Story: Digital media and the internet

With the internet New Zealanders can overcome their geographical isolation – they can connect to the rest of the world with a click of a mouse. The internet has changed how most Kiwis do business, shop, socialise and find information.

Story by Russell Brown
Main image: Students at Leamington Primary School in Cambridge using iPads in 2014

Story summary

All images & media in this story

New Zealanders’ use of the internet

New Zealanders’ use of the internet is among the highest in the world. A 2013 study showed that 92% of New Zealanders aged 16 or over used the internet. Two-thirds of users accessed the internet on mobile phones. There were more than half a million websites with a .nz registration.

The early days of the internet, 1990s

The first New Zealand publications on the internet were Usenet discussion groups, which began in 1985. The World Wide Web was invented in 1991 and New Zealand’s first website – a directory for Victoria University of Wellington – was created in 1992.

By 1996 only one in five New Zealanders had heard of the internet, but it was growing fast. Several important websites were launched that year, including the first website for the New Zealand government.


Trade Me, an auction website, was founded in 1999 by Sam Morgan. It went on to become the most popular New Zealand-based website among Kiwis.

The internet changed the way people did many things. These included buying and selling, finding jobs, booking holidays and paying bills. Many people turned to the internet to buy music and books. This led to the closure of some retail shops.


Websites became the most popular way for New Zealanders to get their news. The Stuff website was the most popular New Zealand website in 2020.

Many radio stations also broadcast over the internet and some, such as Radio New Zealand, make podcasts of past programmes available on their websites.

NZ On Air, the government agency that funds broadcasting, has some funding for projects broadcast over the internet.

Blogs and satire

Blogs that have been popular in New Zealand include technology blogs such as Read Write Web; political and social commentary blogs such as Kiwiblog and Public Address; and satirical blogs The Civilian and DimPost.

Social media

Email was the earliest use of the internet for social communication. By 2013, 99% of New Zealanders who used the internet checked their email regularly.

In the early 2000s technologies – often called Web 2.0 – made it easier for people to interact on the web by leaving comments on websites or contributing to them. Social networks took off from 2007. In 2012 Facebook was the most popular social network among New Zealanders. Twitter was also popular. In 2013 more than a quarter of internet users had met a new friend or partner through the internet.

After the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, the news was first reported to the world through social media. This also became an important way to share information about what was happening. Later, websites were set up to collect accounts of the earthquakes.


In 2013 the most popular website was the Google search engine, showing the importance of the internet for finding information.

The government aims to make information and services available over the internet.

A great deal of educational and historical material has been made available online. This includes digitised newspapers, photographs, books and government publications. Some websites present information for students and general users. These include Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, and the Department of Conservation’s website.


Existing laws around copyright, publications and objectionable material were amended to include the internet. The Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008 was controversial because it made it possible for people to be cut off from the internet for copyright infringement.

How to cite this page:

Russell Brown, 'Digital media and the internet', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 July 2024)

Story by Russell Brown, published 22 October 2014