• Broadsheet spreads its wings: Publisher Nick Shelton on the digital city guide’s national rollout and user reviews
By Kruti Joshi
It was a stage when the city was going through a big boom of cafés, bars and restaurants that was all anyone wanted to talk about,” director, founder and publisher Nick Shelton told Mediaweek about how the dedicated city guide website Broadsheet came about.
The six-year-old brand was first launched in Melbourne in 2009 with a rollout in Sydney in 2011. This year, the online publication is going to spread its wings in Australia by launching in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Along with this, the digital-only publication is going to start integrating user reviews with its premium editorial content – something it hasn’t done before.
“One thing we want to keep repeating to people is because of the reader reviews, some people get scared that it’s going to be a shit-show with different voices on the site.
“But, making sure people understand and are comfortable with it, Broadsheet is still going to be focusing on that premium content for the sector but the reader content is going to add depth to that.”
Explaining how the user reviews will be added on the website, Shelton said: “[The user reviews] will be integrated on a [restaurant’s] profile page. People will be able to respond to each other and have a conversation. The venue will be able to respond to positive and negative feedback. And none of it is going to anonymous.
“I think one of the big issues we see with the other sites is that people can make up a fake profile and get away with being anonymous. People say horrible things on the internet all the time.
“We’re implementing this process where you sign up with Facebook accounts. You have to be happy to put your name next to your review.”
With a month until the national launch, Broadsheet is in the process of hiring editors for the three cities. However, the publication has been curating content for the last six months with local contributors in each city.
“We’ve been looking at these cities for a while. Over the last 18 months, [we’ve] noticed the same energy that I was seeing in Melbourne six years ago and in Sydney four-five years ago, where everyone is talking about what they are doing.
“We are getting constant emails and phone calls from friends over in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane all saying: ‘There is a great new restaurant, you’ve got to come check it out the next time you are here.’
“We are seeing this appetite and energy from these cities, so decided it was a good time to expand nationally.
“[Local voice is] the most important thing for us. It’s where all the credibility comes.
“When there is national content, for example fashion – so it might be a brand doing a range that expands across the country – we’ll commission that in one city and run it across [the network].
“I would say about 20% of the content we run on Broadsheet is shared across all the cities. And the rest of it is very localised content.”
The publication has an advertising-based revenue model, Shelton said.
“We work with big national clients, [which currently are] Mercedes-Benz, Holden, Stella Artois and Diageo. We are doing a lot of integrated branded content at the moment with [our clients].
“We take a collaborative approach [to native advertising] so we never say this is Brand X writing on Broadsheet. [It is] about saying Broadsheet and Brand X are working on this piece or this series together.
“We are always looking to give our audience value so when our audience comes to Broadsheet they’ve always got to be entertained, informed and true to the reason they’ve come. So if readers come to us for restaurant advice and things to do, or they want to know something new, cool and interesting, we’ve got to deliver on that. We can’t promise them that and give them branded content that has nothing to do with that. We work with our brand partners to support that mission.”
Asked if readers would be able to tell apart branded content from editorials easily, Shelton instantly replied: “Absolutely. We would say: ‘We are working with Mercedes-Benz’ or ‘We are working with Stella Artois for this content series’.”
The national rollout of the Broadsheet brand and the introduction of user reviews are at the front and centre of Shelton’s mind. “[It’s] a big step for us,” he summed up.