Fairfax Me­dia in the com­mu­nity

New Zealand Marketing - - Maketing Association - Jeremy Rees, Na­tional Com­mu­nity Ti­tles Editor, Fairfax Me­dia

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:

1.

The new news­pa­per de­signs - bet­ter de­sign of lo­cal news with new colum­nists.

2.

Re­porters who take a photo that can go around the world. Like pic­tured right.

3.

Rais­ing money to help de­serv­ing peo­ple and groups in the com­mu­nity

4.

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)

5.

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.

6.

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.

7.

Be­ing part of dis­cus­sions on neigh­bourly.co.nz. Auck­land’s Cen­tral Leader asked its read­ers about the flag; the dis­cus­sion is still go­ing.

8.

The new What’s On in the com­mu­nity pa­pers - “prob­a­bly our most read ad­di­tion,” said one editor.

9.

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.”

10.

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.”

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