A friendship kindled in Hawke's Bay has turned a team of ex-pats into competition for The New York Times at the "Oscars of the Internet".

A Hawke's Bay team is nominated for Best Individual Editorial Experience at the Webby Awards for their work on The Huffington Post Highline "docuserial", America's Most Admired Lawbreaker. Their entry is trailing only 3 per cent behind the Times'.

Highline, whose executive editor is Hastings Girls' High School alumini Rachel Morris, worked alongside digital agency Gladeye, co-founded by Tarver Graham, who attended Havelock North High School, and Guy Trowbridge, a Napier Boys' High School alumni.

The two men had "known each other for years" before starting their Auckland-based company, while Mr Graham and Ms Morris met through a Hawke's Bay theatre company.


The Webby Awards, presented at a ceremony in New York in May, are said to be "the Oscars of the Internet" and are judged by a panel including actor Kevin Spacey, Twitter founder Biz Stone and the man regarded as the inventor of the internet, Vint Cerf.

"It's really exciting," Mr Graham said. "It's not every day that you're in awards of this scale."

The three had wanted to collaborate for a while.

"We had been talking about what that might mean ... and the right project came along," Mr Graham said.

Their relationship also "allowed us to trust each other, and we were able to push the boat out a bit further" .

The "docuserial" is about the criminality of Big Pharma. Its author, veteran journalist and New York Times bestseller Steven Brill, described it as "a new kind of experience for readers, one that combines the comprehensiveness of a book with the interactivity and immediacy of the web".

Gladeye produced about 60 illustrations and interactive data visualisations.

The project wasn't without its challenges - working across two time zones meant "a lot of starting early and finishing late". That added to the 15-hour days required to complete each of the 15 serialised chapters, with the physical demand meaning the team had to be changed halfway through production.

"It did get pretty tough over the last few days - there were concepts being approved pretty much on the fly but it was a really exciting production," Mr Graham said.

"Knowing that what we were going to be producing was going to be really good ... that momentum carries you through."

He said the project was a huge undertaking.

"Everyone involved wanted to try something new and the Webby Award nomination is a fantastic reward for all that hard work."

Ms Morris said: "One of the cool things about digital design is that it isn't restricted by location - you can work with the most talented people wherever they happen to be based."

The 20th Annual Webby A People's Voice award and a judges' award are up for grabs in each category.

With voting closing tomorrow, Mr Graham thought votes from Hawke's Bay could tip the scales.

- To cast a vote for Huffington Post Highline: "America's Most Admired Lawbreaker", go to: https://pv.webbyawards.com/ 2016/websites/websitefeatures-and-design/best-individual-editorial-experience or search "Webby Best Editorial Experience".