Crowdsourcing a new publication

Three journalists, one businessman, a health professional and an audience. One hour to create a new online publication. Can they do it? Katherine Bransgrove reports.

Grab an audience and a panel of experts in health, journalism, business and climate change and don’t let them out of the room until they have created a new online publication.

That was the bold mission behind the “New News Workshop Incubator: Crowdsourcing a new publication”.

Paul Ramadge, former editor of The Age, said it was a frenetic experience.

“I’ve never done speed dating but this is speed internet development,” he said.

The audience was separated into four groups with each panelist taking charge of one aspect of the future website.

Croakey blogger Melissa Sweet said the goal was to create a smorgasbord of ideas.

“Hopefully if there’s a network that wants to take it forward then they can,” she said.

Mr Ramadge’s group was told to set the website’s editorial standards and define the audience, content goals, content sources and editing processes.

The group discussed the merits of appealing to a narrow or a broad audience.

“Let’s write specialist content and content that is accessible to everybody,” Mr Ramadge said.

Lively debates took place about the site’s focus. Would it advocate change? Or would a website reporting on and assessing climate change and health without a particular bias be better?

“Our selling proposition can be that we are an independent website that helps make sense out of climate change and health,” Mr Ramadge said.

But who would write the content?

“We would need a few journalists,” one workshop member suggested.

“We would start with two journalists and two editors,” Mr Ramadge said.

“We would have user-generated content too.”

“We could identify opportunities within universities for content and provide internships,” a mature-aged media student from Monash added.

Across the room health professional, journalist and political commentator Fiona Armstrong helped her group form a community building strategy.

“We thought about creating communities around shared projects like a compost system,” one of the group members said.

“We need to be engaged with the community to build support by using social media,” he said.

Bronwen Clune, journalist and editor of Newsgraf, brainstormed a news format that best suited the website with her group.

“If you’re not an expert in science it’s quite hard to digest because it’s generally technical and dry and very text-heavy,” said journalism student Nicholas McCallum.

“To move away from that we thought it really needs to be broken down on a human level as opposed to what scientists might read,” he said.

“We decided to make scientific information extremely personal. We engage mothers and say ‘the quality of the air is impacting your child’s health’.”

A global map that displayed climate change and health updates for different countries at the click of a mouse was suggested.

Mr Ramadge’s group came up with “My Story”, an area of the site where readers could write about their own experiences with climate change and health and upload videos of themselves.

Business consultant and entrepreneur Daniel May helped his group come up with a “pay to post” business model. Readers could have their content uploaded on the site for a fee.

His group also suggested the site provide space for not-for-profit organizations to advertise for free.

“We would take a minimal percentage of every donation that took place. That would pay to keep the site running,” said one of the group members.

By the end of the panel the online publication may not have been ready to be uploaded but all agreed the groundwork had been laid for a promising project.