After call for volunteer writers sparks social media backlash, Air NZ pauses for a rethink

Auckland man Ben Gracewood
Your words ... become our content

Air New Zealand is usually a dab-hand at social media.

Promos like The Airpoints Fairy and the social media incarnation of Grab a Seat have been runaway hits on Facebook and Twitter.

But the airline seems to have stumbled with its latest initiative.

On February 5, the company posted a "volunteer writers wanted"  message on its Flying Social Network website. It read:

We're searching for creative and interesting writers in the areas of Aviation, Travel, Health, Tech, Education, Lifestyle, Music, Film, Fashion, Food and lots more.  We have re-launched and expanded Flying Social to offer even more interesting lifestyle content from around the Air New Zealand global network and from interesting people all around the world.

The unpaid contributions concept did not go down so well on the Kiwi Journalists Association Facebook page, where 1695 reporters and hangers-on discuss industry developments. A senior Fairfax journalist noted Air NZ made $182 million profit last year. Another asked, "Air NZ can't afford to pay writers?"

On Twitter, Auckland software developer Ben Gracewood made hay with a shared "Flying Social" Google Doc, which became a riot of satire, at times featuring family-unfriendly language.

Air NZ has now posted an update to the Flying Social website, which reads:

We've heard your feedback re The Flying Social Network contributors. We'll re-think our approach & come up with appropriate compensation.

Spokeswoman Emma Field told NBR this afternoon, "The Flying Social Network was looking to provide opportunities for its online community to share their thoughts and ideas. However, we’ve taken on the feedback received to date and we’re currently re-thinking our approach, including any terms and conditions."

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