Fairfax expands its digital focus beyond the main page & news

Fairfax launches The Vocal “to empower young people to give a fuck” as part of digital push

By Sally Rawsthorne

Following Wednesday’s SMH reader event where editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir described the Fairfax flagship newspaper as “a publisher that does public good journalism in a commercial model,” the legacy media brand has launched The Vocal. Described as “a social project designed to slay boredom with refreshingly inspired and racially positive”, the new site launched at thevoc.al.

The stand-alone site aims “to empower young people to give a fuck” through increased awareness and shareable content, as well as an action button that allows the user to sign a petition or take action on the issue at hand. The site also takes advantage of The Sydney Morning Herald‘s talented stable of investigative journalists, with investigative-style stories on the site. It also welcomes user-generated content, with a Pitch A Story button prevalent on the About page. So far, the site hasn’t had any publicity on the main SMH page, but has been publicised on Twitter by deputy SMH editor Ben Cubby and has already managed to garner 1,900 Facebook fans.

At launch, it has stories like “There are better ways of combatting piracy than blocking websites”, “9 ways The Big Issue has been owning it since 1996″ and “STOP! Worry Time”, with each story’s reading time displayed below the headline.

The site’s launch comes as Fairfax looks to expand its remit beyond its traditional spheres, and developing more digital properties. At Wednesday’s reader event, innovation editor Stephen Hutcheon signalled that the SMH would be doing more of this. “We’ve launched two experimental sites, one is called Celcius and the other is called The Optimist. They’re run outside our main website on a shoestring. It’s a combination of writing our own material, aggregating what the mother ship writes and aggregating other pieces other people write. They have no homepages,we feel that the way that traffic is moving fewer and fewer peoeple are typing in SMH.com.au, they’re finding our stories through search and social. We’re trying to build something from scratch,” he said.

“The idea of a journalist being a curator as well as a reporter is something that‘s growing in popularity. Subscribers often say to us thath they’d like to know what Ross Gittens or Nicky Phillips are reading, and this is a way of putting that in front of them,” homepage editor Conal Hanna added.

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