Te Hiku Media is a charitable media organisation, collectively belonging to the Far North iwi of Ngāti Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rārawa and Ngāti Kahu. The station is an iwi communications hub for radio and online media. Māori language revitalisation is a core focus of Te Hiku Media, as is archiving and digital innovation.

Please check out the below video about the online Whare Kōrero o Te Hiku Media and the journey from terrestrial broadcasting to digital media. Te Hiku is also running a few more stories on innovation this week, so checkout tehiku.nz.

View the video: The Story Behind Te Hiku Media’s Online Whare Kōrero

Innovation can mean anything: creating affordable housing for Māori, recycling plastic for use in 3D printers in the pacific, or even hacking the API calls to Pokemon GO. For a small team at Te Hiku Media in the Far North town of Kaitaia, it simply means DOING.

What if we throw a camera in front of our radio news? What if we live stream Waitangi? What if we build our own online digital platform that helps streamline kaimahi workflow so we can focus on te reo Māori content? These may not sound innovative, but for us these “what ifs” required taking risks, rocking the boat, and just doing things differently. We’ve failed along the way, but we’ve learned so much. By doing these things, we were able to:

  1. raise the profile of the organisation,
  2. raise the profile of te reo Māori,
  3. create new projects and initiatives within the organisation, and
  4. win awards.

I’m meant to incorporate data in this reframing innovation themed blog (for more check out Reframing Innovation). While data is hugely important, I think the story of Te Hiku is a unique one worth telling that I hope it will inspire other small organisations to give innovation a go. Let me tell you that we had no data when we started this journey. Data may have been available, but we didn’t know where to find it or how to use it.

Consider our bold move to provide a 24/7 online television stream in 2013 (as a frame of reference, Facebook launched live video streaming and Twitter bought Periscope in 2015). We had to do this because the big analogue to digital switchover killed our Te Hiku TV broadcast in Kaitaia. While we had a small reach in the towns of Kaitaia, Ahipara, and Awanui, we had a niche and engaged audience. But the data for internet access in the Far North said only 20 to 40% of households in those towns had internet. The stats for Te Hiku’s audience — primarily Māori and kuia and kaumātua — would have been worse! If we relied on that data and the fact that we needed to spend a significant amount of capital on hardware, software, and services to provide that stream, then we may not have taken the risk of launching a 100% online TV station.

Check out the Figure.NZ map to see 2013 Census data on household access to the internet in the Far North District, New Zealand.

We learnt a heck of a lot by taking that risk. We learnt that no one watched our 24/7 online TV, but people did watch our on-demand content. We also learnt that with the equipment we procured we could do this new and exciting thing (we’re still in 2014) called live streaming. Iwi radio are no strangers to live, outdoor broadcasts — we have broadcasted treaty hearings, kapa haka, manu kōrero, and other events LIVE for the past 25 years. Radio is the medium of choice for outdoor broadcasts because, compared with TV, it’s more affordable and not too difficult. But since we had the capability to stream video online courtesy of the Ministry killing our analogue TV, we decided to chuck some video over our traditional radio broadcast. We first did that in November 2014 when the Hōkūleʻa arrived in Aotearoa on its Mālama Hōnua Voyage (marama whēnua in Māori… take care da land in Hawaiian pidgin). The team was thrilled! Yea, we only had some 350 viewers (that excludes our radio audience), but it was something different.

We then went on to be the first to live video stream Waitangi (Iwi radio live broadcasted Waitangi for more than 20 years), and we even used Raspberry Pis and iPhones to allow our kaimahi to live cross from anywhere on the treaty grounds. The staff were even more inspired after the Waitangi broadcast. Yeah it was tough. Yea we had dropouts and tonnes of bloopers. Yeah we got moved next to the Port-a-loos after being informed mainstream media complained that Te Hiku Media was given preferential treatment due to being a Māori organisation… but the audience loved it! We had a group watching us taking shots every time they heard us say iPhone (I think they had a good time). And the staff had a great time and went home feeling inspired. All of a sudden staff were saying, “can we build an app to do this,” “what’s the data like,” “what if we had multiple live feeds next year?!?!?!” (Eeeeeks).

