The Hot List: vote for the best thinkers, brands and shows in New Zealand media

Hottest Magazine

Having taken out last year’s title of Magazine of the Year at the MPA Awards, there’s no denying NZ Geographic a spot in this category. The judges called it a “national icon” and its consistent quality of journalism and photography is sure to keep it that way.

Nine years on, Mindfood is another strong player, providing up to date news and info on health, style, food, beauty and travel. Earlier this year, it boasted a total readership of 241,000 according to Nielsen, with a total domestic circulation of 38,188 (as at September 2016).

For younger eyes, Miss FQ has emerged to fill the void left by Cleo closing down at the end of last year. It’s taken on Cleo‘s style of content but has a more sophisticated feel as it piggybacks on the popular Fashion Quarterly brand. 

Bauer also added Paperboy to its portfolio in the past year, which was a brave move considering it’s a free print product. Led by Jeremy Hansen, the weekly publication sells itself as a magazine for Auckland’s urban adventurers and is fittingly distributed around the city’s transport hubs.  

Not appearing on the shelves in print but still a strong contender, The Spinoff excels at providing entertaining commentary on society alongside some clever brand partnerships. Readers appear to be appreciating the content with editor Duncan Greive reporting a record month for April 2017, with 973,797 visitors (national and international) to the site.

As the foremost publication on innovation, design and technology in New Zealand, Idealog deserves a worthy mention. With former MPA Editor of the Year Ben Fahy at the helm, its move from six issues a year to three topic-focused ones has proven highly successful, with its readers embracing the changes and following it through that transition.

Filling the pipes of the lifestyle category, Homestyle is an example of a small publisher exceeding expectations Produced by The Pluto Group, the bi-monthy magazine has an engaged community of New Zealanders that it feeds with stories on up-and-coming artists, designers and creatives.

Hottest Editor

“A great editor is like a meatloaf,” writes Frank Bruni, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. “By which I mean: There is a multitude of kinds, and all get the job done, deploying different recipes for the same result, which is your nourishment.”

In New Zealand’s limited media landscape, ‘nourishment’ is admittedly in short supply, but there are editors out there that know how to deliver the goods. The Weekend Herald won big at the Canons this year, a feat made possible by the deft touch of its editor Miriyana Alexander, whose efforts have now landed her the annual Wolfson Fellowship to study at Cambridge University.

On the magazine side of things, Jeremy Hansen has been steering the ship over at Bauer for several years now, first at the award-winning Home magazine, and now for the trendy pages of Paperboy. Bauer has also been lucky enough to be graced with the talents of Shelley Ferguson who—when she’s not hosting Three’s hit show The Block—edits Nadia, Taste and Your Home and Garden which earned her the title of Editor of the Year at the most recent MPA Awards.

Lastly, with the ever-expanding nature of The Spinoff, Duncan Greive deserves plenty of kudos for going against the grain and creating the country’s most exciting media brand for a very long time.


Hottest Radio Brand

It’s not a Hottest Radio Brand run down without an appearance from The Edge, which continues to hold strong in the latest Radio Surveys with the highest audience (662,300). Its prevalence in the youth and entertainment sector is undeniable, bolstering its roster of talent by bringing Jono and Ben on board this year alongside its ongoing work with The Edge TV.

RNZ puts in a strong performance in the battle of the news stations, with RNZ National boasting 579,400 listeners. That performance has been bolstered by the stations’ expansion into online and TV platforms, which has seen its loyal audience follow it while growing in size.

And while they’re not quite up there in audience numbers, rock station Radio Hauraki has to make an appearance here for achieving growth across all of its shows, while hip hop and RnB station Mai FM gets a mention for its significant growth of 33,100 listeners in the last survey.

Hottest Radio Show

Radio voices are like a familiar friend, their sounds gracing our eardrums in the car, at home and increasingly, in podcasts or online. Over at ZM, Fletch, Vaughan and Megan have helped reinvigorate the station’s breakfast slot, experiencing a sizeable growth in this year’s Radio Surveys. Over at its rival The Edge, Jono, Ben and Sharyn come out on top for their afternoon time slot, with the station dealing deftly with the departures of Guy Williams and Clint Roberts late last year. Meanwhile, the Hauraki Breakfast with Matt & Jerry have long been entertaining audiences with their parodies, banter and shock jock antics.

