New Fairfax sites to chase niche audiences

The Optimist

Fairfax Media has launched two new niche sites

Two new digital news outlets have been launched by The Sydney Morning Herald to pursue a niche audience using in-house content and staff.

Celsius, covering climate news, and The Optimist, which highlights positive and uplifting stories, both use a blog-style layout and are without a dedicated homepage. Readers land on the most recent post and can scroll down through older stories.

The sites had a soft launch earlier this month.

“It’s a combination of writing our own material, aggregating other things that the mothership writes and aggregating other pieces that other people write,” the paper’s innovation editor Stephen Hutcheon told an audience of subscribers at an event in Sydney on Tuesday.

“We feel that the way traffic is moving, fewer and fewer people are typing in and using bookmarks, they’re finding our stories from search, they’re finding our stories from Facebook feeds.”

Editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir said the sites did not have a guaranteed future.

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll kill it,” Mr Goodsir said at the event.

“We will be utilising mainly social avenues [for promotion],” he said in a separate interview with The Newspaper Works.

“I think one of the exciting things about this is to see how this sort of journalism can survive outside of the sponsorship of the mothership website.

“Being part of a big mass-audience news site like the gives promotional opportunities for all sorts of articles and topics, but we want to see how we go without that sort of comfort.”

The sites are aimed at pursuing a broader readership than would normally come to The Sydney Morning Herald’s website, and Mr Goodsir hinted that other niche sites may be in the pipeline.

The two sites join a new Science Is Golden podcast created by science editor Nicky Phillips, which takes its title and tone from a successful Facebook page launched by the Herald.

“It’s a combination of stories and interesting things from the science websites they read. It’s going really well, we’ve only launched it recently and it’s been quite successful,” social media editor Georgia Waters said of the Facebook page.

One episode of the podcast has so far been recorded as a pilot and distributed to staff.

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