Fairfax Digital looks to harness the wisdom of the crowd—and its data—with user-generated content hub

  • Media
  • September 17, 2012
  • Ben Fahy
Fairfax Digital looks to harness the wisdom of the crowd—and its data—with user-generated content hub

Not surprisingly, the relaunch of the New Zealand Herald as a tabloid and the redesign of the nzherald.co.nz website have dominated most of the attention in the newspaper sphere in recent weeks. But Fairfax has a few tricks up its sleeve as well and it has announced the launch of Stuff Nation, a repository for user-generated content and a more personalised news experience that promises to "transform the landscape of New Zealand journalism"—and the way Fairfax Digital delivers media packages in New Zealand.

As it says on the website: "We at Stuff.co.nz believe everyone has a story to tell or an opinion to share. And, now, we're giving you the chance to do just that. Your stories or views, whether in words, pictures or video (or a combination of the three) could feature on New Zealand's most popular news and entertainment website. So, don't be shy. Hit the contribute button on this page and follow the easy steps."

According to a release, "Stuff Nation provides a pathway for the evolution of digital news in New Zealand, allowing readers to become citizen contributors and see their own work featured". Whether stories about readers' favourite sporting moments, hot bosses, or worst holidays will change the landscape of New Zealand journalism or just add to the vast mountain of opinion/content/bollocks on the internet is yet to be seen, but as social media and mobile technology has advanced, user-generated content has certainly started playing an increasingly important role in mainstream media coverage (as explained brilliantly in The Guardian's retelling of the Three Little Pigs), particularly given the limited resources of most editorial departments these days. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDGrfhJH1P4Crowd-sourced news is also a developing trend/business model in the news game, with the likes of Pro Publica in the States winning awards for investigative journalism and forging good relationships with respected mastheads, and business commentator Bernard Hickey planning a similar Kiwi version at journalism.org.nz (here's his video description).

“Our audience has shown great appetite for innovation in digital news,” says Sinead Boucher, group digital editor for Fairfax Media. “The success of our crowd-sourcing projects around the MP expenses scandal, which was a New Zealand first [but followed on from The Guardian's expenses app that let its readers pinpoint anything worthy of investigation by the 'proper' journalists] and the Christchurch earthquake have shown us that readers want to contribute and engage with news and events that are important to them. Stuff Nation is the next step in that evolution.”

As well as submitting news content, the popular Stuff quiz has been pimped out, with users now able to compete against each other in quiz groups. Users can also join the Open Newsroom Network, which invites users to sign up to be on a directory of expertise so journalists can tap that resource for research or quotes. Stuff Nation members will also get exclusive access to set up public profiles (and they can choose how much of themselves they give away), choose improved newsletter options, use better commenting functionality and save their stories to read later. 

Fairfax comms and marketing manager Nicola Igusa was unable to be contacted, but the release says "this puts Stuff at the forefront of news and journalism in a digital world as it allows the number one news site to showcase more diverse, interesting content from the viewpoint of the New Zealand public and enables the site to create and foster interest groups and communities" (given the response to the NBR's 'open-door' journalism scheme, which did offer those who were published a small fee, we doubt Fairfax's quest for free content will go down too well with the freelance writing community). 

As Poynter wrote recently, the gap is widening between the amount of print revenue that's been lost and the amount of digital revenue that's been gained by publishers, and it's now at an alarming 25:1 ratio. As it points out, different companies are weathering the storm in different ways. For some, paywalls are the answer. For others, offering free content, mining the data and offering more targeted advertising is the way forward and, at this stage, Fairfax appears to be favouring the latter. 

“Not only does Stuff Nation give us an advantage to use and encourage user generated content, it provides us with an enhanced ability to collect demographic and behavioural information to provide a deep and robust understanding of our audience,” says Nigel Tutt, general manager of Fairfax Digital.  “Advertising markets around the world are moving towards a trend of buying audiences and eyeballs rather than pages or context, so publishers need to develop a better understanding of their audience. Stuff Nation will enhance this and enable us to stay ahead of the game.”

Fairfax Digital New Zealand has also selected Adobe® AudienceManager as its new data management platform to allow it to better segment its audience via the data collected, making it the first customer in the Asia Pacific region to use it. With the ability to consolidate multiple data sets, Fairfax Digital New Zealand will be able to deliver highly targetable segments to advertisers.

Key features of Stuff Nation are:

  • Quiz Groups - Stuff’s popular Daily Trivia Quiz now enables its loyal participants to join and create Quiz Groups. Stuff Nation members can join the public leader board, public quiz groups or set up their own private quiz leagues.
  • News, views and insights - With Stuff Nation users can contribute to the news. Stuff’s editorial team will set specialised assignments so members can submit specific content. Or users can alternatively submit reports on what is happening in their world where their work could be featured on Stuff Nation. 
  • Open Newsroom Network - Fairfax Media's Open Newsroom Network will invite members to submit their area of expertise enabling Fairfax journalists to contact these news sources when a story they're investigating is relevant.

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