Black Hands

Black Hands


Wellington, New Zealand

Category Best Idea to Grow Digital Readership or Engagement

Overview of this campaign

On June 20, 1994 in a rundown house in Dunedin, New Zealand, almost an entire family was found dead. For more than two decades New Zealand has asked: 'Who killed the Bains?' There were two suspects. One, Robin Bain, lay dead from a single bullet to the head. The other was the only survivor, David.

Journalist Martin Van Beynen sat through every day of David Bain's second trial in 2009 for the murder of his family and was unconvinced by the jury's verdict of not guilty. He believed there was more to say.

He and the Stuff team produced the country's first episodic crime podcast exploring the case in staggering detail, supported by an innovative eight-chapter interactive feature on Stuff's website featuring related video, historic photos and background material not included in the podcast.

Our objective with Black Hands was simple: Could we introduce New Zealand's largest domestic digital audience to a new kind of long-form audio storytelling, that was engaging, cinematic and important?

Stuff is New Zealand's dominant news website,with more than 2.1 million unique visitors a month (Nielsen) - approaching half the nation's population of 4.7m.

We saw Black Hands as an opportunity to bolster audience engagement, and to consolidate Stuff's position as the best website in NZ for fresh, innovative journalistic storytelling.

At the end we hoped the audience could make up their own mind: Was the killer Robin, the father, or was it David, the son who insisted he came home from his paper round to find his family dead? Please download the podcast here.

Results for this campaign

Black Hands was an overwhelming international success, heavily promoted not just on Stuff but by all the world’s major podcast providers.

The 10-part series (an 11th episode was added post-launch) topped the iTunes podcast charts in NZ, Australia, Ireland and the UK, notching up 3.4 million downloads worldwide including 1.2m in NZ.

Many listeners said Black Hands was their first experience with podcasts and they would go on to try other global successes such as Serial and S-Town.

We also saw that people tended to listen to episodes in their entirety once they downloaded.

The series was heavily promoted on Stuff’s homepage and in associated print newspapers. Our interactive feature was viewed 950,000 times.

The huge interest in the series prompted national and international coverage on RNZ and the Spinoff.

Black Hands was marketed aggressively through advertisements in Stuff Ltd’s print and digital assets. We utilised animated ads, video pre-roll, and native advertising. The digital ads generated click through rates well above the industry benchmark. Ads also ran in all of Stuff’s nine daily regional newspapers, as well as national weekly the Sunday Star-Times. The series was also promoted directly to members via an email newsletter from the Stuff Editor to 130,000 readers.

The series was Stuff’s first foray into podcasting and its success has not only boosted the company’s reputation, it has created a new audience for podcasting and paved the way for serious investigative journalism to reach out to new listeners.



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