First issue of New Zealand Listener published

30 June 1939

Cover of the first issue of the NZ Listener (Alexander Turnbull Library, S-L-1249-COVER)

The New Zealand Listener soon expanded beyond its original brief to publicise radio programmes to become the country’s only national weekly current affairs and entertainment magazine.

From major investigative stories to crosswords, the Listener published the serious, the trivial and everything in between. Features such as a 1939 war diary about clothes for the well-dressed soldier, Aunt Daisy’s instructions for cooking a swan, and the more recent ‘Power Lists’ of influential New Zealanders and cover stories targeted at the ‘worried well’ traced changing preoccupations over the years.

From the outset, the arts were a major focus for the Listener, which published works by leading writers such as James K. Baxter, Janet Frame and Maurice Shadbolt.

The Listener’s paid circulation peaked at 375,885 in 1982. Some predicted its demise when it lost its monopoly on programme schedules in the free-market 1980s, but it adapted and survived. In 1990 the Listener was sold to New Zealand Magazines. It was still one of the country’s top-selling and best-loved magazines when its subsequent owner, the Hamburg-based Bauer Media Group, closed down its New Zealand publications abruptly in 2020.