Small change, big shift: why Radio New Zealand has joined the acronym party

Radio New Zealand’s recent re-branding to the acronym RNZ is in line with other public broadcasters like the BBC, ABC and NPR, RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson told Susie Ferguson yesterday morning.

In response to feedback from a listener that the change implied a rejection of radio, Thompson said the change reflected the state broadcaster’s reach beyond traditional mediums to incorporate new digital mediums.

“We’re immensely proud to be Radio New Zealand, radio remains such a strong part of what we do but it’s no longer the only show in town,” he said.

“We’re having to evolve as an organisation because our audience is changing and that’s the signal we’re trying to send.”

At the moment, the RNZ acronym is being used on-air and the RNZ.co.nz url forwards to the state broadcaster’s website, but the RNZ branding is still not reflected on any brand livery.

Radio New Zealand’s head of communications John Barr described the change as an “evolutionary process” and says the new branding will be rolled out with the website update next year.       

The re-branding is in line with the broadcaster’s greater emphasis on online content through the youth-focused website, thewireless.co.nz, launched in October 2013, and the recently launched “First Person” podcast with long time TV3 presenter, John Campbell.

The announcement of Campbell’s new show followed the announcement back in July that comedian Jesse Mulligan would take over from Simon Mercep as host of the Afternoons show.

The former Campbell Live host is also due to take up the reins of the hard-hitting current affairs show Checkpoint, which will now involve more “visual journalism” as Campbell explains in this video posted to the RNZ website.

Speaking to StopPress yesterday afternoon, Thompson said while there was a core audience for Radio New Zealand which saw the state broadcaster as like “mother’s milk” and were raised on it, the changes were about reaching a more diverse audience who perhaps didn’t think RNZ was for them because it was “a bit serious”.

A top priority for RNZ, Thompson said, was “getting in touch with people who probably would like what we do if we could only market to them more effectively and connect and get our content to them.”

He said The Wireless was an example of delivering new content and bringing new audiences to the material produced by the state broadcaster.

“It’s doing really intriguing and relevant journalism for younger New Zealanders,” which was presented in a fun way with a visual component.

Nearly a million people had visited the RNZ website during the month of September, which left the state broadcaster behind Stuff and the NZ Herald website in terms of users numbers.

“If we get topical, timely and interesting content onto the website, people love it,” Thompson said.

Inertia in the midst of demographic and digital change in New Zealand was not an option for Radio New Zealand, which needed to move with the times.

“We want to continue to look after our existing audiences but they do skew older and less diverse than the general population and if we were just to sit still and stick to our knitting in three or four years’ time we would find ourselves absolutely marooned.”

RNZ was “placing a bet on the future” with the changes but there was a balance to be struck between providing the content, loyal listeners have enjoyed for many years whilst also continuing to “freshen and evolve”.

“Our approach is to try stuff and to continue everyday to refine and improve what we do and make sure we are as fresh and as energised as we can.

“It’s much better to be trying something and to be innovating than to be sitting still like a sitting duck.”

According to figures released by the broadcaster, Radio New Zealand has more than 500,000 listeners across its radio networks.

RNZ also says it received 1.3 million requests for audio content (via website on-demand, website downloads, website live-streaming, iTunes and RNZ’s apps.) 

And the state broadcaster also estimates that it now has an audience of around 1.5 million across the Pacific. 

Meanwhile, thewireless.co.nz had 103,000 users during September.  

A spokesman for RNZ says no change is planned to the use of the Maori name for the state broadcaster which is Te Reo Irirangi o Aotearoa.

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