On the news side of things, RNZ’s Morning Report pipped its commercial competitors in the Radio Surveys, experiencing an increase of over 50,000 listeners and making the Guyon Espiner/Susie Ferguson anchored show a staple for listeners’ daily morning catch-up.

Lastly, despite being a late outside contender, RNZ’s 9th Floor (also featuring Espiner) gets a mention for offering something a little bit different. It’s been receiving plenty of social media buzz over the last few weeks, and is currently the 12th most popular podcast on iTunes at the time of writing, with the show also securing a broadcast deal with Mediaworks to be aired on TV later in the year. 

Hottest TV Show (Drama)

It goes without question that Shortland Street has to be included in this category. Having reached the milestone of 25 years and still going strong, the soap has become somewhat of a backbone to New Zealand’s cultural identity while continuing its role as the preeminent stomping ground for the local acting community. 

Its competitor, Westside, has only had a few seasons on air so it’s too soon to see if it will follow in Shorty’s footsteps. But what we do know is that it was the highest rated local drama in 2015 and second highest in 2016, and if it’s predecessor Outrageous Fortune is anything to go by, it’s got a strong future ahead.

Also made with funding from NZ On Air, TVNZ’s Hillary documented the life of the man who conquered Everest and Antarctica. In six-parts, the series intrigued audiences as they learned of Sir Ed’s hard youth as well as his struggles to reach the top of the highest peak in the world. It’s still on TVNZ OnDemand for those who have yet to hear the story of one of our nation’s heroes.

Meanwhile, over on Prime, The Brokenwood Mysteries is three seasons in to solving Agatha Christie-syle murder mysteries. The South Pacific Pictures drama airs in the US, France, Italy and Australia, and a fourth season has been confirmed for this year.

Hottest TV Show (Comedy)

The New Zealand media space offers up plenty of opportunities for laughs, and 7 Days has been delivering just that. Jeremy Corbett, Dai Henwood and Paul Ego have been steering the panel’s ship since 2009, providing pithy and comedic commentary on the week’s news and current events. Mediaworks’ other entertainment offering, Jono & Ben, have now become powerhouses in their own right, with the show regularly pulling in celebrity talent from the network’s extensive roster of personalities. Their antics, pranks and even heartfelt confessions have attracted plenty of social media buzz.

Meanwhile, providing a different type of comedy, Funny Girls, has been approved for a third season this year. Combining the comedic talents of Rose Matafeo, Jackie van Beek, Laura Daniel and Kimberly Crossman, the show dispels the age-old misconception that women just aren’t funny (as if!).

Over on TVNZ OnDemandTerry Teo (also broadcast on air) and Darryl: An Outward Bound Story are also building momentum. The former follows a young crook turned detective who’s on a mission to avenge his father’s murder while the latter follows a hopeless long distance runner as he tries to get his mojo back.

Lastly, Family Feud, is having an impressive streak in Three’s weeknight 5:30pm spot as New Zealanders continue to sign up to the challenge. Bolstered by Dai Henwood’s energetic hosting abilities, the classic quiz show makes for amusing pre-news bulletin viewing. It’s also notable that All Star Family Feud took out third position on MediaWorks‘ top five shows of 2016.

Hottest TV Show (Reality)

Locally produced reality TV shows have become the driver of watercooler conversation with The Bachelor and Real Housewives of Auckland proving particularly successful in the role by providing the country’s necessary dose of scandal. The Bachelor NZ was the fifth most popular show in MediaWorks‘ offering last year, while Real Housewives of Auckland generated thousands of social media mentions with every juicy episode.

Away from the glamourThe Block has made itself a familiar favourite on screen, with its final auction night episode drawing in some of Three’s biggest audience numbers. There’s a sixth season in store for this year, which will no doubt attract the eyeballs of families, renovation enthusiasts and reality show junkies alike.

Lastly, although Survivor‘s only just launched amid a lot of hype, TVNZ’s local version of the hit show is promising to be as good as the international versions of the format. Let the backstabbing ensue.

