The Hot List winners: Creator

RNZ’s head of audience strategy Stephen Smith

Hottest Creator: Radio New Zealand

Nominees: Wrestler, Augusto, Eli Smit, Jake Millar, Radio New Zealand
People’s Choice: Augusto 

As a public service broadcaster and Crown entity, RNZ has almost no capacity to market itself – but in the last year, it’s asserted itself as one of the most innovative and prolific creators in the country. From launching new radio shows and top-quality podcasts to announcing media partnerships with commercial organisations regularly: RNZ is now a trendy and progressive place to be informed and entertained.

According to head of audience strategy Stephen Smith, the innovations launched so far are merely the foothills of RNZ’s plan to diversify and innovate. But while commercial media companies can
rely on advertising to shout about new launches and reach growth audiences – RNZ has to be creative about building a rapport with New Zealanders.

The key driver for change has been RNZ’s mission to develop a lifelong relationship with the people of New Zealand. While some Kiwis have been devoted to RNZ, and its predecessor New Zealand Public Radio, for years, there is still a large portion of society that doesn’t know what RNZ is all about.

“We’ve got these fantastic relationships on the radio side,” Smith says.

“But many New Zealanders may not use radio or may not see RNZ as being their radio station.

“We are genuine about wanting to engage people who may not have had a relationship with RNZ in the past. We need to do a better job at continuing to build on what we’re doing at RNZ National as well as do new and different things to reach other audiences.”

That quest to be the lifelong default for New Zealanders sets RNZ apart from commercially-minded companies. While others have to be strategic about their target demographic – particularly for effective advertising – RNZ can reach children as young as babies.

In May, RNZ launched a new online platform designed for children, called Storytime. The platform is a first of its kind and holds a collection of hundreds of read-out-loud stories from New Zealand children’s authors – read by New Zealand actors.

Storytime includes RNZ’s archive of children’s books (previously called Treasure Chest), with a bunch of new stories and Smith says RNZ is proud to offer children a platform free from commercial complications or objectionable content.

“People are beginning to see the value in auditory experiences where kids can use their imaginations to visualise stories. There’s something really powerful in that.”

RNZ also launched a science podcast for kids, Nanogirl’s Great Science Adventure, which answers burning questions children have about the world. A new podcast, Moe & Friends, will be released later this year featuring characters from the popular children’s television series The Moe Show.

In February, RNZ used its limited advertising budget to roll out a out- of-home campaign in Auckland. The campaign was a bid to drive radio listenership in the region and used witty, self-reflected captions including ‘Admittedly, for an ad-free radio station, this is a big ad’.

Smith says the campaign was a good example of how RNZ is trying to reach out to new audiences.

“We were pleased with the Auckland campaign, it’s not about changing the content of RNZ National, it’s about reaching out to people who we were sure would value it.”

Podcast pros

About two years ago, RNZ transitioned its podcast offering from a catch-up service to a collection of world-class podcast series’ in their own right. First, it was about creating a presence in the podcast space, and then it was about using the tricks of the trade learnt from decades of broadcasting to develop high-quality content that serves New Zealanders. And now the focus is not just on audio content, with RNZ increasingly looking to multimedia presentations of its shows.

“You’ll continue to see the multimedia expression of our strong storytelling,” Smith says.

“We start off at radio, but as people have seen with shows like Checkpoint – video plays a role and we’re looking at how to build on and complement the work we’re doing with further innovation around those distribution points.”

In November 2018, RNZ launched its first podcast with a youth bent, Eating Fried Chicken in the Shower with comedian James Nokise who has open discussions about mental health with his interviewees while they’re both fully dressed in the shower.

In April, RNZ and Newsroom launched a new daily news podcast, The Detail, which is designed to explain the stories behind the headlines. The benefits of working in collaboration with other companies are two-fold for RNZ.

“RNZ has a strong commitment to the sharing of our content with other media organisations and The Detail is an example of doing that. But also RNZ is increasingly looking to creators of content – people who have skills, knowledge and access that we might not have within RNZ.

“It’s not just about access to stories, but also access to those audiences. Working with Pasifika and Maori makers of content is particularly important to RNZ.”

Coming up

Over the next 12 months, New Zealanders can expect to see a lot more innovative content hitting whichever RNZ platform they choose to engage with, whether that be radio, online or podcasts.

RNZ has a number of new signature projects, including the NZ Wars: The Stories of Taranaki podcast which follows up on the award-winning The Stories of Ruapekapeka series in 2017.

Another documentary series exploring the notion of a predator-free New Zealand, called Protecting Paradise will also include video content, and Hip Hop Don’t Stop will reach RNZ’s growth audience by exploring the evolution of the genre in New Zealand.

With the election coming up next year, RNZ is aiming to bridge the gap created by the lack of civics lessons in New Zealand’s curriculum by launching educational comedy web-series The Citizen’s Handbook. The series will cover the basics of New Zealand history, politics, law, economics and international relations.

The Unfold Pacific Story similarly reaches out to the Maori and Pacifika growth audiences – the web-series explores the history of events in the Pacific and New Zealand’s role.

With podcasting now a prominent way Kiwis engage with news and entertainment, Smith says there will always be fresh podcast content on RNZ’s release radar.

“Podcasts are really mainstream, and one of the important roles that RNZ is playing in the New Zealand podcast ecosystem is we’re leading the charge around the production across a range of genres: kids, news, and entertainment-based podcasts.”

We’ll be posting the rest of the Hot List over the next few weeks. To get a print copy of the Hot List, subscribe here to NZ Marketing.

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