More than 1000 media sector jobs to disappear - report; Media Insider’s 2023 awards; Agency’s big TAB win; Grant Nisbett, Mils Muliaina re-sign with Sky; TVNZ’s annual report - chair and acting CEO speak out; Best-read stories on nzherald.co.nz this year
NZ media’s most tumultuous year
We said goodbye to Today.
We’re all planning - and aiming - for a better Tomorrow.
We said hello to new executives and strategies.
We said hello - or are about to say hello - to new newsroom leaders in just about every major media organisation.
Some big clients moved advertising houses - ASB moved to Initiative - while Auckland Transport holds the keys to a massive set of contracts that will determine the future direction of some of our outdoor advertising businesses in 2024 and beyond.
As the media industry settled into 2023, with Covid in the rear-vision mirror, we thought this might be a year of relative serenity.
It was our most tumultuous year ever.
It rained, and rained, and rained in Auckland.
And Gabrielle hit.
Then followed the long-predicted economic tempest which has struck media hard.
The green shoots are coming, we’re told. First quarter of 2024! The first half of 2024! Sometime in 2024.
Those green shoots just need to burst through a literal and metaphorical layer of silt.
The local media industry is in a battle with global social media giants who care little about the importance of the Fourth Estate or the impacts that their platforms have on the social cohesion of Aotearoa.
They may yet be held to account by a brave government.
For a communications industry, we were sadly hopeless with our own PR.
The Public Interest Journalism Fund became an easy target for many people seething about a perceived bias in political coverage. In an increasingly polarised country, those people weren’t too hard to find - on all sides of the political debate.
Will we start healing in 2024?
We were called drongos - and worse.
Winston Peters threatened to take the broadcasting portfolio and have Jack Tame sacked for asking perfectly legitimate questions.
The All Blacks actually got over the line in the Rugby World Cup final but were called back. Technology is brilliant - it’s the humans who tend to muck things up.
Speaking of AI, some in the media think the sky is falling. It isn’t and it won’t. AI is a tool. Journalists are storytellers.
Some companies - like TVNZ - are preparing for massive technology upgrades. Many of us are planning new and new-look digital platforms and websites.
Sky will be planning for a hiccup-free year as it brings the Sky Pod into fulltime play.
RNZ will be under intense scrutiny over how it spends its extra budget.
The media industry’s heart is beating - strongly in parts - but it is clear the patient has other ailments. We may still, sadly, face some amputations.
And yet, yet.
It remains an exhilarating, intriguing, inspiring industry. Full of good people doing great things, across all disciplines.
People who make a difference, who uncover the truth and operate without fear or favour.
And others who work with their clients to conceive and present world-class marketing and advertising campaigns.
This year, we also said hello to Media Insider - thank you for your support and readership of the column since March.
It continues through the summer, with the next three weeks devoted to special Q&As with 17 of our top news media and ad agency CEOs.
The CEOs offer fascinating insight and timely humour. You’ll see some common themes, and possibly some divergent views as we look forward to 2024.
I am thankful for their time and focus, especially when they and their businesses are often in the spotlight in this column.
Don’t miss the first instalment next Friday.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all - today’s column is a mix of news and more reflection on the tumultuous media year.
More than 1000 jobs to go in five years - report
A just-released report paints a sobering picture of employment within the media and broadcasting sector.
The Infometrics report, released on the Ministry of Culture and Heritage website this month, says the media and broadcasting industry employed 25,398 people in 2022.
It forecast that number would increase to 26,678 this year - although this figure is likely now questionable given the economic pressures and cost-cutting that have hit most sectors of the industry over the past 12 months.
Regardless, the report predicted that by 2028, the forecast number of people employed in the industry would sit at just over 24,000 - about 1300 fewer than 2022 and more than 2600 fewer than this year’s forecast number.
Roles include writing, reporting, editing, camera and visual work, and leaflet and newspaper deliverers.
According to the Infometrics report, the number of those who described themselves as self-employed grew from 5532 in 2002 to 11,336 in 2022 - almost 45 per cent of all roles.