Hottest TV Show (Factual)

Scoring a spot on TVNZ’s top 20 shows of 2017 (so far) is Kiwibank’s Mind Over Money. Hosted by Nigel Latta, it’s proved a successful solution for the bank in terms of educating its audience about money and the psychology of spending, with audiences responding by tuning in on TV and online.

Meanwhile, Gloriavale: A Woman’s Place has generated plenty of buzz among viewers as it opened up a local community many of us didn’t even know existed. Continuing to fascinate and intrigue audiences, the notoriously isolated Christian community has already been the subject of two top-rating documentaries in previous years. But Gloriavale can still pull an audience, topping 2016’s list of most watched TV shows in New Zealand.

Hyundai Country Calendar has been giving an insight into local rural life since 1966. It continues to thrive in its 7pm Sunday night spot, registering as TVNZ’s third top show of 2016. Coast New Zealand is also an expose of the country, but rather than focus on the people, it examines New Zealand’s glorious natural environment. 

On a completely different note, the creators of Neighbours at War have come back with a vengeance with Gutsful which shows Kiwis voicing their gripes, grizzles and grievances about behaviour in their communities. It’s indignant complaining at its best. 

Hottest TV Show (News & Current Affairs)

It’s still relatively new to air, but The Project features in this category for being brave enough to try something different in the 7pm spot. Fusing comedy, banter and journalistic flair to tackle the day’s most topical issues, the show has yet to reach its Australian counterpart’s level of relevance, but it’s certainly making an impressive attempt at breaking Seven Sharp’s nightly hegemony.

While The Project steers the weekday evening ship, weekend mornings are in the trusty hands of Lisa Owen and Patrick Gower on The Nation. As the duo dissects and investigates the week’s most newsworthy issues, The Nation deserves plenty of kudos for excelling in the less-than-primetime spot, regularly hosting interesting insights from politicians, academics and commentators from New Zealand and abroad.

In a similar vein, Sunday has been informing audiences about politics and topical issues for years now, making themselves an informative addition to a relaxing Sunday night. The show was ranked TVNZ’s fifth most popular show of 2016.

While the first three keep up with current affairs, Attitude and The Crowd Goes Wild tell stories of a different kind. Attitude has been telling the stories of those living with disabilities for years while The Crowd Goes Wild keeps New Zealand sports fans up to date with a dose of good humour. 

Hottest TV Show (SVOD) 

We’re living in a golden age of television, with the quality of small screen content burgeoning in an era of streaming videos on demand (SVOD). Netflix made its clearest mark yet as a proponent of premium viewing with its sci-fi hit Stranger Things last year. More recently, it’s received a spike in popularity (not to mention controversy) with its teen-oriented/Selena Gomez produced show 13 Reasons Why. Netflix also picked up Black Mirror last year from the BBC, catapulting Charlie Brooker’s dystopian observations of technology in the modern age into universal fame.

Clearly, dystopian sci-fi thrillers are in at the moment, with the story of an android-populated western theme park (Westworld) and a neurotic cybersecurity engineer and hacker (Mr Robot) making big splashes on the TV circuit.

American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson also made a splash after debuting last year, revisiting the infamous legal and emotional wrangles of ‘the trial of the century’. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II’s reign was also revisited in the hit biographical drama The Crown, attesting to our endurable fascination with the British monarchy.

On a considerably different note, Bojack Horseman’s crude, asinine antics made it an animated hit among misanthropic adults, while Abstract: The Art of Design showcases both documentary television and innovative design at its best.


Hottest Production Company

We may be a small nation at the bottom of the world, but our production companies aren’t letting that define them. For Augusto, that’s visible in its recent expansion with its New York office, its Everest Rescue series on the Discovery Network and a win of work for Adidas Rugby out of Germany. Curious Films is also doing work for international brands such as Mini and T Mobile, while providing a laugh with Hunt for the Wilderpeople with Taika Waititi on its list of directors.

Fish also boasts an impressive directors list, including Dennis Hitchcock, Lee Tamahori and Paolo Rotondo, who added Orphans & Kingdoms to the production company’s portfolio.

