regan's blog

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.

throng-logoBlogging has been part of our household since 2002 but it hasn’t always been about television.

While Rachel was still lecturing statistics at Auckland University and writing courses to help the media better use stats in their reporting, the world of blogging was beginning to take off. After 9/11, there was an influx of new political commentators who took to the web to voice their opinions on the war on terror and it was these blogs that helped a lot of people realise that anyone could build an audience and engage with them like never before.

It was around then that we met Darren Rowse. Rachel helped him as he developed his first blog but it was toward the end 2003 that something interesting happened. Darren had written a post about Guy Sebastian and the Australian Idol competition and on the night of the finale, his blog went nuts. There was very little else online and all of a sudden, thousands of people had found his post and were talking about the finale and the result of Guy winning.

This got us all to thinking. What if rather than having a single post about something, we created an entire blog for just one topic? And with that Idolblog was born.

Idolblog was unprecedented in New Zealand television history. Pre the world of Facebook and twitter, it was the first online community built around a TV series here. From the network’s perspective, we were nothing more than a pain in the ass as we had more control over the publicity of the show than TVNZ did, but for the fans, Idolblog was just awesome.

Recorded on a Friday night in West Auckland, those who had tickets to the live recording would come home and jump online and spill the beans about who sang what. While the network were terrified by the thought of their expensive production being spoiled for the masses, in reality, Idolblog created more hype and excitement than any ad campaign could have bought them.

Idolblog became the go-to destination for everything to do with the show and once the finals arrived, the media attention began and we were sought after for our commentary and insight and were featured right across the media from The Listener to Metro, along with TV, Radio, Newspapers and the women’s mags.

There were thousands and thousands of young kids who were enormous fans of Ben Lummis and Michael Murphy and they were all voicing their opinion about the show on Idolblog. Many of these kids from all around New Zealand have become long term friends who we’ve remained in touch with over the years, some of who we’ve even travelled overseas with together to attend concerts. Our kids are all grown up now and we’ve been privileged to see some of them become wonderful teachers, and lawyers, and food technologists, and international TV stars. After more than a decade, the Idolblog family is still strong and is full of people who have made lifelong friends that they wouldn’t have met other than around New Zealand Idol.

Eventually, TVNZ got around to setting up their own “official” forums but they were nothing in comparison.

2004 was very big year. While Idolblog went on to win Best Youth Website at the annual Netguide Web Awards, Darren and I had another project we wanted to collaborate on, an Olympic Games blog. I developed some software to run alongside the content management system we were using that would generate pages based on the results of each event. This provided us with unprecedented speed in publishing results and in the majority of cases, we had the results of each event and medal winners online before any of the major Olympics websites including the official IOC one, the BBC and NBC websites. I also created an embeddable Medal Table widget that allowed any other blog or website to add it to their sidebar which linked back to our blog. This was used by hundreds of different websites including a number of international mainstream media outlets’ websites.

Darren and I switched our respective timezones to be on Athens time, with me in New Zealand and he in Melbourne, we spent nearly two solid weeks covering the games and producing thousands of pages of content that were being read by 250,000+ people every day. It was phenomenal, but only the beginning. The link love that we benefited from meant that, at the time, we could pretty much launch and link to a new blog on any topic we’d be guaranteed a top 10 search ranking, usually first.

The following year we launched another site. StreetTalk was an online community for the fans of Shortland Street. This was another exceptional project full of the most ardent fans you can imagine. Again, it was a thorn in the side of TVNZ who were struggling to come to grips with how to deal with people who were passionate about their content. The correct response would have been to embrace it and work with it for the benefit of the audience but sadly that was never the case.

During the off season of Idol, I blogged seasons of American Idol, Canadian Idol and Australian Idol on separate Idolblog sites we set up for each region. The US site did incredibly well. There is nothing quite like 20,000 people reading your work every hour.

We also discovered that in the off season of NZ Idol, the Idolbloggers wanted to discuss other TV shows. It was from here that Throng was born in late 2006.