The report gives little commentary on where cuts will occur but almost all mainstream media companies have been in cost-management mode this year. They’re also reshaping their businesses to reflect ever-changing audience and technological demands.
The Infometrics report says the media and broadcasting sector contributed $4.1 billion to New Zealand’s GDP in 2022 - 1.2 per cent of all GDP.
There were 7886 media and broadcasting businesses, most of them small to medium enterprises.
“Workers in the Media and Broadcasting sector in New Zealand have a slightly younger average age profile than all workers in New Zealand,” says the report. “In 2018 the average of Media and Broadcasting workers was 40.7 years, compared with 42.4 years for all workers in New Zealand.”
In the same year, 83.2 per cent of workers were European, 10 per cent were Māori, 8.2 per cent were Asian and 4.5 per cent were Pasifika.
The percentage of female workers was 46.2 per cent in 2022.
Media moment of the year
Media Insider’s 2023 awards
THE WINSTON PETERS AWARD FOR MEDIA ARROGANCE
Winner: Pharmac - their emails and communications targeting Rachel Smalley were a disgrace. Expect the fallout to continue.
Honourable mention: Niwa. As debate raged around why it was encroaching on MetService’s role during major weather events - and when New Zealanders needed one source of truth - Niwa went suddenly quiet, refusing to answer any questions about its responsibilities.
THE MARK TWAIN AWARD FOR QUOTE OF THE YEAR
“They’ve f***ed us” - Tova O’Brien, live on air on Today FM, some minutes before she was pulled off air and the station shut down.
THE LAZARUS AWARD FOR ‘YOU CAN’T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN’
Barry Soper, back on his feet after a rough period following his triple heart bypass earlier this year. It was lovely to see him in the NZME newsroom this week.
THE KIM HILL AWARD FOR BROADCAST INTERVIEWER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Jack Tame - on top of his game all year.
Runner-up: Rebecca Wright - brought to life the debate for the minor party leaders, all of whom rode into Parliament.
THE ROLLING STONES FAREWELL TOUR AWARDS
Te Ao Tapatahi
Any reasonable debate about the PIJF
Footnote: We also lost a lot of colleagues and friends from across the industry through no fault of their own. Many of them are reinventing themselves, others are bowing out altogether.
THE ADELE HELLO AWARDS
Paddy Gower Has Issues
Stuff’s three regional paywalls
New news leaders at NZME, Stuff, RNZ, TVNZ and, soon, Warner Bros. Discovery
Reality Check Radio
THE MASTERCHEF AWARD FOR WORST MEDIA FOOD
The dry cabbage at the Voyager Media Awards. If only it had left a bitter taste - that would have been something.
THE DWAYNE ‘THE ROCK’ JOHNSON AWARD FOR BIGGEST CAREER CHANGE
Winners: High-flying media execs Dallas and Donna Gurney upped sticks and hightailed it to Whananāki, where they bought and upgraded the local store. They’ll be inundated over summer - customers will no doubt include Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, whose family home is across the water, and TVNZ’s Melodie Robinson, who has a bach down the road.
Runner-up: In a year when many of us took on new roles, one of the most remarkable switches has been that of Angus Mabey.
At the start of this year, Mabey was in the heart of the NZME newsroom, as the content director (sport and rural), for the likes of Newstalk ZB and sister station Gold.
At the weekend, he was directing of another sort - refereeing Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Faf de Klerk and other top rugby stars in the opening round of the Japanese premier league.
Barrett and Smith’s Toyota Verblitz fell short, losing 24-22, to de Klerk’s Canon Eagles team, but Mabey - who has been a regular face on New Zealand rugby touchlines and fields - acquitted himself well. His new career is on a strong trajectory.
Ad agency’s big TAB win
It’s never easy when you’re the incumbent agency and the client wants a competitive pitch.
But in good news to end its year, MBM has not only retained TAB, it’s set to help deliver a massive change programme with the TAB’s new owner Entain.
“We are thrilled to have retained Entain after a competitive pitch,” MBM chief executive Lee-Ann Morris told Media Insider.
“We had a long-standing relationship with TAB but this has now been supercharged under the ownership of Entain. Entain have exciting plans to reinvigorate racing in New Zealand and we are proud to be the selected partner to deliver this.”
