The Sunshine Coast Daily has been internationally recognised for its hugely successful social media presence which has allowed it to steer local and regional conversations.
The International News Media Association (INMA) has named the Daily as a finalist for the INMA Awards in the “best use of social media” category.
Mark Furler, the group editor for APN’s Australian Regional Media division, which publishes the Sunshine Coast Daily, said the paper’s huge social audience allowed it to draw directly on readers for their stories, and wield community influence.
“For too long, news organisations have tried to dictate what the story is, and our approach is encouraging our readers – including our Facebook readers – to tell us what the stories are,” Mr Furler said.
“We’re really chuffed to be in the finals. To be among the contenders of the INMA awards is a huge honour in itself.”
The paper adopts a model known as “360 journalism,” pulling the best content from social media into the newspaper, which is often generated off content that originally appeared in print.
“360 journalism is floating things out there in our digital space … and looking at the reaction, looking at the comments and then reverse-publishing the best of that in print and online,” Mr Furler said.
For example, the Daily asked which hairdresser readers believed was the best on the Sunshine Coast.
“We had phenomenal responses, hundreds and hundreds of comments and likes and so on, and we’ve done stories around the response – it’s news you can use, stuff that’s so simple to execute and it really creates a conversation,” he told The Newspaper Works.
He said real-time cyclone and flood coverage on social media also built the paper’s reputation as a trusted, authoritative source of news that people were more likely to turn to in future.
“Every day, more than a third of our 129,000 followers are engaged,” ARM’s social media editor Alexia Purcell said.
“We are seeing more and more of our posts reach hundreds of thousands of people,” she said.
“To win [the INMA Award] would just be the icing on the cake.”
Daily editor Jenna Cairney said the strategy was about re-engaging the print audience online.
“It reminds people that they own the newspaper,” Ms Cairney said.
“They are directly influencing and having a voice in the paper, through multiplatform means. I think it’s known that they can influence … content that we choose for the paper.
“We’re then able to share that information with the public and they’re the experts, not us, on what the best coffee shop is.”
The Facebook page has 129,000 “likes” and the Sunshine Coast has a population only of around 250,000. Many followers are based interstate and overseas and aspire to move or visit the region – allowing the Daily to chase stories that aren’t always local.
Their most successful post wasn’t a local story, but it was viewed by 3.7 million people and generated 4000 comments.
“It was a post about a woman who [recounted] how she was on the beach, and a couple of girls walked past her and said, ‘she’s past the age of having a bikini’,” Mr Furler said.
“And she actually posted on her Facebook site a photo of [her] in a bikini. One of our main sub-editors here picked it up and said we should follow it.
“It wasn’t even a local story; it just went off. It’s about creating conversations.”
Mr Furler says they steer clear of clickbait-style posts, instead “asking people questions, seeking opinion and when we do that it works a lot better for us than ‘you won’t believe this’.”
For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.