Making a name for itself with local comedy is The Down Low Concept, which is the brains behind 7 Days and Best Bits, as well as short-form comedy series The Critic and the Pig.

On the other hand, Ruckus‘ founding trio of Nigel Latta, director Mitchell Hawkes and producer Arwen O’Connor have created the entertaining and factual series The Hard Stuff with Nigel LattaNigel Latta Blows Stuff Up and most recently, the successful Mind Over Money series for Kiwibank.

And it wouldn’t be a list of the hottest production companies without The Sweet Shop as it’s taken out Production Company of the Year at the Axis Award for six years in a row. This year, it is also added three D&AD pencils to its much-crowded shelf.

Hottest News Anchor

While none of our nominees quite have the daring panache of Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy, they do still put up a decent contest in the Best News Anchor stakes. John Campbell, one of the country’s most recognisable and long-standing voices of reason, keeps the combative journalistic flair going with his drive-time show on RNZ. His multitalented colleague, Jesse Mulligan, impresses by entertaining and informing audiences on both his afternoon spot on RNZ and his weekday hosting gig at Three’s The Project.

Speaking of The Project, Mulligan’s hosting partner Kanoa Lloyd has also impressed with her versatile talents. From Sticky TV host to weather presenter to infotainment show anchor, Lloyd’s consistency and charm makes her an accomplished on-screen presence.

Three’s plentiful hosting talents are also on show with Samantha Hayes’ ascension to primetime Newshub anchor, seamlessly undertaking the unenviable role of succeeding Hilary Barry.

Lastly, Barry’s new co-host on Breakfast Jack Tame has also put himself on the anchor map. He’s moved through the TVNZ ranks from reporter to US correspondent to morning presenter, whilst also juggling his Saturday duties at Newstalk ZB. 

Hottest TV Channel

While TV battles against a perception that it’s dying, our channel picks should be enough to show the end isn’t quite in sight.

Bravo’s strategy to launch with The Real Housewives of Auckland set the tone for the channel as being a cornucopia of reality TV. Don’t deny it, we all love a bit of mindless viewing, and it’s since been delivering the goods with Millionaire Matchmaker, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Dance Moms.  

On the other hand, Duke set itself apart by being TVNZ’s solution to finding the eyes of 18- to 39-year-old males. A year on, it hasn’t failed in that mission as it boasts a 57 percent male skew

MediaWorks has also seen a change to its offering with its rebrand of Three, making it energetic, playful and a voice that talks to the lucrative demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds.

And while Viceland is not available on free-to-air TV, it’s delivering younger Sky subscribers a plethora of documentary-style programmes with Grace Neutral’s Needles & Pins, Ellen Page’s Gaycation and Action Bronson’s F*ck That’s Delicious.

Hottest Digital Media Brand

As much as digital is often blamed for decimating the revenue stream of traditional media channels, it has also spawned a range of interesting products that offer users a greater range of choice than they’ve ever had in history. In the last few years, we’ve had The Spinoff, The Wireless, Noted, NZ Herald Focus and Newsroom all added to a digital news menu that already includes more established players, such as Stuff and Vice.

But it isn’t only about news. Digital media brands also provide utility. Whether its Neighbourly connecting communities, Metservice keeping us up to date on approaching cyclones or Concrete Playground recommending the best things to do, digital media brands have burrowed their way into all the nooks and crannies of our lives. 


Hottest Digital Creator

As we live in a time overloaded with digital content, it takes a special sort of person to make something that will stop people in their tracks and stand out from the viral noise.

RNZ’s youth-oriented platform The Wireless has consistently delivered the goods when it comes to quality online content, with Toby Morris’ animated observations on New Zealand life for ‘The Pencilsword’ putting the publication firmly on the map, while Lucy Zee’s wry commentary on her video series ‘What’s Going On?’ gives an alternative perspective on some of Aotearoa’s most popular events.

Meanwhile,The New Zealand Herald’s data editor Harkanwal Singh’s creative and aesthetically pleasing interactive visualisations provide an innovative insight on the issues that affect us today. Also, bonus points for having attracted the interminable ire of Winston Peters earlier in the year.

