A unique and interactive concept for microsites that allow readers to be published alongside journalists has won The Straits Times' Communities an industry award.
It was named the 2014 Digital Innovation of the Year by Panpa (Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association) at a ceremony in Sydney, Australia, last night.
The award recognises products that champion innovative approaches to journalism and content creation.
Contributions by readers, journalists, artistes and community partners appear alongside one another, allowing them to exchange views.
Mr Ernest Luis, editor of stcommunities.sg, said he was glad for the recognition. "It's a new concept by ST, using social media sign-ins for readers, and they can get published with their names and faces," he said. "For me, they provide variety besides our own journalists."
He conceptualised and started the site in 2012 in response to ST's need to broaden its digital audience reach. Kicking it off was the Entertainment Community, with news and views on movies, music, television, shows and the arts.
In May, an Education Community was started to keep parents up to date. It included tips on education strategies by senior correspondent Sandra Davie, news stories, and parenting blogs by ST journalists.
A Travel Community is in the offing.
The entertainment microsite gets nearly a million page views each month, while the education site has been attracting almost 100,000 views monthly.
Mr Eternality Tan, 26, who runs a film education company, and is a regular movie review contributor, said: "I write a lot of reviews and post them on as many platforms as possible. On ST Communities, my reviews get more readership and exposure. The site also has a trendy design."
Panpa judges praised the ST Communities platform for recognising the merit of inviting the audience to take part in the process of curating and delivering news.
"This is truly innovative, and represents a bold move towards a future in which user-generated content shares the stage with publisher-driven content," they said.
This is the second big win for the Communities platform. The Entertainment Community won gold in the Best in Social Media category at the 2013 Asian Digital Media Awards, given by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
ST editor Warren Fernandez said: "I'm proud of our ST digital team, which keeps trying new things to engage our readers, learning and getting better as we go along. We'll keep at it."
This article was first published on August 22, 2014.
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