes to flagship shows. But it’s still the biggest free-to-air game in town and the channel’s prime time programming reached 1,450,800 viewers during the 6pm – 10.30pm time slot. It’s also been experimenting with new technology, first seen in What Next with John Campbell and Nigel Latta presenting from a high-tech studio the brought to life the results in real time through graphs that appeared to be floating in mid-air. That AR technology has since been incorporated into 1 News.

A relative newbie on the screens is Viceland. Since its launch on Sky in 2016, it’s established a fan base with New Zealanders enjoying F*ck That’s Delicious, Weediquette and topical programmes such as Gaycation and Rise. It also proves a TV platform for some of Vice New Zealand’s local video content.

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Hottest TV (Drama)

It’s not a rundown of the hottest local drama without Shortland Street getting a mention. Last year the soap celebrated 25 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Westside is back this year for its fourth season with more drama to come. A prequel to the popular Outrageous Fortune, there were strong signs the show was going to perform.

The New Legends of Monkey, originally an 80s show, is based on a Chinese novel called Tales of the Monkey King. And this year it’s been remade by Netflix, ABC and TVNZ and stars Josh Thomson.

Also set in a different world is AFK. The web series was born from a World of Warcraft addiction, with the characters a group a gamers who wake up in the bodies of their online characters.

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Hottest TV Show (Comedy)

Family Feud may have finished up on screens last year, but for 2018 it’s evolved into All-Star Family Feud, which has seen Dai Henwood host competitions between the likes of Jono & Ben take on the 7 Days crew, the Dancing with the Stars crew.

Another comedian showing himself in a different light is Josh Thomson in Subject: Dad. He and fellow comedians get together and read emails sent by Thomson’s father as a way of checking in with his kids and letting them know he is ok.

Anika Moa Unleashed watches Moa meet with Kiwis to have an unfiltered, uneducated chat. Already she’s met with former prime minister Helen Clark, Bachelor New Zealand stars Art and Matilda, first man Clarke Gayford, How to Dad’s Jordan Watson and deputy leader of the National party Paula Bennett.

From tax evasion to abortion to marijuana, Kiwi comedian Alice Snedden’s Bad News gives her intelligent, humorous and sometimes controversial views on important issues in New Zealand life with the help of some experts and fellow comedians.

Meanwhile, Funny Girls is back for a third season, featuring Laura Daniel, Rose Matafeo, Kim Crossman and Jackie van Beek in a six-part sketch series.

It’s not a rundown of local comedy without 7 Days. Not only does it serve its audience a unique take on the week that was, it’s a good boost for up and coming local comedians with the programme regularly winning its Friday night timeslot.

Also on Friday night is Fail Army. It’s hard to deny, though we wish we could, how Tim Montgomery and Joseph Moore’s gonzo – and very self-aware – commentary of YouTube clips is a hit, but they have managed to make something out of almost nothing.

There’s no greater honour for a piss-take to be taken seriously and that’s what happened when Screaming Reels, a parody fishing show featuring two very average, innuendo-loving fishermen played by Leigh Hart and Jason Hoyte, was played on an Australian TV channel after being mistaken as a real fishing show. Cue pride from the stars, laughing at the expense of the Aussies and a very funny letter setting the record straight.

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Hottest TV Show (Reality)

After facing criticism last year for its format and low prize offer, Survivor New Zealand is back for another round. That criticism was reflected in its ratings with the New Zealand Herald reporting a departing audience 172,000 viewers aged 25-54 tuned in for the premier, before numbers dropped to an average of 144,000 viewers (aged 25-54) watching each episode. This year, producers listened to audience feedback and returned this year with a new look for the show as well as additions to its format.

Dancing With The Stars NZ saw nearly one million Kiwis tune into its season premiere in April, with a 29.1 percent audience share in the key 25-54 demographic. And it appears Kiwis like what they are seeing as that was followed up with a 28.9 percent share in the 25-54 demographic for the second week. And each contestant promoting the show on their own platforms is a winning combination.

New Zealanders can’t seem to get enough of Married at First Sight. Last year, Married at First Sight New Zealand achieved an average rating of 24.9 percent audience share in the 25-54 demographic, with the highest rating episode reaching a 31.9 percent share of that audience. And with Kiwis wanting to tune in to watch the drama unfold now, the search is on for a new round of men and women to take their chance to find love in season two. And if the recently wrapped Australian edition of the show is anything to go by, New Zealanders aren’t sick of the show yet. Married At First Sight Australia averaged a 28.1 percent audience share in the 25-54 graphic and doubled the number of streams since the previous season.

Sticking with the romance theme, First Dates New Zealand is also back this year, to watch singles meet in the hopes of finding love. With the stakes not as high as a legally binding marriage, the number of applicants makes sure there’s plenty of characters to watch.

While there the TV lineup includes opportunities for Kiwis looking for love, Māori Television’s Sidewalk Karaoke gives out cash to those appearing in front of its cameras. The only catch is they have to perform their talent on the street. It’s real, funny and occasionally quite emotional – and there’s already interest in expanding the format to overseas markets.

A new show and new format to our screens is Design Junkies. It’s reasonably rare to see creativity on our screens, but the TVNZ series follows as designer Shane Hansen mentors contestants through a series of design challenges to create original work and while it’s not a major mainstream hit, the feedback has been very positive from critics and viewers – and, as with any new format, there may be an opportunity for international expansion.

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Hottest TV Show (Factual)

Kiwibank’s Mind Over Money is back for its second season, with host Nigel Latta now delving into people’s money personalities and how it impacts on relationships. It’s no surprise the bank has been willing to again front up the funding for another season as the first achieved an average audience of 410,700 per episode according to Nielsen.

Also drawing in an impressive audience was Stan, a documentary following musician Stan Walker as he underwent treatment for a hereditary cancer-causing gene. When it aired on Three in March, it earned a rating of 8.6 to become the most watched documentary of 2018 and the second-highest rating programme for 2018 to date.

We may not be the biggest country in the world, but Coast New Zealand has made three seasons out of it so far. It follows Neil Oliver as he journeys around the country to meet its people discover its places.