Entain said it was preparing for “a major transformation” for the TAB brand in 2024 “with a refreshed TAB brand and a new app. Our media agency relationship was always going to go through major change alongside this,” said a spokesperson.
“We initiated this pitch process to make sure that our agency partner matched our ambition, and could tackle the significant increase in workload and complexity that 2024 is going to bring for Entain NZ.
“After a very thorough pitch process, we are pleased to confirm MBM will continue as our media agency partner.
“All the agencies involved were extremely impressive, but MBM shone through, really demonstrating their complete buy-in as genuine partners. We’re really excited to be extending our relationship with Lee-Ann and the MBM team.”
‘Status quo is not an option’ - TVNZ chairman
A big day at TVNZ on Thursday, with the announcement of Jodi O’Donnell as the new chief executive - the first female CEO in the company’s history.
It will be a popular move within the business - O’Donnell, who is currently the broadcaster’s commercial director, is highly regarded there and around the industry.
Before O’Donnell officially starts duties on January 30, TVNZ’s chairman and acting chief executive have outlined the huge transformation facing the state broadcaster in the next 12 months.
“Much of TVNZ’s current infrastructure is reaching end-of-life and maintaining the status quo is not an option,” says TVNZ chairman Alastair Carruthers in the broadcaster’s latest annual report.
“There is a need to move from a broadcast organisation with digital bolted on to a digital-first media entity. A new digital foundation will allow TVNZ to move more nimbly and flexibly. It will enable the creation of the future platforms required to serve a broader range of diverse audiences. It is pleasing to see this project under way.”
Interim CEO Brent McAnulty said that while the merger with RNZ had been called off “the challenges facing the media sector that provided the impetus for the proposal remain”.
“People are watching more TV shows than ever before, but how they are watching continues to change significantly.
“The direction consumers are moving is clear and digital streaming is critical to TVNZ’s future success. We’ve made a great start, delivering consistent audience and revenue growth with TVNZ+. It’s time for us to move faster though, and that means accelerating our digital transformation.”
TVNZ’s annual report confirms the earlier 2022/23 financial results - a net profit after tax of just $1.7 million, compared with a $7.9m profit in 2022/23.
Media Insider revealed in July that TVNZ is expecting a bottom-line $15.6m loss for its 2023-2024 financial year after two years of profitability.
Traditional broadcast audiences are dropping and TVNZ is embarking on a major digital and cultural transformation, including upgrading the technology and user experience of its widely praised TVNZ+ on-demand platform.
“This will require significant investment, to be funded through cash reserves and earnings,” says the company’s four-year statement of intent, released earlier this year.
According to the annual report, TVNZ has set itself a vision to be the “number one streamer of trusted news and entertainment”, a position it clearly already holds since the main streaming services - Netflix, Apple, Disney, Neon and Amazon Prime - don’t deliver news, and Three is playing catch-up, having just released its own revamped (and very good) streaming platform ThreeNow.
It has called its transformation project Te Paerangi with workstreams in 2024 covering:
• Extending digital audience reach
• Accelerating digital revenue
• Building a sustainable future business
“Underpinning this transformation is a significant investment in technology,” says the annual report.
“TVNZ’s current technology is holding us back from achieving our ambitions. It’s overly manual and unable to deliver adequate levels of innovation. We need to build a powerful, cloud-based engine that will replace our current one. A new digital backbone will give us the ability to keep in step with constantly changing viewers’ needs and preferences.”
The annual report says the investment in a new IP platform - a vendor appointment process is under way - will be critical in safeguarding local content.
“This business-wide transformation will take the collective brainpower and effort of all TVNZers.”
Nisbo’s remarkable run
Congratulations to Grant Nisbett and Mils Muliaina, who have re-signed with Sky TV for two more years as rugby commentators.
Alongside the likes of Tony Johnson, Justin Marshall, Jeff Wilson and the recently poached Kimberlee Downs - as well as a swag of other top female hosts and commentators - Sky certainly has a strong and diverse mix of rugby presenters and commentators heading into 2024.
