Fairfax is on board with the Waterboy app venture launched by former All Black Kees Meuws and business partner Christian Kasper in what could be the first of other partnerships that extend beyond the publishing stable to tap into content verticals with keenly engaged audiences.
The Waterboy iOS and desktop app lets users create streams of 'grass roots' sports matches anywhere, add updates, comments and photos.
Clubs can use the service to share information among members, supporters and sponsors and embed broadcasts into their own site.
Fairfax wants to help make Waterboy the destination for sport at this level.
"Grass roots sport is an area we'd love to cover. With the number of journalists we'd need it's beyond the realms of reality these days," says Fairfax's director of product development Robert Hutchinson.
"As a vertical it enables us to tap into the passion of that audience."
He adds it makes the most of the mobile platform, including location, immediacy, connectedness and micro-messaging. "It allows relevant content to be served to audiences at a hyper-local level,” he says.
Fairfax might use Waterboy's platform to offer different types of content in future, including streamed video, but won't know what those opportunities could be until the venture grows and Fairfax knows how people are using the product, says Hutchinson.
He adds Fairfax has "lots of other opportunities in different verticals" but adds it's early days. Those opportunities
could be apps or websites, but Fairfax wants any future opportunities to be mobile-centric.
The partnership with Waterboy focuses on marketing and advertising, with Fairfax bringing its mass audience and lending its expertise to help develop the product, he adds.
The audience Fairfax commands gives Waterboy a voice, says Kasper. He adds the platform allows Fairfax to specifically target its advertising, because it serves based on location information, then demographic factors gained from information supplied when users sign up. Behavioural targeting is also on the radar, Kasper says.
Waterboy hopes to offer its platform to other broadcasters and content providers, because it overcomes the tyranny of separation, says Kasper. "It could be a radio station that could be live on air and can get results for their website. Most media face that problem of broadcasting from a particular location."
Kasper is based in Dunedin, but the venture has an office at business growth centre the Icehouse in Auckland. The idea for Waterboy was formed when Meeuws found it difficult to keep up with his kids’ sport while travelling during his professional rugby career.
"Using Waterboy, my wife and other parents can update the kids’ games live from the sideline. They can also share updates with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, creating this big audience for our local Dunedin rugby club.
"Waterboy gives grassroots sports a voice and lets anyone participate in the excitement that happens from north to south, east to west. It’s live and completely subjective," he says.