Similarly, Country Calendar has continued to explore rural New Zealand and find the most interesting tales of people working on land and sea. As our connection to nature declines, it seems even more appealing now. The show has been running for 52 years and NZ On Air has funded the series since 1991, making it the longest funded programme and the longest-running programme on New Zealand TV.

Keeping to the New Zealand theme, Lost & Found is in its fourth season of uncovering cultural identity and lost family heritage as well as reuniting families. As it’s recently won its Monday night timeslot on Three with it achieving a 30.1 percent audience share in the 25-54 demo.

Also uncovering stories from our ancestors is Artefact. A new series on Māori Television presented by Dame Professor Anne Salmond, it tells the stories of artefacts in world-famous collections, small local museums and in the care of whanau.

And beyond New Zealand, Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty has been exploring the world for two seasons to learn the beauty secrets of countries including France, Korea, Dubai, India and Morocco and the Americas. This year, Hunter took those lessons and shared them with live audiences in a tour around New Zealand.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, The Casketeers was a surprise hit for TVNZ. It showed what goes on in a funeral home with behind the scenes access to Tipene Funerals, where boss Francis Tipene and the team plan beautiful farewells for those who have passed away.

The Topp Twins are an institution in New Zealand, and they continue to bring out the best of the country through their warmth, humour and eye for interesting locals. Now in its third season, Topp Country is a format that allows both the hosts and the subjects to shine.  

Also telling stories beyond the scope of daily news programmes, Attitude has long been telling engaging stories about the those living with disabilities. It’s been on New Zealand screens since 2005 and is now in its 13th season.

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Hottest TV Show (News & Current Affairs)

Seven Sharp continues to dominate the 7pm time slot. Returning this year with new co-hosts Jeremy Wells and Hilary Barry, the pair haven’t dropped the ball. Their two different personalities – and slightly subversive senses of humour – balance each other nicely and their talented team deliver a dose of entertainment within the news.

Also seeing a change-up to its hosts is The Project, with Jeremy Corbett joining Kanoa Lloyd and Jesse Mulligan. Together the trio discuss and debate hot topics, delve into stories that matter and flesh it out with celebrity guests all with blend of comedy and journalism. With more audience involvement than all other news shows and a whimsical tone to many of the segments, the show moves fast and breaks things.

Another MediaWorks show, The Hui sees Mihingarangi Forbes present investigations as well as human interest, arts and culture stories. Last year it received the Te Māngai Pāho Best Māori Programme award at the 2018 NZ TV Awards for its compelling combination of content.

The length of Sunday may have changed since the heyday of TV current affairs, but the depth hasn’t. The team is still doing impressive journalism and uncovering big stories, investigating complex issues and finding the most interesting New Zealanders to talk to.

Keeping New Zealanders up to date with a different kind of news, The Crowd Goes Wild has been providing sports news – and sports-related laffs – since 2006. Today, Andrew Mulligan, James McOnie and a rotating roster of talented presenters/washed up sports stars are at the helm, and it’s become part of the country’s sport culture.

Q+A is set to move from its Sunday morning spot – often considered a viewing wasteland – to a much more appealing slot on Sunday nights. It’s a good endorsement of the always-impressive Corin Dann, who knows his political onions and asks the tough questions, and the shift shows a continued interest in political coverage (or, according to some, a continued interest in showing the government that it can still deliver content that’s good for the public and good for TVNZ’s coffers).

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Hottest TV Show (SVOD)

Big Little Lies’ cast, which includes Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern, is enough to turn heads. And the drama kept the audience gripped. While season one was based on a Liane Moriarty novel of the same name, season two’s story is written by author David E. Kelly, who also wrote and executive produced the first season.

Anthology show Black Mirror has been giving audiences a creepy insight into what the world may become for a few years now, with the fourth season dedicated to the idea of transferring consciousness (a fifth season was confirmed by Netflix). Not too many shows become a meme, but ‘that’s so Black Mirror’ is reasonably common.

Also on the topic of consciousness, Westworld’s futuristic plot, with characters living out their fantasies with the help of AI is also captivating audiences and causing much discussion about the pros and cons of technology.

Also an out of this world series is The Handmaid’s Tale. Originally a novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, the very dark series, now in its second season, ventures into a totalitarian society in which women are treated as the property of the state.

Everyone loves the ‘80s, and season two of Stranger Things caught fire just like the first, with the kids continuing to endear themselves to audience as they fight against the inter-dimensional boogeyman – and dodgy government officials.

Also weird and unnatural, but in very different ways, comedy Silicon Valley is five seasons into its scarily accurate depiction of life in a startup.

After causing a stir last year with its suicide-based plot, 13 Reasons Why is back again with another polarising season leaving audiences wondering what will happen next.

Returning to reality, My Next Guest Needs no Introduction with David Letterman watches as Letterman uses his impressive interviewing skills to get access to the brains – and the families – of a-listers like Barack Obama, George Clooney and Tina Fey.

And on a totally different note, Nailed It entertains as contestants try to recreate edible masterpieces with hilarious results.

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Hottest TV Host

The new kid on the mainstream news and current affairs block, Jeremy Wells joined Seven Sharp this year and instantly found his slightly mischievous groove alongside similarly entertaining co-host Hilary Barry. He gained a reputation as a trickster god of late night media, but he already proved his mainstream appeal as the mascot for Meridian. Moving to primetime on TVNZ1, however, was a major shift but he has made that transition look easy –  and managed to maintain a twinkle in the eye.

Jeremy Corbett’s been adding his humour to The Project’s panel of hosts in the past few months, fitting in comfortably alongside Kanoa Lloyd and Jesse Mulligan as the full-time – and slightly less zany – replacement for Josh Thomson and adding to his role as ‘comedy dad’ on the ever-popular 7 Days.

Scotty Morrison tackles the country’s big issues in its native tongue on Te Karere and Marae – and, along with his wife and radio host Stacey Morrison, is a big advocate for the Māori language. The pair released a book called Māori made Easy last year, he’s been teaching at tertiary level for 25 years, he’s completed a PhD in Māori Language and he’s even acted in Te Reo movie The Māori Merchant of Venice.