Jose Barbosa gets kudos for being the brains behind some of The Spinoff’s most scathingly hilarious audio, video and illustrated products, while ‘How to Dad’ Jordan Watson‘s humorous videos gives a blokey take on modern day childcare.

Hottest Social Presence

It only has two different types of shoes and yet, Allbirds is forever providing new imagery, GIFs and videos that fill our newsfeeds. But it’s not doing all the work alone. Proof of this is The Spinoff comedy editor Natasha Hoyland’s recently tweeted comment: ‘Why does everyone in NZ Journalism wear those shoes made out of wool?’.

BurgerFuel also deserves a shout out for serving up a constant stream of new products and content thanks to its thriving in-house creative department. Garage Project has also made a name for itself with its edgy graphics as it regularly showcases the diverse work of local artists, keeping true to its belief that it’s more of “a house of brands than a branded house”.

In a similar vein, Hell Pizza is also producing unique, provocative and humorous content. With its plethora of competitions, polls and giveaways, it certainly knows how to interact with its 100,000+ Facebook followers.

With characters like Gingerella and Lemmy helping to leverage the brand, Karma Cola’s social media presence is as much about promoting what its ethical foundation is up to as it is about promoting its own products. Its visually pleasing look, created by Special Group, is hard not to like, which is why it was rewarded with a Grand Prix and two golds at this year’s Axis Awards for its Karma Cola work.

And as one of New Zealand’s biggest brands, Air New Zealand’s social media boasts one of the biggest followings, with over 1.4 million followers on Facebook alone. It also has an in-house team helping to fill the page with plenty of creative videos—a number of which have gone viral.

Most Influential Person in Media

Influence in media is largely about money and power. Those who have either one or both of these will often determine what gets made and where it gets distributed.

The most obvious example of power lies with government officials, such as broadcasting minister Amy Adams and Commerce Commission chair Mark Berry, who are vested with the ability to regulate the entire industry. As evidenced by the recent failed mergers, regulatory decisions can have a broad-sweeping impact on the industry as a whole.

NZ On Air’s Jane Wrightson is an example of someone who has a share of both the prerequisites for influence. On the one hand, she has money in the shape of an annually allocated budget, while on the other, she has power in that she plays an integral role in determining how that money is spent.

Programming directors such as TVNZ’s Cate Slater and Mediaworks’ Andrew Szusterman are also hugely influential in that they determine what the nation’s major broadcasters air on their channels. If either of these two individuals doesn’t deem a show worthwhile, then it likely won’t air on either station.

Of course, power doesn’t only lie with the programming directors. Just try asking any one of them whether they’d like to have the rights to air All Blacks games, and you’re likely to hear a unanimous squeal of ‘Yes!’. The point being that the influence of someone like New Zealand head of rugby Steve Tew should never be underestimated.  

On the topic of rugby, Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners (who recently penned a four-year sponsorship deal with the All Blacks) has also shown himself to be a hugely influential force in the media. Alongside all the sponsorship and advertising the company does, Stanners is also pushing on in his attempts to take over Sky TV. Should he succeed in doing this, he’ll have rugby rights, a broadcaster and one of the nation’s big telcos under his control.   

There’s also a different kind of power that comes with having a recognisable face. Individuals such as Nadia Lim and Mike Hosking have a huge influence in regards to what New Zealanders think. There are very few individuals who have the ability to shift public behaviour simply by sharing a 60-second rant or a new range of delicious recipes.      

Acclaimed director Taika Waititi is also a celebrity, but his influence is slightly different. He isn’t quite as vocal as either Lim or Hosking in the day-to-day New Zealand media, but every time he releases a film or announces a new project, audiences clamour to see it. With a simple Tweet, Waititi has the ability to move the masses.

The final form of influence comes in the shape of the nation’s news providers. Fairfax executive editor Sinead Boucher, Bauer’s Paul Dykzeul and NZME managing editor Shayne Currie all have the ability to guide public opinion and shift society through the words, images, videos their teams publish on a daily basis. Add in the ability to plan for and fund the launch of new media brands, loudly campaign for major industry changes and guide the industry’s thinking through their involvement with various regulatory bodies, and their influence is unquestionable. 

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.  

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