One of the early highlights was being invited by Sir Paul Holmes to have coffee with him and explain the world of blogging to him. After our lengthy chat, he enthusiastically took me for a quick spin in his newly imported, luxury car.

Over the next 9 years, Throng produced more than 65,000 pages of content which was read by approximately 1.5 million people. The most read pieces of content include news about Canterbury University’s WASP for Sky Sport’s cricket coverage, The Top 10 Reasons you Shouldn’t Get Igloo, The Shortland Street Star sex tape scandal and The X Factor Conspiracy Theory.

We’ve broken a number of stories, many of them around how programs have rated, but also things like the return of Dancing with the Stars to TV3 and the Short Poppies/Netflix/NZ On Air story.

The thing I’m most proud of though, was our coverage of the 2009 Qantas Film and Television awards. Earlier that year I had worked the red carpet at the Australian equivalent and came home determined to treat our industry awards with the same level of excitement and respect. Hamish, Ben and Dayna did an outstanding job.

Air New Zealand helped us get to Australia to interview the cast of Glee too.

From this last year, there are two highlights that stand out to me. Firstly, hosting Neil Hunt, one of the executives from Netflix, during his visit for their launch. Secondly, the first junket I’ve ever done which was to Sydney with Samsung for the launch of their new SUHD TVs.

Earlier this week Bernard Hickey said this:

In reality, Throng has never really survived off advertising and has only survived due to my own subsidising of it. The idea of ad-funded blogs has, in reality, never really existed in New Zealand.

The ideal solution for bloggers would have been to have had an agency that represented all blogs to advertisers. I attempted on a number of occasions to make this happen and bring bloggers together for a bigger cause but unfortunately there are too many people who would rather spend their time hating each other.

In reality though, the advertising agencies in New Zealand have never embraced the power of blogs and have done more to harm the potential that independent publishers have than help. In regards to Throng, there are cases where, despite being instructed by their client to book advertising on local websites, the agencies have refused and booked campaigns with foreign websites, like The Daily Mail instead. The number of times we have worked directly with a client to develop a campaign only to be derailed or stonewalled by an agency is incredible.

The biggest irony though, is the way agencies value the audience of blogs. The PR side will happily give you whatever they can for free which they bill their clients for while the advertising side sees no value at all. After more than a decade, it is clear to me that ad agencies only care about themselves. When it comes to clients, the only care they have about them is in not losing their business.

So where to now? Rachel, who hasn’t had any involvement with the running of Throng for a while now, is running her own web design business which provides services to professional bloggers, mostly overseas. While I may be biased, her insights make her one of the best in her field which is evident by some fairly prestigious names in her list of clients.

As for me, I have a number of new things I’m working on. Right now, I have a small, recently planted, sixty vine vineyard that needs some attention as well as four young children who are pretty excited that Christmas is nearly here. Who knows, I might even spend some time at Quail West Naples Homes. This is certainly not the end of my media career but I’m done working for free.

On that note, if anyone would like to say thanks, you are welcome to do so here:





In closing, I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the conversation over the years. For those who have engaged, made me laugh, made me angry, and participated in sharing a love of television, I salute you.

I’m very humbled by the number of emails, calls and personal messages that I’ve received over the last week, particularly from those both currently and previously from within the industry.

If you’d like to stay in touch, feel free to follow me on twitter: @reganjcunliffe

TV Talk is our daily general discussion thread at Throng.

Readers are invited to share their own thoughts and observations on television in New Zealand as we attempt to crowd source all the details around what is happening in the industry and beyond.

This includes, but is not limited to, breaking news, bloopers from live TV and anything a television personality posts on social media that might be of interest to other readers.

To participate, just add your comments below. Alternatively, you can always use the Tip Line.

2015-12-16Since the brand refresh of Campbell Live worked so well at the start of the year, Mediaworks have shelled out more Oakbridge capital to give their corporate image a new lick of paint.

What kind of sorcery is this?

