New journalism website for Whanganui

By Simon Waters

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FIRST BUSINESS: Zaryd Wilson, finding his niche in online regional journalism. Wanganui Chronicle Photograph by Stuart Munro.
FIRST BUSINESS: Zaryd Wilson, finding his niche in online regional journalism. Wanganui Chronicle Photograph by Stuart Munro.

He's 28 and left a full-time job to pursue a dream of publishing his own online magazine. Former Wanganui reporter Zaryd Wilson talks to the Chronicle about TheFourFiveHundred - aimed at a new generation of reader - and about the future of journalism and taking a giant leap of faith to go into business.

Chronicle: What is TheFourFiveHundred and how long have you been going?
Zaryd: "We launched late November - about 10 days ago. I'm still trying to work out what it is. There's a little bit of news, but we can't compete with the big news organisations. The type of content you would expect to see in a magazine - longer Q and As, profiles, photo essays - more journalism. More of the why and how than the what, where and when. It's a work in progress. It will start to find its voice soon."

Chronicle: Fourfivehundred - that's Whanganui's postcode isn't it?
Zaryd: "It's only half the city actually.

But what one do you choose? All the city's postcodes are four fivehundred something so I went with that."

Chronicle: What inspired you to leave a full-time job to start something new and untested?
Zaryd: "I'm not entirely sure. I'm really risk averse - I really don't know how I did it. I'm not a business person. I saw an opportunity to do something different and for myself.
"Also there's not a lot out there - in the regions - that uses the internet. Media and journalism didn't know how to deal with it when the internet first gained traction, they were a bit stunned for a while. The internet allows so much flexibility in publishing. There are no set story sizes, no deadlines - you don't have to fill space for the sake of it. You can do a fuller story or a snippet, it doesn't matter."

Chronicle: You also do podcasts (audio interviews and commentary). Tell us about those.
Zaryd: "The Podcasts are a separate project, with Cass Alexander, but they are accessible from the website. We've just finished the first series, Revisited, a collection of big stories from Whanganui's passed. There'll be a new series next year."

Chronicle: How's the website been received so far?
Zaryd: "People seem to like it, that's what they are telling me. Then again I could be living in a bubble."

Chronicle: Is this the future of regional journalism?
Zaryd: "Media is changing so much. It's pretty much unrecognisable from when I started just five years ago. The basics are the same. Everything else is different.
"They are all trying to make sense of an ever-changing landscape. Daily papers are still doing the grunt work of daily journalism. They are vital. Documenting local activities and reporting things like local council is really important."

Chronicle: What's your role?
Zaryd: "I write most of the stories. There are contributors too. I run the website - although I got great help from Two Monkeys web design here in Whanganui. We're also on Facebook and Twitter - maybe You Tube eventually.
"You have to be on Facebook - 90 per cent of your traffic comes from social media. The readers have become the distributors of the news."

Chronicle: Tell me more about that - the readers distributing the news.
Zaryd: "When you're an online-only publication social media is the only way of getting it out there. And then it's up to the readers, how much they share it, as to how well read it becomes. That's not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes the shareable stuff isn't always the best story or the best journalism. I'm already noticing stories are inverted in perception to the effort that's gone into them."

Chronicle: Where do you see the magazine developing?
Zaryd: "I'm not sure, still trying to work out how to make it earn an income. It might all fall over in a couple of weeks. I will be starting a crowd-funding page - on Givealittle - it'll be a modest target, about $3000."

The website can be reached at www.thefourfivehundred.co.nz

- Wanganui Chronicle

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