Outside of news, Dai Henwood has made himself at home on the screen, delivering laughs on Family Feud and 7 Days. This year is no different, with the comedian putting his fellow stars to the test in All Star Family Feud and also on Dancing with the Stars.

This year we’ve seen Anika Moa in a new light, with Anika Moa Unleashed probing local celebrities in unfiltered and unadulterated interviews. She also took Wells’ Seven Sharp seat earlier this year and rather than pretending to be a newsreader like co-host Barry, she was herself, going as far as getting another tattoo when criticised for them.

Laura McGoldrick is one of the busiest hosts of them all, with regular gigs on Sky’s cricket broadcasts, Holden Golf World, and the New Zealand Herald’s Focus and Sports Scene online video shows. Not only that, the trained actor also had a cameo in the last season of Westside.

Rugby is serious business in New Zealand. But Sky TV’s Scotty Stevenson makes it fun. Whether he’s chatting pre-game, calling the games live, hosting various rugby shows or interviewing on stage, he’s whip-smart, quick-witted and extremely knowledgeable. He’s also one of the best sports writers in the biz.

Amanda Gillies sits between two very opinionated men – Duncan Garner and Mark Richardson – on The AM Show, but no matter what they come up with, she always manages to maintain her professionalism. She’s cool, calm and collected – and even when she’s not, like when she broke down live on air last year after discussing her fertility struggles – she feels legit.

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Hottest Production Company (video/TV)

What started as a group of students working from a Dunedin flat in 2012 has evolved into Auckland-based Motion Sickness. Its showreel from the past year includes New Zealand Avocado, Les Mills, Icebreaker and Scapegrace—formerly Rogue Society until Motion Sickness helped it unveil a new identity. And despite each video being tied into a brand and pushing that brand’s messages, they could easily stand alone as a series of beautiful videos.

With a client list including ASB, Super Rugby, Energy Online, WorkSafe and Fonterra, to name a few, Fish recently put its skills to the test in stunt campaign for Samsung that saw 25 S9 smartphones rigged up alongside a set of glitter, jelly, dancers, cocktails and dancers to capture five seconds of action in slow motion.

Augusto has a wide variety of skills and manages a balance of commercial and entertainment work, with its storytelling skills being used on clients including Adidas, Wendy’s, Mitre 10 and AIG. It was also behind Richie McCaw’s Chasing Great documentary and it is working closely with the Discovery Network on some big projects. That ouvre looks set to expand with a US office opening this year to further spread its skills across the world.

Also making a name for itself on the TV screen is Ruckus, which was founded by Arwen O’Connor, Mitchell Hawkes and Nigel Latta in 2016. It’s since been hard at work producing two seasons of Mind Over Money, a season of What’s Next with another on the way, and popular documentaries Stan and Born this Way: Awa’s Story.

Pango Productions is also telling local stories and its work this past year includes Sidewalk Karaoke and Piri’s Tiki Tour for Māori Television, and Angelo’s Outdoor Kitchen and Marae for TVNZ. It was also involved in the production of Amazon’s documentary series, getting inside access to the All Blacks (and getting everyone talking about Sky’s seemingly tenuous hold on the rights).

Rogue Productions is also on the up. Past work includes the brilliant Erebus Operation Overdue documentary, All Talk with Anika Moa and, most recently, it’s responsible for a six-part series called Sisters. It follows the fortunes of the O’Neil twins who find success as dancers with Parris Goebel’s crew and then hope to make it into the music business.

Responsible for the Attitude series, and a number of web series showcasing people living with mental health and disabilities, Attitude recently produced Wait for Me Hollywood, a documentary about the recovery of James Rolleston, known for his roles in Boy, after he almost died in a horrific car crash.

Vendetta Films has recently established a production arm called Vendetta Productions, Its notable work includes Born to Dance and more recently Pecking Order – a ‘flockumentary’ following a group of poultry obsessives looking for victory at the 2015 National Poultry Show. It’s currently working on In Zone a documentary about a man from South Side Chicago proving that cycles of inequality can be broken by transforming the lives of a group of New Zealand teens.

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Hottest Digital Production Company (web/VR/AR)

Assembly has become one of the world’s best animation and production houses, and Damon Duncan, Jonny Kofoed, Matt Trott and Rhys Dippie were the ones that started it. Defining their work as a combination of art and science, their skills extend from beautiful animation work, amazing visual effects and stunning digital and VR experiences, like a series of games to promote the film Kubo and the Two Strings, and engaging websites for global brands like Verizon and PWC.

Resn is similarly well-regarded globally, similarly well-endowed with big clients and similarly progressive when it comes to finding ways to harness new tech, like it did with the interactive Vice documentary FAFSWAG. With offices in Amsterdam and Wellington, the multi-award winning, multi-hemispherical creative digital agency has been, as its ridiculously good website says, “infecting minds with gooey interactive experiences and digital stories” since ages ago. And they keep delivering the e-goods for a huge array of global brands like Burger King, Adidas, HP and MailChimp (it won agency of the Year for the second year running at the 2018 Awwwards Conference in Berlin).

Rush Digital, founded by Danu Abeysuriya at the tender age of 24, has worked with the likes of Microsoft, Samsung, Heineken and ASB to bring big creative ideas to life through digital technology. Its work on VR is world-class and it recently helped redesign the Starship Emergency Ward, bringing clever interactive tech into play to calm nervous kids and prepare them for treatment.

Gladeye’s digital smarts and creative eye are obvious across its entire body of work, whether the beautiful web design and clever games to illustrate feature-length stories for the Huffington Post’s High Line or its apps or web platforms for the likes of Allpress, Auckland International Airport or ANZ.

Wellington-based Wrestler began with good old-fashioned film (and still does plenty of it for the likes of Trade Me, Allbirds and NZ Post), but it has doubled down on AR/VR and sees it as the next big thing. With a combination of branded experiences and originals like Wake (which asks users to match dance moves to move forward in the experience), the philosophy of the founders, Ben Forman and Kat Lintott is that it wants to move away from gimmickry and “create experiences that make people better off in the real world”.

