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Credit: Image by DeaPeaJay on Flickr. Some rights reserved
ReadWave, a publishing platform for aspiring journalists that launched a year ago, is looking to build a greater sense of community for its growing number of readers and writers.

Where the first year had focussed on developing the user experience for both the author and audience, said managing editor Rob Tucker, new investment has driven the founders to develop the community and social elements he hopes will define the platform.

"SoundCloud allows anyone in their bedroom to make a song and put it up online and become a star overnight," Tucker told Journalism.co.uk. Flickr and Instagram can have the same effect in photography, he said, providing a community and audience for users.

"YouTube completely democratised the process of becoming a content creator in the film industry," Tucker continued, "but so far we feel that no-one has successfully done this in the articles or journalism industry. Nobody has built a platform that has lowered the barrier."

The solution for ReadWave is to build a community and "sub-communities" on the site around specific topics, or 'themes', where aspiring journalists can upload their articles and receive feedback.

The initial idea – "three-minute reads", a community focus and "beautiful" content presentation – dates back to 2010, said managing editor Rob Tucker. But since securing investment from some of the individuals behind Vine, SoundCloud and Dataminr in 2013 there has been a new drive to expand on the platform's potential and build a social element into blogging.

ReadWave is similar to Medium, the publishing platform launched by Twitter founder Ev Williams in 2012, both in its layout and in organising stories around specific themes for readers to follow, but there are innovations to mark it apart.

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Screenshot from a story in the travel section on ReadWave.com

By focussing on the "Gen Y" age bracket of 18 to 30 year-olds, Tucker hopes to unite students or recent graduates on both sides of the page, as writers share their opinions and experiences with like-minded readers.

"What people want to read about [on ReadWave] is stuff about Gen Y and dating, travel, music," Tucker said, as social issues receive the most views and interactions, "and we're masively pro-LGBT and feminist as well. A large part of our site is built around LGBT and feminism."

The articles, limited to 800 words and intended to take three minutes to read, are organised on an infinite scroll in each topic section, accessible from a pop out menu on the left, to let the reader pursue their interests.

The publishing process is also simplified beyond a platform like WordPress, where the "barriers to becoming a successful content creator" are "too high", said Tucker, in removing the need for HTML knowledge and giving the user a simple option for picture use, word limit and formatting.

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Screenshot of the publishing interface at ReadWave.com

"So far we've been focussed on building the writing experience," he said, "now we're moving into building the themes and into acquiring aspiring journalists through the challenges section."

Challenges, the third menu option, has previously been used to set tasks for writers around an idea or topic but Tucker wants to incorporate partnerships with brands and organisations to push the platform forward.

"We're looking to stop doing challenges for the sake of challenges and start doing ones with prizes," he said, "that are basically going to be provided by brands who are looking to have content."

This may take the form of branded content for companies or partnerships with other media organisations, but the priority will remain on providing a platform and community for young writers.

"We're trying to create a community of readers," he said, "so you publish into a community, you have people who comment on the articles, share them on Facebook et cetera. It's blogging but a cross between Twitter and an article-writing platform. Twitter, but for 800 words."

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