Check out the video below from another broadcast that shows just how fun things can be when you get out of the studio and try something new. That’s a LIVE cross to someone on a zodiac.

View the video: This is how we LIVE CROSS in the Far North

But live streaming is just a part of what we do. We have 3 radio stations. We have a treasure trove of archives that need to make its way online. And we have to somehow manage content coming from these work streams. In 2015 Te Hiku Media applied for and successfully received a Vision Mātauranga Māori grant to further explore the innovative opportunities around live streaming, broadcasting, content management, and archiving. And that’s how the Whare Kōrero was born.

Whare Kōrero. Literally, house of information. It’s Te Hiku’s marae in the sky. It’s also known as a website, but we’re story tellers and the online whare kōrero is a much more compelling story. Plus, it’s more than a website. It’s a digital platform that aims to bridge the gaps between streaming, broadcasting, content management and archives (if you too would like your own whare kōrero, get in touch).

One of the beauties of building your own platform from the ground up is that you can adapt it quickly to suit the ever changing industry. If we decide we need to podcast, we’ll build podcasting in the platform (check out our NZ Music podcast — August is Māori Music Month!). If another Iwi station needs assistance in live streaming, we’ll hack together a web-based, multi-iPhone switching solution (again, get in touch!). The platform enables innovation in our organisation whether the innovation is around the technology in the platform, how we decide to distribute content, or the data we can collect from the platform. Innovation in one part of the business definitely spills over into others.

We’re also talking more about data as an organisation because we have easy access to the data. We know where our viewers come from, how long they’re staying on our site, and what type of content they like. The data has verified why our activities are producing the results we’re seeing. For example, the graph below shows the growth in pageviews on our website since launching our Whare Kōrero in November 2014. Note the spikes. These are events that Te Hiku Media broadcasted — kapa haka, manu kōrero, waka ama, Ngāpuhi Festival, etc. Each of these events allowed us to reach more people and raised the awareness of our organisation in the community. Te Hiku Media’s base audience grows steadily as a result of these promotional events. The two largest spikes are kapa haka… no surprise there 😉

Te Hiku pageviews

Monthly growth in pageviews for tehiku.nz.

We’ve also noticed data spikes when an old interview in the Whare Kōrero gets a large viewership. It turns out that in these instances a kuia or kaumātua had passed away and someone in the whānau knew they could access the interview in our Whare Kōrero. Data like this demonstrate the value that our kaupapa provides to the community, and it highlights the importance of preserving and promoting te reo o te kainga.

Te Hiku Media have grown so much since first “going online.” We now ask ourselves how can we get more data to inform our decisions? Which collections are the most watched? Why do people spend more time watching one interview over another? We use Google Analytics at the moment, but when we consider the structure of our platform and the models we’ve created (e.g. we can include information about people and iwi in content), we may need to consider building in our own analytics so we can answer the questions that are important to us (building sometimes means incorporating an open source package, like Piwik).

We recently got back 100 transcriptions of old recordings, most in te reo Māori. We have hundreds more to digitise. Can you imagine uploading those tāonga to SoundCloud or Youtube? Neither can we. So our challenge is to find an innovative way that can enhance access to these rich, te reo Māori recordings. Simply chucking an audio file on a website isn’t the best, most innovative solution. We’re hoping to do some R&D and find a clever way to use these reo Māori tāonga to right shift all of Aotearoa so that Māori is as common as English.


Keoni Mahelona is a native Hawaiian who studied business and engineering in the States and moved to Aotearoa to study physics. He’s worked on driverless cars before Tesla was a thing, and shook hands with Hillary Clinton before he discovered the amazing Bernie Sanders. After his first, failed startup, he took solace in the Far North to help a Māori social enterprise innovate in an industry ripe for disruption.

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