Conical Studios created the immersive – and interactive – VR story The Green Fairy a few years back. That caught the attention of Westfield, which took the game on tour and to the people. It’s also involved in AR, and helped to bring the Big Hoot to life in the form of a colouring book.

Translate Digital not only redesigned The Spinoff’s website recently, it’s also responsible for a host of clever digital tools (like the Auckland Council’s Safeswim App and NZ on Air’s HeiHei kids channel) and burgeoning digital businesses (like Campable and Parkable).  

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Hottest Creators

As the creator behind the ‘Kiwis of Snapchat’ series, comedian Tom Sainsbury went on to make a name for himself during last year’s election, using Snapchat filters to turn himself into politicians including Bill English, Judith Collins and Paula Bennett – the lover of paninis and bowl lattes. He’s since put his Snapchat skills to use in a campaign for Fire and Emergency New Zealand, turning himself into a smoke alarm and other household items to remind people to be fire safe.

Also known for being a social media star is How to Dad’s Jordan Watson. Sharing parenting advice – often of very questionable quality – Watson’s built up a following of 1.7 million people on Facebook and appeared on shows like 7 Days. His appeal has been commercialised for Air New Zealand, McDonald’s, ASB and, most recently, Berocca, in which Watson shared advice on how to work out.

When watching people play video games has become just as popular as playing video games, Viva La Dirt League deserves a spot on this list for its gaming-related content. The team produces web series, including Epic NPC Man, Bored and PUBG Logic, that bring games to life in comedy skits that play on plot lines. And in September last year, those three turned to four when NZ On Air funding was given for a fourth YouTube series called REKT.

The output of comedian turned political commentator Tim Batt spans radio, TV and online. Recently, he put his chatting tools to the test during last year’s election, for Duke’s Banter, a panel-based chat show talking through issues facing New Zealanders, while continuing his work on Little Empire Podcasts network that he founded in 2015. Last year, it received funding from NZ On Air to bring the podcast The Male Gayz to screen.

Certainly not a newcomer to the local webspace, but a new Spinoff team member is illustrator, comic artist and writer Toby Morris. He joined late last year to produce The Side Eye, a unique combination of opinion writing and illustration. He brings a social conscience to his work and brings attention to serious issues in a modern, innovative and captivating way. His band posters are brilliant and he has also put his design and illustration skills to use for brands like Allbirds.

Alex Casey, an early employee at The Spinoff, brilliantly dissects TV series (and embarrassing personal experiences) and makes sure her audience knows what’s what when it comes to local reality TV through recaps and Power Rankings. She is also host of the On the Rag podcast and joins Duncan Greive and Jane Yee on The Real Pod.

Beyond TV, local talent is being displayed in The Breaker Upperers, a comedy by Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek that’s done pretty well at the box office. It’s been running in New Zealand cinemas through May and it was a hit at SXSW in the US. Sami is also known for directing Funny Girls and will star in the upcoming TVNZ drama The Bad Seed. Meanwhile, van Beek’s roles include her starring in What We Do in the Shadows and also Funny Girls.

Roseanne Liang is one to watch and earlier this year she was named as an emerging female director in the Alice Initiative – a survey highlighting 20 female directors primed for a studio directing gig. She’s directed the film My Wedding and Other Secrets, the short Take 3 and web series Flat3.

For a fresh take on sport, The Alternative Commentary Collective (ACC) earns its place for providing laughs and uninformed analysis on sport. Its blogs, videos and podcasts give unique, often quite inappropriate commentary on local and international sport from its contributors including Matt Heath, Jeremy Wells and Leigh Hart.

William ‘Waiirua’ Cribb describes himself as “bringing the zest” and his videos certainly do, as he dances and sings in his futuristic glasses – which can be purchased on his dedicated website. Last year, he used his following to get young Māori to vote in the election in a campaign called ‘#FFS Vote’ and featured in NZ Police’s ‘Freeze’ recruitment campaign. This year he’s been encouraging New Zealanders to eat while drinking in the ‘Always Graze when you liaise’ campaign for Cheers NZ and Foodstuffs.

Gerard Johnstone is a director who’s increasingly playing on the world stage. He’s known for his 2014 horror film Housebound and for absolutely nailing the remake of Terry Teo, but last year made headlines for his involvement with Justice League Dark, where he was hired by Warner Bros and DC to polish the script.

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Hottest Media Tech Startup

Press Patron is the local company behind those ‘Become a supporter’ buttons you see on local websites, such as Newsroom, The Spinoff and Idealog. And as media companies attempt to find ways to fund their work without relying on paywalls or cheap ass online ads, asking readers to offer a donation is a system that’s gaining traction – and something the founder Alex Clark firmly believes is the future of media.

Wellington’s Rollo Wenlock found his inspiration for Wipster in a dirty window. If he could write on that, why not on a video? With experience as a film-maker, motion graphics artist and art director, he harnessed tech to make the video production process smoother and more collaborative. Its US revenue is growing fast and it opened an office in Portland last year. And it has signed on an impressive range of integration partners, like Brightcove, Slack and Vimeo.

Contento matches content from brands hoping to get their messages out there (and up the search results page) with publishers who are willing to run it, taking a cut on each post published. It’s still very early days, but the interface is slick and the demand seems to be there from both sides.

Influencer marketing is big business, with celebrities harnessing their audiences on behalf of brands. It’s still a bit of a Wild West, and The Social Club wants to change that. The idea is that advertisers can connect and run campaigns directly with influencers and, since it was founded in 2015, it has over 4,000 Australasian influencers and plenty of interest from brands who want to connect with them.

Many of us are accustomed to watching live streams of sports, weather or banal moments of modern life. Slightly surprisingly, some have even taken to watching live streams of long journeys, slow-moving drips or baking pies. One Room lets friends and family live stream funerals—and other important events—if they’re unable to be at the church or funeral home there in person. It has validated the concept of an automated camera system in  New Zealand and now it’s taking on the US market.

