Banding together: Newsie gives regional news national reach

Earlier this month, New Zealand’s media landscape saw the addition of Newsie. However, it doesn’t mean a new team of journalists providing a new stream of stories into the existing offering; instead, it’s about ensuring the stories of independent regional publishers get the attention they deserve. 

Coordinated by New Zealand-owned publishing company Sun Media, which operates the SunLive news website based in the Bay of Plenty, director Brian Rogers says Newsie is a recognition that there was a gap in the market for an independent body of news where the regional news gets a look in.

To fill it, Newsie pools the resources of New Zealand-owned and independent news companies by publishing their stories to provide a balanced range of national news.

There’s also international news that impacts the lives of New Zealanders to keep them in touch with what’s happening beyond the country’s shores.

Those involved span the length of the country, including the Kaipara Lifestyler, Howick and Pakuranga Times, Advocate South, Nelson Weekly, The Post and the Wanaka Sun alongside many others.

It plans on adding many more to the pool in the coming months.

Sun Media has been contacting publishers since August and Brian says it’s opened their eyes up to how many publishers are scattered across the country, doing really great work but are unheard of.

“They’re doing great journalism too, so to be able to bring that to the light of day and show it is pretty special,” he says.

So far, none of the publishers have said no to the invitation to be a part of it. In fact, Sun Media director Claire Rogers says they’ve been happy to hear a platform like Newsie finally exists.

“A lot of them have said it’s ‘about time, we were waiting for this kind of thing to happen’. They’ve really grabbed it with both hands, it’s brilliant.”

And it’s not just publishers who’ve had a door opened for them through its conception, as Claire adds it plans to get freelancers throughout the country involved as contributors.

“If you’re a journalist in a small community, what this does is give them a chance to be on a national platform so they get their work seen across the country, which is nice because they might not otherwise get that opportunity,” she says.

As well as creating a cooperative effort of independent publishers across the country, it’s also championing a move away from clickbait, to ensure its news impacts the lives of New Zealanders.

Brian says readers are sick of being led down a path to click on headlines like, ‘You can’t believe what happens next’, only to be delivered nonsense.

Because of this, he says the Kardashians are outlawed and celebrities will have to earn a mention—not merely get a haircut or a new spouse.

A platform to be nurtured

Though the website is still in its early stages of development, it’s been in the pipeline since May last year, and Brian and Claire have been drawing on their experiences developing SunLive to make it a reality.

Sun Media cut its teeth with the news website seven years ago when there were no other publishers using a regional model like SunLive’s, so developing it and rolling it out was a case of making it up as it went along.

Throughout that process, the pair say they overcame the challenges and pitfalls of creating a news website, giving it the confidence to proceed with Newsie as well as a wealth of experience they can pass onto independent publishers that are also looking to grow online.

SunLive regularly achieves over 800,000 hits a week, and we get told by a lot of other publishers that they’d like to do something similar – now’s our chance to share our knowledge with them,” Brian says. “They can tap into what we’ve already figured out.”

It’s also worked to grow SunLive’s Facebook likes to nearly 30,000, and while Newsie’s achieved just over 6000 likes so far, it’s a number that’s growing rapidly and each thousand generates a buzz among the Sun Media team.

“We aren’t going to take over the world in the first week,” Brian says. “It’s something we’re growing and nurturing.”

And while they also make mention of Stuff and the New Zealand Herald’s incomparably large number of Facebook likes, Sun Media doesn’t consider itself to be in competition with those publications.

Brian says it offers different material and a different style, and sees Newsie working alongside them to offer regionally focused news.

“It’s a matter of New Zealand media banding together and the real competition is beyond the media, it’s with Google and Facebook and those giant international companies that are pillaging traditional media income streams,” Brian says.

He adds that because Newsie is locally owned and operated, it’s focus and passion remains on the news, rather than filling the pockets of offshore shareholders.

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