Journalism as product, UGC as low-cost content, at DMA HK

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Productising journalism - or user-generated content for that matter - were two of the concepts being canvassed as Digital Media Asia got underway today.

While the conference itself - which will bring more than 400 delegates to the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong - doesn't start until Thursday, delegates attending four masterclasses made an enthusiastic start.

In one, Jess Ross - who is chief product officer at Australia's Fairfax Media - explained the theory of product development in the newsroom, and the challenges of building teams for it. But there's a problem, and she quoted Emily Bell that, "journalists of a particular generation detest the word 'product'... with its commercial overtones."

But she says, "there's no getting around it" as journalism is paid directly for by readers, instead of being subsidised by advertisers.

Balancing early product development with "existing priorities" was an ongoing problem, but Fairfax worked to avoid management issues by holding fortnightly meetings with all stakeholders. "That's editorial, marketing, subscriptions, sales... and if you bring the opportunity, we want you involved," she said.

"Early stage development is hard, but it needs to be done."

Paradoxically, good leaders were frequently not specialists, but good generalists and "really good communicators," she said. "Often they are people who have had funny, winding careers that have taken them into interesting places."

But what if you could persuade readers and other site users to provide your website content... and at no cost? Grig Davidovitz, who consults on such things to publishers such as the Times of Israel, explained how it could be done.

In one, a new website seeded with selected bloggers had developed such a following that it was soon attracting 12,000 posts a year under the supervision of only three people.

While Davidovitz is clearly not a fan of the direction the Huffington Post has taken, he cited as an example of a blog site which could build to the extent it became worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

He told of the need to incentivise contributors so that they provided the type of content needed by the website. In the case of an events platform hosted by non-for-profit the Jewish Federation of Boston, that means giving more space to organisations which supply better-quality content and photographs.

The site - which resembles the ones with which you book flights or hotels, in its ability to filter listings - connects stakeholders in what Davidovitz says is an essential "game".

In Asia, where some publications restrict event publicity to events which have been advertised, there could be a conflict, but he stressed the need to become a destination "like Facebook", before capitalising on its popularity with paid highlighting.

Two complimentary sponsored masterclasses were held simultaneously. One from Redhill and Bitgrit sought to brief journalists on how blockchain works - complete with interactive exercises - while the other took delegates to the LiangYi Museum for the Facebook Journalism Project News Day in Asia, with updates on Facebook, Instagram and CrowdTangle.

Digital Media Asia continues on Thursday and Friday at the Mira, Hong Kong, with speakers including South China Morning Post chief executive Gary Liu and Schibsted Media editorial head Torry Pedersen, and the presentation of the 2018 Asian Digital Media Awards. More details from

Pictured: Fairfax's Jess Ross leads discussion of product issues

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