Sirena Bergman, head of content and community at The News Hub, on building a global community, taking an alternative view to mainstream press, and exciting plans in the pipeline.
I’m head of content at The News Hub, a global open journalism platform which follows no agenda and pays contributors for the best content. I look after the Life section in particular and oversee news and sports content as well. Before this, I worked at the Times Educational Supplement and the Guardian, and also advised on SEO and social media for several content companies.
I also run my own blog and freelance for various publications including The Independent, VICE, Huffington Post, Thought Catalog and more.
What does a typical day look like?
We work quite long hours, usually from around 9am to about 7pm. The first thing I do in the morning is check overnight traffic and look at the content on the site. Then I go through my emails and look around for the news of the day. We have an editorial meeting every day, usually before lunchtime, where we discuss how we’re marketing our content, what new contributors we’ve got, who we’re trying to target, and what stories we’ve got coming in. Afternoons are usually spent reading and editing content and managing the community.
How is the team structured?
I oversee the editorial team, which includes news, life and sports editors, as well as an editorial assistant. We intermittently have contractors and paid interns as well. The tech and sales side is managed by The News Hub’s founder and CEO, William Stolerman. We have 750+ contributors in at least 50 countries, and they really make the platform what it is, so we like to see them as part of the extended team.
What makes The News Hub unique?
As a journalist there are very limited opportunities to have editorial freedom, alongside visibility of your data and the opportunity to retain ownership of your work and get paid. We offer this, plus a community of engaged readers and seasoned journalists on staff who will help to edit and improve their work and market their content.
To our readers we offer a news experience which is completely impartial and unbiased, with alternative views and coverage of global news which is often ignored by the mainstream press. Readers can tailor their feed so they see only content that relates to categories they’re interested in; they can use the Trending feed to see what the community perceives as the best content; but also a Latest feed, so they don’t miss anything out; and a Following feed, so they can see their favourite writers’ work.
Who are your readers and how do you engage with them?
Our readers are based all over the world, although predominantly in English-speaking regions currently. We have different communities of readers in areas as varied as international politics, football, gaming, and entertainment. In a similar way to social networks, we have a large cross-over between content creators and consumers, which means our audience can be a lot more engaged than in traditional news platforms. For example, if as a reader you see a comment piece you disagree with, there’s a ‘reply’ function which allows you to write a rebuttal and post it directly on the site.
We also connect with our communities via social media, and a lot of our contributors will build their own readerships though Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc.
Are there many PR opportunities?
As a news platform we’re always keen to hear about new, exciting original stories but as we don’t have journalists on staff we usually pass press releases onto our contributors and let them write the piece. We have strict rules about promotional content so it does have to be editorially interesting. PRs can also pay for sponsored content on the site.
How can PRs get involved?
Either by sending interesting content our way for us to pass onto contributors or by pitching stories directly to be written by clients, which we’ll then evaluate.
How would you like PRs get in touch?
The general firstname.lastname@example.org is fine, but they can reach editors directly by emailing the specific section: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Phone calls are rarely welcome.
Are there any particular sectors that you are looking for more content?
Within News we’re happy with original stories and angles in all sections as long as they’re reported in a way that’s different to what the mainstream press are doing. Life is always looking for more content within Food and Drink, Fashion and Beauty and Relationships, whilst American football, baseball and basketball are always good options within the sport section. We’re completely led by the community so we’ll never turn down a story just because we have a lot of content in that category.
How do you see The News Hub evolving in the future?
The way people consume news has completely changed over the last decade. Readers have so much choice for great, high quality journalism that they’re becoming more and more discerning. The fact that most people get the majority of their news through Twitter and Facebook shows there’s a desire to curate content by topics, and news outlets need to be aware of this.
It’s been a tough time for journalists, for whom it can be hard to cut through the noise and adapt to changing consumer habits. I’m confident that The News Hub provides a solution to both sides.
As we get bigger we’ll continue to increase our fees as we believe good content should be free to consume but rewarding to create. We have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline for the rest of the year so watch this space.
Read the article on the Gorkana’s Notes from Basecamp site here.