What will we see next? The Block being sponsored by homecashguys.com?

seven-sharp-logoWhen we consider how bad the ratings have been for a number of shows this year, it’s hard to believe there could be any silver lining for anyone. While the bottom has fallen out of much of the audience levels TV3 and TV2’s programming with 3 News, Campbell Live, Masterchef, Dancing With the Stars, Shortland Street and Home and Away, to name a few, haemorrhaging viewers, there have been a couple of stand outs that really have bucked the trend and turned things around on 2014. Especially when you consider Continue reading »

TV Talk is our daily general discussion thread at Throng.

Readers are invited to share their own thoughts and observations on television in New Zealand as we attempt to crowd source all the details around what is happening in the industry and beyond.

This includes, but is not limited to, breaking news, bloopers from live TV and anything a television personality posts on social media that might be of interest to other readers.

To participate, just add your comments below. Alternatively, you can always use the Tip Line.

TV Talk is our daily general discussion thread at Throng.

Readers are invited to share their own thoughts and observations on television in New Zealand as we attempt to crowd source all the details around what is happening in the industry and beyond.

This includes, but is not limited to, breaking news, bloopers from live TV and anything a television personality posts on social media that might be of interest to other readers.

To participate, just add your comments below. Alternatively, you can always use the Tip Line.

Anna_MoreFM_WildcardwinnerMore FM is pleased to announce Nelson-born Anna Marshall as their bachelorette Wildcard winner for season two of The Bachelor New Zealand.

This makes Anna the first bachelorette to be announced for the 2016 season.

The More FM Wildcard proudly brought to you by Michael Hill, ensured that Anna was put through her paces by More FM’s Lana and Jase in an intensive week-long boot camp along with four other hopefuls. Continue reading »

nz-on-air-640A new series that promises to be a ‘bold voice in Māori current affairs’ has been supported by NZ On Air as part of its ongoing Platinum Fund support for specialist current affairs programmes.

Minority Reports (working title), to be presented by respected broadcast journalist Mihingarangi Forbes, will screen on TV3 on Sunday mornings and be available on demand shortly after. The producers have promised current affairs investigations, arts, and culture stories seen through an indigenous lens. The series is co-funded with Te Māngai Paho and will be supported by TV3.

Two long-running political current affairs series will also return in 2016, The Nation on TV3 and Q + A on TVOne. Continue reading »

Neill Rea drives the Brokenwood Police car in the 2015 Kumeu Christmas parade

Neill Rea drives the Brokenwood Police car in the 2015 Kumeu Christmas parade

After NZ On Air announced it wouldn’t be funding Mediaworks proposed new weeknight soap opera but would be funding a third season of The Brokenwood Mysteries, David Finch wrote this in the comments:

I have no particular opinion on the virtues of TV3’s planned soap (and no affiliation with its producers) but I hope NZ on Air will be publicly pressed to explain themselves a little more. They say a soap doesn’t match their priorities, which begs the question… whose priorities exactly? What kind of influence does NZ on Air truly have on what we watch? If they are guided by the power of ratings, which is the only measure of success which matters to our current government, then there is at least as much logic in investing in a nightly soap on a major channel than there is in pumping another $4m subsidy to little-watched Prime for Brokenwood Mysteries (just for example). The one soap we have consistently tops the ratings for its host channel after 25 years despite an increasingly fragmented market and changing viewing habits. It has out-rated every other drama series that NZ on Air has ever invested in (except perhaps Outrageous Fortune at its very peak). Which would be less embarrassing if those other shows really were ambitious serious non-commercial dramas. But they’re not. Most of them have been flashy soaps with bigger budgets. NZ on Air say they favour “returning series”, but a series designed to return four nights a week indefinitely doesn’t interest them.

Continue reading »

TV Talk is our daily general discussion thread at Throng.

Readers are invited to share their own thoughts and observations on television in New Zealand as we attempt to crowd source all the details around what is happening in the industry and beyond.

This includes, but is not limited to, breaking news, bloopers from live TV and anything a television personality posts on social media that might be of interest to other readers.

To participate, just add your comments below. Alternatively, you can always use the Tip Line.