Year in Review 2023: Laura Maxwell

Each year, StopPress asks a group of talented professionals in the local industry for their reflections on the year that was. This year we speak to individuals who made their mark on 2023 and brought us truly impactful work.

In July, Laura Maxwell took over as Chief Executive of New Zealand’s largest media organisation, Stuff Group. Here she looks back on the big stories of 2023, and what she expects to see in 2024.

If 2023 were a brand, what would its slogan be?

2024 are we there yet?

How would you sum up your professional year?

After some time out of media, it’s great to be back working in this industry where we make a difference to people’s lives and are an essential thread that is woven into thriving democracies around the world.

A news story that restored your faith in humanity this year…

The stories of neighbours helping neighbours always restore my faith in humanity.  

What shifts do you foresee in the New Zealand media landscape for 2024 based on 2023’s trends?

ESG policies will leap off the page of the annual business report and be set in motion in 2024.  There will be more focus on supply chain sustainability choices for advertisers, where local businesses with lower carbon footprints and trusted brand environments will seek favour for advertising spend.

The hesitancy of 2023 still lingers like a bad hangover and the impacts of late policy movements from the prior government (immigration) coupled with the new government changes yet to be realised, are both contributing to the current decision paralysis. History is a good indicator of future success though, and those businesses that continue to advertise in markets like this will come charging out of the gates in 2024. Those who have halted advertising will be more sluggish and wonder why they’ve lost market position next year. 

What was a key change that Stuff made this year in response to 2023’s challenges?

We restructured our business to allow each new business to set its own strategy, create cost transparency, move at the right speed and craft content for specific audience needs.  The launch of new sites with digital subscriptions for The Post, The Press and Waikato Times are three examples of sites that hit the ground running in 2023 and are now the fastest growing in New Zealand.    

What technology made the most impact on the media landscape this year?

The launch of generative AI will impact all parts of our lives. Rather than being afraid of it, we’ve established editorial and internal-use policies to ensure we leverage the benefit, are transparent with our audiences and keep our data safe. Like CGI in movies, which came up against protests when it first launched, we’d be hard pressed to say now that it hasn’t created some amazing storytelling experiences, built new businesses and created cost efficiencies in speed and set-production. 

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt this year?

Focus on what you can control and remember to look up and beyond the current, to forge a strategy for the future.

Who inspired you this year and why?

Our people. They are inspiring, resilient, smart and genuinely believe in our kaupapa of making Aotearoa a better place through trusted storytelling and experiences.

What are you most looking forward to working on in 2024?

A regular exercise routine? 

Quick-fire 10:

Most impactful local campaign of 2023: 

I loved Stuff’s fundraising campaign in response to Cyclone Gabrielle – with the help of our generous audience, we raised just shy of $4.5 million to support the Red Cross and Mayoral Relief Funds in affected areas.

Most underrated international campaign of the year: Telco Orange with their FIFA Women’s World Cup advertisement taking on the stereotypes of women’s sporting ability on the football field.

Campaign I wish I worked on: Correct the Internet. A fantastic way to intercept unconscious bias.

A news event that didn’t get the attention it deserved: The forestry industry slash issue.

Most listened-to artist of 2023: Angus and Julia Stone or Glen Campbell for a lift!

A 2023 trend you’re ready to bid farewell to: Conspiracy theory

Most innovative use of social media in a campaign this year: Stuff removing itself from X.  

Most bingeable (TV) series of 2023: Succession

Biggest flop of 2023: The Idol. Just so out of step with society and audiences.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given: Dogs will always love you.

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