Parrot Analytics claims to have developed the industry’s “first and only cross-platform, global content demand measurement platform for existing and new TV content”. It crunches the numbers of reasonably secretive SVOD services and provides regular rankings to some of the biggest film and TV industry media outlets. As investment into content by the big global players increases, Parrot Analytics is providing insights to help those producers decide what to make.

Conversation is key when you’re learning a language. But why use humans when you could use ReoBot? As the demand for Te Reo lessons increases, a local start-up is harnessing AI to teach them, allowing users to chat with ReoBot via Facebook messenger for a free lesson.

Zavy, a social analytics platform emanating from the bowels of insights company TRA, successfully raised some cash via a crowd-funding campaign. It’s already got some big local brands using the service to check in on social activity and, importantly, social sentiment, and it’s hoping to take the software global.

Outdoor media has been on the tear recently, with ad spend booming here and around the world. All of the big players have invested heavily in digital screens. But one small player has too. Local startup Lumo has established a few of its own high-resolution large format smart billboards in premium inner-city locations and, if the demand keeps growing and the people keep coming to Auckland, it may prove to be a smart investment.

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Hottest Media Product

Sky TV’s Sky Go app has seen a long-awaited update this year with the addition of catch up TV, box sets and on-demand content on mobile and tablet. All this sits alongside access to 24 live streaming channels as well as up to three Sky Sport pop-up channels to make it a one-stop-app for Sky content. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a massive leap ahead.

Having multiple accounts to watch your favourite shows can be frustrating. But Vodafone TV brings together Sky TV, free-to-air and a range of popular online and app-based entertainment services such as Netflix (if the user has an existing Netflix subscription) together in one system that allows viewers the option to switch between watching on their smartphone, tablet and television.

Curation is an important job for media, especially in an era of content overload, and The Spinoff Bulletin does the hunting for the best of New Zealand’s media and delivers it into subscribers’ inboxes every morning during the week. With some of the country’s best journalism getting lost in the melee, this is, as it says proudly, “unashamedly pro-journalism”.

An example of the best of New Zealand’s modern media is Stuff’s The Valley a documentary series investigates the New Zealand Defence Force’s 2012 battle in Baghak – a valley in Afghanistan – that resulted in the deaths of two New Zealand soldiers. It features a virtual reality experience, six-part online documentary, prime-time broadcast documentary, a long-form read and an interactive website.

For a lesson on politics, Vice’s ‘Battle to the Beehive’ video game was the solution during last year’s election. Created by JWT and Heyday, the Street Fighter-like game taught users about what each party stood while they put each leader up to fight against policy monsters.

Media brands have tried to sell things to their audience. Only a few have managed to do it successfully. But the Idealog + Blunt + Generator Umbrella Experiment went about it in an interesting way and tried to showcase the skills of its design-focused audience by asking them to submit a design that represented modern New Zealand. The response was amazing and the winning entry is currently being made into a limited edition umbrella. A clever example of the media getting into manufacturing.

Also going off the page is The Boy and the Lemon, a children’s book written by James Hurman which has been brought to life in a VR version and an AR version after M Theory managing director Samantha Ramlu caught sight of the book and saw the potential for it to go beyond the page.

The PwC Herald Talks is now in its fourth year of hosting thought-provoking presentations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. As humans hunt for experiences over things, it’s become increasingly popular and the partnership between PwC and NZME is a clever way to get thought leaders connected with those wanting to learn about business trends. Topics have included ‘Business and Bots’ and ‘the Future of Money’.

As smart speakers grow in popularity, most of the major local media companies are looking to get in early and become the go-to for voice-activated news. And 90 Seconds of Stuff is one of the skills created for Amazon’s speakers. As Stuff explains: “Listeners can simply say ‘Alexa, play my flash briefing’ or ‘Alexa, what’s in the news?’ You will then hear a succinct, snappy summary of the best stories from Stuff’s nationwide network of journalists, mixing news of national significance with quirky local gems.” What a time to be alive (unless you’re Alex Jones, who thinks it’s all about mass spying).

Heihei is New Zealand on Air’s attempt at a local challenger to the big global streaming services that are stopping Kiwi kids from developing solid New Zealand accents (and, perhaps more importantly, seeing local, relevant content). Aimed at five- to nine-year-olds, TVNZ was brought in to create the advertising-free platform and 85 percent of the content is locally made (some new shows like Fanimals were commissioned as part of the $12 million content budget). One major point of difference to Netflix and YouTube is that it also features games and audio. And it’s all housed on a slick website (that cost another $1.5 million) and is also available via mobile app.

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Biggest Move

Set to be a big shakeup in 2019 will be Spark and TVNZ’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup (and Spark’s apparent win of the rights to the English Premier League from 2020). The telco and broadcaster out-bid Sky, meaning New Zealanders, not just Spark customers, will be able to stream the matches and related content live or on-demand.

While Spark has made the move to get into broadcasting, it’s been a tough few years for TV as its faced a narrative that the platform is dying. This year, TVNZ, MediaWorks and Sky have come together to form ThinkTV in New Zealand. Acting as a collective industry voice, it promotes TVs strength by giving insights into viewing behaviour and the impact of advertising across free-to-air, subscription and digital television.

When the Commerce Commission denied the NZME/Stuff merger Stuff’s CEO at the time, Greg Hywood said greater focus on cost efficiency will be necessary and further publishing frequency changes and consolidation of titles was an inevitability. This year, that’s been realised with Stuff announcing a plan to close or sell up to 28 of its community and rural newspapers, while its Monday to Friday metropolitain and regional newspapers have been switched at compact form.

Another big print move for company has seen Cuisine bought by editor Kelli Brett and sales manager Vanessa Stranan. The pair signed on the dotted line at the end of 2017, taking the 30-year-old magazine out of Stuff’s hands.

A big talking point of the election and once again when RNZ executive Carol Hirschfeld had coffee with broadcasting minister Clare Curran, has been Radio New Zealand’s transformation into RNZ+. It was a promise made by the Labour Party as well as a $15 million injection into local media to fund quality New Zealand programming and journalism. The industry now waits to see how that will be apportioned between RNZ+ and NZ On Air.

