Fairfax gets Neighbourly

Fairfax media has bought in to a company where neighbours can chat about where to get the best flat white in their area, offer up spare bags of sheep dung to people nearby (true story), or find out what happens to the old clothes they’ve been putting in the bins by the church all these years.

Newly launched network for neighbours, Neighbourly.co.nz, has inked a deal with Fairfax that both parties hope will help build their brand and reach.

Fairfax now has a 22.5 percent share in Neighbourly after investing an undisclosed sum in the online platform.

The media organisation may buy more of Neighbourly in the future, depending on how things go over the next six to eight months.

“Hopefully Fairfax and us continue to blossom in that way,” Neighbourly managing director Casey Eden says, of future investment.

The partnership originally came out of a conversation between his co-founder Shane Bradley and an old school friend of Bradley’s who works at Fairfax, he says.

“It was a mutual lightbulb moment – they both saw that they could help each other.”

For Neigbourly, the partnership offers a cash injection and more local content from Fairfax’s 66 community papers to add to the hyper-local ​Neigbourly news feeds.

“Theres investment and there’s smart investment. Neighbourly wasn’t just looking to get someone who can help us stay afloat – Fairfax was the perfect fit – it has the resources and the experience,” Eden says.

(L-R) Fairfax product development director Robert Hutchinson, Neighbourly co-founder and managing director Casey Eden, Neighbourly co-founder Shane Bradley and Fairfax Media NZ managing director Simon Tong.

For Fairfax the network offers more eyeballs in the digital space, where its metropolitan papers have a solid presence, but community content can get lost.

Fairfax is looking to bring its community papers in to the 21st century, Eden says, and get the digital arm of the community working better. 

Fairfax NZ managing director Simon Tong says Neighbourly is already building strong relationships with community leaders such as local councils and emergency services. Since launching nationally in June, Neighbourly already has more than 60,000 members across 1,400 New Zealand suburbs.

“Our involvement with Neighbourly gives us an even greater opportunity to connect individuals within a community, to discuss the issues important to them, allow them to share their views and experiences and build community spirit,” he says.  

The free website is currently not a money-maker. When asking Eden about future advertising on the site, he says he prefers to call it “monetisation”. 

“Anything we do will be well thought out and really careful,” he says.

“Long term, yep, we do need to make ends meet. But any advertising has to add value. The last thing I want is a million banners on Neighbourly.”

What the monetisation might look like is offers from local businesses, loyalty schemes or recommendation programs.

The website currently has a corporate partner in AMI Insurance, which sponsors some aspects of the site, and they will be looking for “a handful of those [corporate partners]” next year.

But Eden says partners have to be the kind that are already involved in the community and want to be in the space doing good work for the long term.

Neighbourly launched in June this year with a mailout to thousands of households around the country. The free website allows users to log on and interact with people in their local communities, posting classifieds, asking questions and sharing information.

The platform has seen large uptake in Auckland suburbs where the Neighbourly team has been particulary active, but also in other suburbs where community leaders have got their suburbs involved. Tawa is one of those suburbs, and is currently tracking to have the largest user base in the country.

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