“We are delighted to have retained Nisbo and Mils for two more years,” says Sky chief corporate affairs officer Chris Major.
Nisbett, who turns 73 on Boxing Day, has called more than 340 tests for the All Blacks since 1984 - more than half of all the tests they have played.
“Grant is the voice of rugby in New Zealand,” says Major.
“Mils had a terrific World Cup behind the mic in France, and he’s a valuable member of our commentary team and the Breakdown show alongside Jeff Wilson, Sir John Kirwan and Kirstie Stanway - returning February 18.”
Earlier this year, Nisbett gave Media Insider some insights into his preparations. While extensive, he also knows the beauty and importance of impromptu commentating.
“Once the whistle blows, it just becomes one major ad lib really,” he said.
Does he still get nervous?
“For the bigger games, I wouldn’t say nervous, maybe I’m a little more on edge.
“Because you know that there’s so much at stake. I think in many ways it brings the best out if you’re feeling a little bit, what’s the word, maybe anxious? It’s better to be that way than feeling too confident.
“I’m still enjoying it and that’s the key to it. And as long as people think that I’m doing okay, I’d be pretty keen to hang in there but who knows after the World Cup? It’s a bit like being a player!”
As well as being a great commentator, he’s also prescient.
In July, he picked the South Africans as the team to watch at the Rugby World Cup, ahead of the then hot favourites France and Ireland: “The Springboks just seem to be able to peak at the right time and I think that’s possibly being overlooked a bit by some pundits.”
Best-read nzherald.co.nz stories of the year
FREE - NEW ZEALAND
- Track the live results of the 2023 election with our interactive map (multiple stories)
- Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle: Red heavy rain and wind warnings (multiple stories)
- In pictures: Dramatic images of Auckland’s big flood (multiple stories)
- Air New Zealand’s dig at Harry and Meghan: ‘Sussex Class coming soon’
- Auckland CBD shooting: Two people killed, gunman who stormed Queen St building site also dead, at least six injured
- Air New Zealand plane declares emergency mid-flight to Sydney
- The annual income you need to be happy in New Zealand, world salary study claims
- The Warehouse Group to close 28-year-old Milford store on Auckland’s North Shore
- Auckland surgeons must now consider ethnicity in prioritising patients for operations - some are not happy
- All Blacks v South Africa: How the world media reacted to Rugby World Cup final
FREE - INTERNATIONAL
- US mother jailed after injection puts 9-month-old daughter into cardiac arrest
- Woody Harrelson confirms he and Matthew McConaughey are brothers, says rumours ‘very much true’
- Tom Cruise estranged from daughter Suri due to Scientology rules, source confirms
- Prince Harry issued strict warning by police: ‘Not private bodyguards for the wealthy’
- Titan submersible tragedy: Expert claims victims experienced terror before death
- Madeleine McCann disappearance: Police seize Julia Wendell’s mobile phone in new probe
- King Charles’ coronation: Charles’ outburst in carriage caught on camera
- Madeleine McCann: Kate and Gerry speak after Julia Wendell’s DNA results
- Princess of Wales refused to curtsy to Queen Camilla due to anger over coronation invitations
- Madeleine McCann: Facial recognition gives verdict on Julia Wendell’s claim to be missing girl
- Gangster’s Paradise: Inside Head Hunters’ luxury overseas trip of a lifetime
- Marc Ellis on why he’s leaving NZ, rugby’s problems, Razor and World Cup concerns
- Pua Magasiva death: Coroner findings reveals tragic final hours - TV star battled childhood demons
- Media Insider: Justin Marshall misses selection for Sky Rugby World Cup team in France; Stuff staff’s office gong concerns; RNZ dilemma over Kiri Allan speech; Today FM staff call in lawyers
- ‘A beautiful woman in every way’: Scotty Stevenson on his wife Claire’s death, new life as solo dad
- Media Insider: TVNZ shake-up - nine top roles gone; Newstalk ZB star’s close call with hacker; Big ad agency and PR departures
- Auckland floods: Mayor Wayne Brown’s 30-minute phone call with the Herald
- Former rugby star charged with buying firearms for Comancheros, faking burglary
- Friends ‘embarrassed and humiliated’ when bumped from Business Class on Air New Zealand after dream holiday
- Largest gang funeral in New Zealand history expected for ‘OG’ Head Hunter William ‘Bird’ Hines
One Good Text
This week we talk to the big guy.