Having proven its success as a website (enough to “win everything at the Voyager Awards”) The Spinoff is gearing up to go out on TV. Created with funding from NZ On Air, The Spinoff TV will air on Three with a weekly package of New Zealand media and public life.

Not only did Sky lose in its attempt to secure the 2019 Rugby World Cup rights, chief executive John Fellet announced his departure after 27 years with the company. The company has a number of developments underway to take advantage of digital opportunities and a new person will be leading the company into that future.

Amazon Prime has come down under to make a documentary about the All Blacks, All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks. Narrated by Taika Waititi and produced by Pango Productions in conjunction with Warner Bros, it follows the team through 2017’s Lions tour. While the series comes out on Amazon Prime on 1 June, Sky will also be showing it after striking an exclusive deal with Amazon.

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Hottest Content Marketers

With a new show on TVNZ OnDemand focused on New Zealand innovators, the Spark Lab digital content and events series, and its close involvement with The Spinoff to promote its Lightbox service and Spotify deals, Spark has been quick to understand the value of good content when it comes to growing brand love.

More than just a retail brand, Mitre 10 has put itself in the home-improvement media space with its own on-demand platform to sit alongside its ‘Easy As’ campaign. It’s home to a series offering advice and inspiration, with UK TV architect George Clarke fronting some of the videos, there’s some definite star power.

Another brand that understands the role of media is Resene with its Habitat platform. Having launched in 2004, it outperforms other magazines in the lifestyle category, with one of the largest social followings, a popular website and a distribution model that sees it going out to Resene cardholders. More recently, it’s been making clever how-to video content that has been very popular online.

Air New Zealand has long understood the power of its brand and it has invested heavily in teams that can create entertaining, topical content on social media. This complements the larger pieces of work created through its agency partnerships like its regular safety videos, which, when they first launched, were an entirely new media channel and still show that something created by a brand (even one telling people about safety) can be legitimately interesting. It owns one of the most successful magazines in the country, Kia Ora, and its sustainability report for 2017 was a media product in itself, featuring videos showcasing its efforts in different areas such as language, power and vehicles.

Making the move to fund a TV show rather than simply pay to position it alongside interesting content was a bold move by Kiwibank but it appears to have paid off. Mind Over Money has returned for another season this year after the first season achieved an average audience of 410,700 per episode according to Nielsen – and hit all the right notes from a brand perspective.

Most coffee brands focus on their beans. Supreme does too, but it also focuses on its merch and it has come up with some strangely enticing products like barista socks and barista soap. Its new project Supreme Press also supports art projects.

Allbirds has taken off in large part due to word of mouth, plenty of it orchestrated through clever media relations to influencers who they hope will tell everyone about them. It has also created a series of interesting events and collaborations with the likes of Cocos Cantina and various cities around the world that help to create social buzz.

Whether it’s AR-enhanced pizza boxes that allow you play video games, clever new products and promotions that often get media attention, or campaigns created in-house (like the recent work to announce its e-bike delivery service), Hell Pizza has long understood the importance of being more interesting than the next best option. At times, that went too far, but now the team have found their groove.

Tourism New Zealand certainly has a good product to play with and the connection to The Lord of the Rings was a marketing masterstroke that’s still paying dividends. But it’s also done a good job of promoting the country through digital and social channels. Its use of user-generated content is world-class, it makes the most of its international endorsements and, recently, its campaign featuring Rhys Darby and Jacinda Ardern investigating why New Zealand doesn’t feature on many maps went viral.

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Hottest Big Media Company

As brand-building comes back into focus, TV has remained an important tool to reach fragmented audiences. The audiences are still there for TVNZ and advertising revenue was up on the previous year; it has doubled down on sports with the Commonwealth Games, the Winter Olympics and, along with Spark, the Rugby World Cup; its OnDemand offering is strong; and it’s looking for ways to evolve with projects like New Blood and the creation of The Creator’s Space with new technology and equipment for New Zealanders to bring their ideas to life. The spectre of RNZ+, which is slated to get the biggest chunk of an additional $15m budget (which was set to be $38 million during the election campaign), is hanging over it though.

NZME certainly isn’t floating down the rivers of gold that print advertising and classifieds used to create, but the company is still profitable and, with its array of media assets – print, digital, radio and ecommerce – it is be positioned to adapt after the declined NZME/Stuff merger and is increasingly joining those once disparate divisions up. It has launched a whole heap of new digital products, including  OneRoof, YUDU and Driven, to shift the company away from its reliance on display advertising.

Magazines are battling for a share of advertising revenue (especially with agencies), retail sales and subscriptions are generally dropping and the costs are going up. It’s a tough gig, but Bauer is still the biggest game in town, its titles still have a massive (paid-for) audience, its research panels are incredibly valuable to clients, it is using its skills to create more content for brands, it is finding new distribution models and embracing the idea that media companies need to invest in creators, not operational staff.

RNZ’s undergone a digital transformation over the past few years to expand its audience across radio, online and even TV with Checkpoint. Once seen as a journalistic backwater, it’s now an island of integrity. Its radio performance has remained strong with RNZ National showing no sign of losing its dominance as top news station and number one breakfast show. And if its audience wasn’t big enough, partnerships with Fairfax, NZME, MSN, TVNZ, Bauer and Te Papa is taking it wider. Now, with the transformation to RNZ+ and the Labour Government having $15 million to share between RNZ and NZ On Air, we wait to see what’s in store.

MediaWorks has had a pretty rough ride over the past few years. But in the post-Weldon era, CEO Michael Anderson has done a good job of steadying the ship. The decision to integrate all its news brands into Newshub was difficult but necessary, its TV business still battles commercially but it’s been a good year for ratings, the senior team has remained solid after a period of major flux and radio continues to grow – and bolster the business.

