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EssaySeptember 10, 2015

An Introduction to The Spinoff, Round Two

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Today we turn one, and debut a new iteration of The Spinoff, a little TV website which has lately been nursing big dreams. We relaunch today with five new categories and eight new staff to help run them. It’s been a wild few months: first figuring out what exactly to do, then how we’d fund it, and finally who we could recruit to bring it all to life.

But as I type this, nearing 2.30am on our first birthday, and a little over six hours from going live, I can finally truly believe that it’s really going to happen – that out of all this recent chaos a new site will rise. Today we launch new sections: Sports, Books, Politics, Media and Society. Some will run with greater frequency than others, and each will have its own editorial vision. But the tone will be instantly familiar to fans of this site.

The past year has been the most exhilarating of my professional life, working with Alex Casey, Lightbox and a crew of freelancers to build a culture and figure out a new way of responding to a medium in flux. We’ve shot strange video segments with Shortland St stars, podcast entire seasons of local reality shows, broken our site with the popularity of a column on a Bachelor star, and much more besides. We set out to make something lively and different, and the way people have embraced our work has been truly humbling.

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The idea of bringing the same sensibility to other areas of life and culture started playing on my mind early, and once it took root all I could do was submit. Because journalism and criticism is doing it tough right now. Paradoxically, that made it seem a good time to try and build something which ran along different lines. I kept thinking: why not us? I never did come up with a good answer.

So here we are: thanks to the support of our original sponsor, Lightbox, and some new ones – PGA Tour Live, Premier League Pass, Unity Books and U Music – we’re able to bring you this new, broader vision for The Spinoff. We’re opening with what has become a site signature, Power Rankings, across everything from politics, to the ITM Cup, to those tiny New World toys. We’ll do more in a similar style: it’s a fun vehicle for writers to play with an area of human life. But we’ll also publish more feature writing, make more video and publish more serious criticism.

Longtime fans, know this: as we evolve, we won’t leave television behind. We’ll still cover it as often and sweat it as hard. Only now we’ll have a bunch of staff able to wrestle with it, rather than just Alex and I. Thanks to our new recruits, the section will only elevate. Only, we’ll now do the same thing with Sports, a culture we feel is ripe for our attitude and approach, and Books, an unjustly neglected form these days. And more, both today and beyond. The whole site won’t be for everyone. But we’re hoping most people will find themselves drawn to some part of it.

I want to introduce our team now. Most are part-time, but all are deeply committed to what we’re trying to build here. I’m writing this at 2.33am, still getting texts from Alex, busily recapping at home. Another writer submitted a piece requested at 11.30pm at 12.30am. At that point a third staffer was still at work a few metres behind me, deep in the weeds of an illustration. The commitment already shown to what we’re doing here makes my head spin.

The new crew are feature writers, columnists, editors, plus a commercial director and producer – all of whom have created dozens of pieces of work which I’ve loved over the years. I’m immensely excited about the possibilities they represent collectively and individually. I’ll pause here introduce them briefly:

José Barbosa – Staff Producer: I describe José as a swiss army knife to anyone who’ll listen. He can write, draw, direct and edit to the highest level. He’ll do all that and more for us.

Steve Braunias – Editor, Books: New Zealand’s best pound-for-pound writer, Braunias will make ‘The Spinoff Review of Books’ the most energetic literary section in the country.

Alex Casey – Editor, Television: Alex Casey, the soul of The Spinoff, is being promoted to edit Television, and she will also write for other sections when time and inclination allow.

Calum Henderson – Staff Writer: Calum’s third piece for The Spinoff was a diary of TV One’s ‘Good Morning’, an instant classic. He’ll write across TV and Sports and be brilliant.

Toby Manhire – Editor, Politics: A peerless columnist for the Herald and Radio New Zealand, Toby brings his intellect and surgical style to our politics pages.

Catherine McGregor – Staff Editor: Catherine moved to New York after five exceptional years at Metro. She’ll work on our Custom content operation, and write here whenever she can.

Fraser McGregor – Commercial Director: Formerly of NO. and Pavement, Fraser gets our potential like no one else, has vision for our growth and will work with our clients to make sure we work hard for them.

Don Rowe – Staff Feature Writer: The best graduate feature writer in these small islands, Don has already journeyed to Taupo and Ponsonby for The Spinoff, and may one day go further.

Scotty Stevenson – Editor, Sports: Scotty was the fantastic final editor of Sky Sport: The Magazine (RIP). He made it smart, irreverent and agreeably broad, and will do the same here.

The mix of youth and experience above is very deliberate, and a core part of what we want to do here. We intend to create an environment which puts experienced writers alongside the next generation, to encourage mentoring and professional development and generally try and do some of the things which have gotten much harder to do in magazines and newsrooms lately. We will also grow to have a far more diverse set of personnel than that which we currently have. I’m very conscious of the white and male skew right now. It’s not a reflection of who we’ve published to date, or how we see ourselves evolving. And trust me when I say that we are not done recruiting – so we will change markedly in that regard.

Over the coming months we’ll work to see how far we can push this thing together, to try and build a media company born in and for the 21st century. We have big ambitions as a group and as a business. We might exceed our wildest dreams or crash and burn horribly. As of today, we don’t know how it’ll play out. We just know we’re going to give it everything we have, for each other, for our sponsors, and for you.

Enough from me. Go read this thing.

Duncan Greive,

Editor and Publisher,

The Spinoff

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