Voyagers, radio awards overhaul
For years - until the dry cabbage entree scandal* of 2023 - the biggest criticism of the Voyager Media Awards was the sheer length of the ceremony.
The Voyagers (and before them, the Canons and the Qantases) have been a social highlight for journalists for decades, but they were becoming slightly unwieldy with dozens and dozens of different awards.
Certainly, if you read the coverage, every media company claimed to be the best, with a swag of awards under their belt.
Now, the News Publishers Association - in a move that the McKinsey company would be proud to claim - has taken a scythe to the number of awards, reducing them from 65 this year to 37 for 2024.
Best data journalism? Gone.
Best crime, education, health, and science reporting? Gone.
In fact, all specialist reporting and feature-writing categories have been cut.
The most prestigious awards remain in place, though, including Reporter of the Year, Photographer of the Year, Video Journalist of the Year and the various Newspaper of the Year titles.
Website of the Year and Best News App have been combined into one gong - Digital News Provider of the Year. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue yet, but it promises to be the most sought-after digital prize.
“The number of categories remains the same, at four, but we have reduced the number of awards in each category to better align with what’s on offer at similar journalism awards internationally,” says NPA general manager Brook Cameron.
“This supports a move to focusing on celebrating the very best, the epitome, of NZ news and current affairs journalism.”
She said reviewing each award was “a lengthy, well-considered process. It’s always difficult making change, but after a few years of tweaking around the edges it was time for a full, comprehensive realignment.”
Production and sub-editing staff might be particularly aggrieved at the loss of the ‘best headline/hook’ award.
“This one has been in and out of the mix at the Voyagers for the past few years, and it has been retired in 2024 due to a steady decline in entries,” says Cameron. “The Walkleys in Australia also retired this award in 2023 for the same reason.”
Interestingly, the Reporter of the Year award - perhaps the most prized individual gong of the night - is retained and another award has been added, News Journalist of the Year.
“The News Journalist of the Year award sits in the All Media category as a single premium award – combining the eight specialist reporting awards that were previously offered,” says Cameron.
“The Reporter of the Year award sits in the written category. The NPA has a long history in written journalism, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. This award specifically honours the craft of written journalism which is at the heart of the NPA who manage the Voyager Media Awards on behalf of the industry.”
The Voyagers - which will be announced at a gala event on Friday, May 24 - will also have a new venue: Shed 10 on the Auckland waterfront, replacing the Cordis hotel.
“We’re really excited about the curated lineup of awards on offer and look forward to opening for entries on 17 January,” says Cameron. “We hope journalists use the summer break to reflect on their very best work from across 2023 so they’re all set to enter when entries open – don’t forget the closing date is 21 February!
Meanwhile, the annual NZ Radio Awards have also been given a significant facelift, in light of the ever-evolving audio industry.
They will now be called the NZ Radio and Podcast Awards, with 16 podcast categories added, including ‘Podcast of the Year’.
“The revised awards programme is designed to recognise more great NZ audio and will now include a significant podcast component alongside the revised radio categories,” says NZ Radio & Podcast Awards committee chair Jana Rangooni.
“The RIAC has also introduced categories for Te Reo Māori, Pacific and Asian content to acknowledge the outstanding work done by broadcasters and podcasters that we have not previously recognised and better reflect the diverse communities of New Zealand.”
* The dry cabbage was a dish served at this year’s Voyager awards. It was so bad, we named a temporary award after it.
As mentioned above, the Media Insider column continues through the next three weeks, with a special Q&A series speaking to our top media bosses about the year just gone, and their thoughts on the year ahead. Don’t miss the first of these next Friday.
- Editor-at-Large Shayne Currie is one of New Zealand’s most experienced senior journalists and media leaders. He has held executive and senior editorial roles at NZME including Managing Editor, NZ Herald Editor and Herald on Sunday Editor and has a small shareholding in NZME.