Carving its own path in the local media landscape is Vice New Zealand. It unearths stories that aren’t covered in mainstream media in written news stories and documentaries, including its Zelandia series which has covered topics including the dangers on synthetic cannabis and the teens caught up in the country’s criminal justice system. Some of those documentaries have the opportunity to appear on Sky’s Viceland. And while it’s worked to uncover untold stories, it also proved to be a useful platform during the 2017 Election when Vice teamed up with the Electoral Commission to create content encouraging young voters to vote.

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Most Influential Person in Media

As someone smart once said, if you’re an influencer, you don’t have any real influence. But these people do, whether it’s the ability to attract attention across different channels or their impact on the broader media industry.

Broadcasting, communications and digital media minister Clare Curran has been open about her desire to shake up public broadcasting. And, after an ill-fated coffee with Carol Hirschfeld that bypassed the appropriate processes, most agree she was a little too open. But that doesn’t change the fact that she gets to decide where the extra millions from the new Labour government will go. Most of it is slated to go towards RNZ in an effort to create a truly national broadcaster, leaving the increasingly commercially-focused TVNZ in what many believe is a reasonably precarious position and other commercial broadcasters asking for a more level playing field.

Spark has already invested heavily in media partnerships with Netflix and Spotify and invested in its own product Lightbox to bolster its proposition and become more than just a dumb pipe. This is happening around the world and in what would have to rank as one the biggest land grabs in New Zealand sport broadcasting history, Simon Moutter has given an already browbeaten Sky another uppercut by outbidding them, alongside free-to-air broadcaster TVNZ, for the rights to the Rugby World Cup in 2020. If you believe the hype, this changes everything.

Some say the Hosking/Hawkesby family have more opinions than all other New Zealand families combined. But Mike and Kate, who kick off the day on Newstalk ZB and then, somehow, continue to pump out opinions throughout the day in video snippets and story form on nzherald.co.nz. He may have left our primetime TV screens, but Hosking’s impact doesn’t seem to have been diluted and the Hosking Effect means he has that most appealing of abilities for his employers: those who love him, love him, and those who hate him, can’t seem to help themselves.

The host of RNZ’s Mediawatch programme, Colin Peacock doesn’t get quite the number of clicks and/or violent hatred as The Hosk, but he does hold sway in the media industry, working hard to explain the big shifts, interviewing the big players to find out what they’re thinking and calling out those who don’t abide by the rules.

As the managing editor of NZME, Shayne Currie has a massive array of news media firepower at his disposal with The Herald, some of the country’s biggest radio brands and a host of new digital journalism projects. While the clicks still drive plenty of bad media behaviour, there is still a huge amount of great journalism and commentary being created, something that has become increasingly important in the PR-infused, Trumpian era.

Last year, Mark Berry from the Commerce Commission took out the title of Most Influential because of the huge impact its two decisions (declining both the Sky/Vodafone and Fairfax/NZME mergers) had on the media industry. Fairfax and NZME have appealed, and lost. But the star-crossed lovers are not done yet and the High Court will decide if they will be together at last. The chosen judges could decide the fate of many journalists.

Everywhere she goes, the media follows – and often fawns. You expect the prime minister to receive plenty of local media attention, and she has had that from the very beginning. But Jacinda Ardern has become something of a global media powerhouse, with her progressive attitudes, disarming Kiwi charm, famous pregnancy, fish-loving partner and good looks capturing the attention of the world’s media and helping to boost the profile of New Zealand. Soon she’ll no doubt be knocking on Helen Clark’s door as one of the most influential women in the world.

David Walsh, the NZ Post CEO, may not spring to mind as a true media influencer, but the decision of the SOE to significantly raise the price of postage has a major influence on the costs that various magazine publishers, brands that publish magazines, such as Resene, AA and Sky, and brands that send out material to customers have to bear. With price rises in some cases of over 30 percent, it’s a major shock to an already struggling print media system.

At a time when New Zealand is still figuring out its modern identity, Guyon Espiner has taken the bull by the horns, proudly speaking Te Reo on the country’s most popular breakfast show, Morning Report, and, with the full endorsement of RNZ CEO Paul Thompson, inspiring many other reporters to start using it too. He became the target of abuse from plenty of old racists (shout out to Don Brash), but he stuck to his guns and while many are doing their bit to save the language, taking Te Reo to the mainstream has had a big impact.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos likes to play the long game. It has invested many billions into creating its own original content and analysts say it is eyeing up live sports rights, alongside Facebook. In this market, it will soon launch its All or Nothing series, with one episode based on a year spent following the All Blacks, on Amazon Prime. With Sky recently losing the RWC rights, some believe it’s only a matter of time until someone like Bezos finishes it off for good by snatching away the jewel in its sporting crown: All Blacks rights.

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Media Visionary

Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop has long been at the forefront of film, but it’s now at the forefront of an entirely new form of media, Mixed Reality. It has been called on by one of the world’s most exciting (and secretive) startups, Magic Leap, to help create one of its first games. Weta officially launched what it calls the “world’s first specialist mixed reality development studio” this year and this technology has the potential to completely change the way we play games.

Dr Mark Sagar, the CEO of Soul Machines, started off in film and is now on a mission to humanise artificial intelligence. And he’s doing pretty bloody well. With digital assistants becoming more intuitive, and brands starting to invest in digital humans that respond to their environment, this could change the way people interact with brands and have big implications for customer service, potentially spelling the end of phone or text-based systems (and the start of paid-for digital facsimiles).

Script-writer, documentary maker, producer, art lecturer, digital innovator, Lisa Taouma has dedicated her life to telling the stories of the Pacific. As producer of pioneering Pacific Island youth show Fresh, and the creator of Thecoconet.tv, an online hub for Pacific moving image content online that is funded by NZ on Air, she’s an important link in the chain of New Zealand’s Pacific identity.  

Around two years ago Tony O’Regan saw a gap in the market for – and a new way to deliver – local news. So he created the Wanaka App, which shows “daily news, sports reports, weather, road information and paid-for directories ranging from trades and services to restaurants and jobs”. Since then, six other regions have followed suit under a licensing arrangement and the Wellington App is launching soon. often employing journalists who have been ousted from the big media companies.

