Web-only newspaper in Brisbane, Australia
Mike Van Niekerk
Editor in chief, Online
Fairfax Digital, Australia
In March 2007, Fairfax started the Brisbane Times (www.brisbanetimes.com.au), the first Australian metropolitan masthead that has been launched as an entirely online operation. We interviewed Mike Van Niekerk, editor in chief online for Fairfax Digital.
IFRA: The Brisbane Times is the first Australian newspaper website without a newspaper. What convinced from the beginning that this would work out?
Mike Van Niekerk: South-
IFRA: The BT has existed for almost a year now – are you satisfied with its overall performance?
Van Niekerk: It has been for us an exceptional success – we reached our 12-
IFRA: As the BT doesn't have a newspaper as a constant reminder that there is a website, how do you drive traffic to the site?
Van Niekerk: This is the hardest part, and requires dollars and a creative marketing spend. Our launch campaign offered a free trip into space for the winner of a competition to make the site your home page. Since then we have done other above-
IFRA: What is the BT's unique selling point?
Van Niekerk: Firstly, we put a lot of emphasis on fast, local breaking news – general, sport and entertainment. Secondly, we differentiate ourselves from the other major media operation in town by including a lot of the quality content from our other online mastheads in Sydney and Melbourne. We give people a genuine alternative.
IFRA: What are some of the ways you are connecting with the Brisbane community?
Van Niekerk: Apart from a very strong local news team, we also have a Good Food Guide for Brisbane restaurants, and then we have three very strong bloggers, well-
IFRA: Does Fairfax plan local websites in other Australian cities?
Van Niekerk: Yes, we are looking at Perth as a strong possibility.
IFRA: Do you think that the Brisbane Times should also become a newspaper operation?
Van Niekerk: Personally, I think that now we have established the brand and developed an audience it would be a lot easier – but whether Fairfax thought it was strategic or worth cost is for others to decide. In the meantime, we are extremely happy with what we have achieved online.
Page first published: 01.02.2008