A new relationship between the Hull Daily Mail and its readers was emerging today as they were given the chance to set the agenda and provide content for a new online platform.
Your Mail claims to be the first website by a regional newspaper publisher devoted to content from the public and is billed as “the place for community conversation in Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire”.
Editor John Meehan believes Your Mail goes further than any other website created by a regional publisher in empowering members of the public to publish what they want, when they want.
He said: “Your Mail users set the agenda and provide the content on the site – it really is theirs. We provide the platform, encourage people to get involved and ensure the site is used responsibly.
“The content is a diverse mix of news, views, passions and preoccupations. It’s fascinating to see what people are interested in and want to discuss.
“Your Mail recognises the changing nature of the relationship between publishers and the audience. The internet means members of the public can publish without us – but we can help them to do it, we can give their content credibility and we can provide access to a large and growing online audience.
“We really don’t know how enthusiastic people will be about communicating through a site like this, but we believe we have created a platform that is easy for them to use with some excellent interactive features.”
Your Mail went live on the web as a beta site in mid-December and has undergone extensive development since then, partly following feedback from focus groups of potential users.
The launch – with 300 registered users already on board – follows months of development and testing.
Project leader Alex Leys, who is assistant editor, said: “This has the potential to become a very popular site. It allows users to choose different ways to interact but we’ve concentrated on making it really user-friendly so visitors don’t get bogged down in the technology.”
The primary focus – which John admits is a “massive challenge” – is now on building up the number of users and contributors.
The work is opening up the potential to attract revenues by offering local businesses affordable, targeted advertising. The site also enables advertisers to reach very local audiences at low cost through “community partner” posts.
A team of three non-journalists is working on the site to ensure its content is legal and responsible and interacting with users and the wider community to stimulate contributions.
Your Mail allows registered users to start conversation threads, post responses, upload pictures, rate content, and create or join online groups. Users can also create a personal profile. All content appears on the site instantly.
Your Mail has four sections:
Mail News & Media, which publishes the Hull Daily Mail, had a track record of online innovation.
In November 2005 it became the first regional publisher to produce daily video reports. The Hull team’s video journalism work earned the Mail awards for Publishing Innovation of the Year in the 2006 Regional Press Awards and Innovative Newspaper of the Year in the 2007 Newspaper Society Awards.
Last year Mail News & Media launched a comprehensive local sports website, sporthull.co.uk, another first for a regional newspaper publisher.