While Sinead Boucher doesn’t have the same variety of resources as NZME and her company doesn’t have as much of a presence in Auckland, there’s still plenty of editorial innovation happening under her watch – whether podcast series like Black Hands or impressive digital storytelling – and she has an understanding that media companies need to do more than simply sell space – and particularly digital space – to advertisers if they want to survive. Times are tough for the newly named Stuff, but it is has created a host of new products – such as fibre, SVOD, energy and insurance – under Boucher’s watch and is selling those products to its audience.

Aleisha Staples has got an AR/VR tiger by the tail. Not only is her company creating immersive experiences for brands like Fire and Emergency’s award-winning ‘Escape My House’ campaign or using the technology to calm kids in hospitals, it has also created a separate business renting out equipment to others hoping to dabble in this booming media sector.

Amie Mills, an expert in the field of transmedia storytelling and children’s and digital commissioner at TVNZ, has helped orchestrate large-scale multi-faceted campaigns and show promotions, and was instrumental in its web series competition, New Blood, which aims to “create content that is different, provocative and champions diversity – through a range of voices, ethnicities, genders, sexuality, beliefs”. The winning show, Oddly Even, is now playing on TVNZ OnDemand and, in what is generally seen as a mark of success in TV, the scheme is back again this year, with a few tweaks.

Quinton Hita is probably best known for his role as an ambulance driver on Shortland Street. But now he’s driving something else: Māori development through the media. He runs Kura Productions, a joint venture with South Pacific Pictures that has been behind the game show Kupuhuna, interview series Kowhao Rao, kids programme Pukoro and, most recently, contemporary series Ahikaroa. As he told The Herald recently: “Some people are in this industry because they live and breathe film and television, but that’s not my motivation. My motivation is Māori development. I see this as a burgeoning industry and it has really positive benefits for the reo.” 

Ian Taylor, the founder of Animation Research Limited, has carved out a position as a world leader when it comes to sports graphics. Its company Virtual Eye started off on America’s Cup visualisations around 25 years ago and has produced graphics and animations for cricket, golf, sailing, motorsports and snow sports. Technology includes graphics showing fielding positions in cricket, and providing 3D tracks and driving lines in Formula One. But he is not only influential when it comes to broadcast media. He’s also an outspoken proponent of New Zealand’s design and tech sector, something clearly demonstrated in our America’s Cup win. He’s also pushing for the Māori economy to embrace tech and IT solutions to enhance the primary industries.

Rhonda Kite is the founder of Kiwa Digital, the self-styled “world’s leading production house for experiential digital books”. Now based in the United Arab Emirates to developed new business in the Middle East, she has more than 20 years experience in the production industry and founded the company in 2003 as a company with a focus on foreign-language dubbing solutions in the screen industry. She then pushed into publishing and used tech to make the literary worlds of authors and illustrators come to life – and other languages, including sign language and Te Reo, also included.

Whether it’s creating content through his brand Frontside (which started off as an action sports production company and was recently sold to Publicis Group), harnessing new channels to broadcast, speaking around the country on tech and Māori development, or regularly spouting off his opinions in video form across pretty much every social channel, there’s nothing traditional about the way Robett Hollis uses media to get attention.

Laura Maxwell has been at the head of NZME’s digital team for a few years now. And while the digital riches certainly haven’t replaced print, that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. There was a major redesign of nzherald.co.nz last year, a host of new online video shows like Economy Hub and ANZ Sports Scene and the launch of a range of new, more transactional products like OneRoof, YUDU and Driven that are trying to shift the company away from its reliance on display advertising.

Duncan Greive stepped down as editor of The Spinoff last year, but he’s still its undisputed spirit animal. Since it started in 2014, it’s grown into a real and very innovative player in the local digital media scene. Its funding model is largely based around sponsorship of specific sections, which sometimes raises questions about independence, but its content – whether text, visual, audio or video – is always high quality, its contributors are world-class, its commercial ideas are interesting, its audience is growing and it’s also expanding into TV with a new show planned this year.

John McRae, the managing director of Let’s Play Live, sees eSports as the next big thing in broadcasting and wants to educate brands about the opportunities. While it still sounds strange to many non-gamers, eSports are starting to boom as a viewing and event experience and drawing massive crowds, to the point where billionaires who own NFL and NBA teams have started to buy gaming teams and professional players are getting rich. Previously part of Duco events, McRae helped launch the first gaming show on Sky and the first inter-school gaming competition.

A man of many talents, Bailey Mackey started off as a radio DJ and sports reporter, before deciding to go behind the scenes and create shows. He has a strong focus on Māori content programming for broad audiences and he’s good at it, with his company Pango Productions making shows like Marae, the semi-topical, fully satirical Brown Eye with Taika Waititi and the high profile reality show The GC. The cooking series The Game Chef has been sold to the National Geographic channel and Sidewalk Karaoke, which takes singing to the streets and was Māori Television’s number one show of 2016, is set to be rolled out across up to 30 different markets. Not only that, he’s also started a tech company called Kaha aimed at the film sector.

The universally loved Jon Bridges has been part of the local TV furniture for years, first in front of the camera, and now more often behind it making great shows. He played an important role developing New Zealand’s comedy scene, he’s a big part of the 7 Days juggernaut, one of the main forces behind The Project, and a prodigious and very entertaining author, blogger and columnist.

GrownUps general manager Richard Poole deserves a place on this list for creating a media platform to service those over 50. In 2006, he and entrepreneur Shane Bradley identified an opportunity to help the 50-plus make the most of every day with a website serving up information for them that had no existing home in the local media market. That’s idea turned into GrownUps, a New Zealand lifestyle website, social club and brain training hub for over the 50-plus as well as being a platform for advertisers looking to access the 50-plus market.

Many don’t like his outspoken and occasionally aggressive approach, but there’s no doubt NBR publisher Todd Scott has a vision. Some may say it’s tunnel vision, but he is very clear in his belief that the only ethical way to fund a newsroom is to create essential news and charge readers for it. That means he’s alienated some advertisers recently – and said goodbye to a few columnists who haven’t reached his standards of independence – but he’s sticking to his guns and continuing to invest in online media.

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