Fairfax Media in the community
For much of the last decade, attention has been focused on developments in the news media at a national, and even international, level. Publishers have embraced digital opportunities by seeking scale and large audiences for news and advertising. Internationally, sites like The Guardian have gone global spreading well beyond their print footprint in England; the Huffington Post has rolled out 50 national editions and is working with Fairfax Media in Australia and New Zealand. Locally, stuff.co.nz continued its growth to become New Zealand’s third largest site, overtaking Trademe, and sitting just behind international juggernauts Google and Facebook.
But in the last 12 months, Fairfax Media has been focusing its attention at an equally important market, at the other end of the scale; hyperlocal. In a series of planned moves, it has rolled out new, fresh designs for its 52 community newspapers, hired new talent to focus on the hyperlocal space, purchased successively larger stakes in the Kiwi community engagement site, Neighbourly.co.nz, and launched a new internal drive to help communities around New Zealand to thrive. Fairfax’s aim is to tell the stories of communities around the country which otherwise would not get the attention of a national media. At the same time, Fairfax has signalled a willingness to work with other publishers or groups around New Zealand to help communities grow.
Fairfax Media has always had a strong suite of community newspapers, ranging from successful urban papers like the Manukau Courier, Hutt News and Christchurch Mail, through to small town papers like the Cambridge Edition, South Taranaki Star, based in Hawera, and the Kaikoura Star. Managing Director, Simon Tong says: “Providing genuinely local content is our unique strength and it’s highly valued by our readers. On a typical day, 1.7 million Kiwis read a Fairfax community newspaper.”
Each of the papers was relaunched in the third quarter of 2015 with fresh, bold new designs. Fairfax surveyed more than 1000 readers to drill down on what makes local newspapers so special. It found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that they are highly valued for being locally relevant, informative, useful, in-touch, campaigning on local issues - and free! The new designs emphasised these strengths with a focus on showcasing local news, what’s on in the community and conversations and debates on issues. Columns by Nadia Lim and Dr Libby were added to appeal to a core reader group of busy homeowners with families. The changes were well received; in fact, newspapers rarely receive such glowing praise! For example, one reader from Mangere wrote to say how she loved the look, the news and the letters pages, saying: “The food page is fantastic – how did you manage to get Nadia Lim!”
Fairfax has also pivoted strongly to digital in hyperlocal journalism. Most importantly is the work with local social media platform Neighbourly. co.nz, which in November hit 200,000 members with special strength in places like Wellington’s Tawa and Auckland suburb, St Heliers. Fairfax purchased first a 25% then 45% stake last year. Inspired by a US neighbourhood site, nextdoor.com which has more than 50 million members, Neighbourly fits the Fairfax goals, says Simon Tong.
“It ticks the boxes of the big trends across the globe - it’s mobile and it’s social and that is where our audience spends much of their time.”
Neighbourly launched its new business platform last July. Managing director Casey Eden says: “The idea is you want to find a builder or a plumber or a babysitter, you can do it on Neighbourly because you know these businesses are located around you and they’re from real people who you know and trust.”
This year will see a continuing focus on deepening community engagement. In 2015, Fairfax Media hired Jeremy Rees, the former editor of the Weekend
“It ticks the boxes of the big trends across the globe – it’s mobile and it’s social and that is where our audience spends much of their time.”
Herald and nzherald.co.nz, to drive engagement across platforms. Hyperlocal reporters are telling community stories across all platforms, driving discussions on social media and using video to showcase people in the community. Fairfax Media has set itself the express goal of helping communities thrive and grow and is looking to work with other partners with the same shared vision.
It’s all about keeping things local.
Jeremy Rees is Fairfax’s new communities editor. He left NZME. where he was editor of the Weekend Herald and nzherald.co.nz, as well as associate editor of the New Zealand Herald to help spearhead Fairfax Media’s drive in community engagement. He is a former editor of Fairfax’s Central Leader, an Auckland Suburban newspaper. He is chair of the NZ journalism training body and a board member of the Newspaper Publishers Association and Media Freedom Committee. He is a proud member of the Mt Eden, Auckland community.
10 THINGS FAIRFAX COMMUNITY EDITORS WERE PROUD OF IN 2015
Fairfax surveyed its community newspaper editors to find out what they were most proud of in 2015. Here’s a selection:
The new newspaper designs - better design of local news with new columnists.
Reporters who take a photo that can go around the world. Like pictured right.
Raising money to help deserving people and groups in the community
Special events for the community. Fairfax community mastheads run special events like sports awards ( The Hutt News) and awards to recognise good people (Franklin’s Finest awards, in Pukekohe)
Campaigns like the Kapi-mana news spotlight in Porirua on slum landlords, or The Cambridge
Edition’s focus on how to balance growth with keeping the town’s charm.
Video. All reporters now take video as a matter of course from a school pool opening in Huntly to a pole dancing course in Carterton.
Being part of discussions on neighbourly.co.nz. Auckland’s Central Leader asked its readers about the flag; the discussion is still going.
The new What’s On in the community papers - “probably our most read addition,” said one editor.
Telling good stories: North Shore Times editor Liz Willis: “How telling someone’s story can make a difference… For example, a 10-year-old with severe cerebral palsy’s world expanded when he got a new wheelchair, aided by a North Shore Times story about the family’s fundraising.”
Telling the positive stories as well as the issues in a community.
WHAT FAIRFAX’S COMMUNITY LEADERS SAY:
Walt Dickson, editor Wairarapa News on the future: “There will be a greater emphasis on digital. We (Fairfax) are already in this space and well ahead of the game. In addition, I believe that community newspapers have the opportunity to grow their audience!” Liz Willis, editor North Shore Times, on the future: “Great story telling will remain at the heart what our reporters do. But I will be helping reporters create more diverse digital content.” Managing director Casey Eden on what makes him proud at Neighbourly.co.nz “I love hearing about the simple stories of two neighbours who have lived in the same street for 10 years finally meeting each other.”