sky stand up
Credit: Image from Sky News.
Sky News is to launch a new digital platform aimed at 16 to 25 year-olds with the aim of helping to make their voices heard ahead of the UK general election in May 2015.

Stand Up Be Counted will launch on Monday 1 September, and will allow young people to post content and share opinions in a similar way to social media sites.

In response to the decline in the amount of young people voting in recent years, it will also include a 'register to vote' button.

Alan Strange, senior producer at Sky News, told Journalism.co.uk that the new platform will have its own, distinct identity.

"What we hope is that people will see it as a safe place to have conversations about issues that matter to them," he said.

He explained that the site would not focus just on political news, but would also allow users to talk about personal issues and things that were happening in their community, describing it as "politics with a very small 'p'".

However, he added that content published to the site would help to inform Sky's coverage of the general election.

The submissions from young people Stand Up Be Counted has received so far have been "very different and sometimes unexpected", Strange said.

For example, one contribution sent in by a young girl talked about equality in sport.

The idea behind Stand Up Be Counted stemmed from the success of a digital project called 50 States: 50 Voices, when one person from each state produced a video related to the last US election.

"We got 50 really good videos," said Strange, "very local, very honest, and very specific to where these people were from."

"It was a really successful merging of digital and TV, so that got us very excited about the possibilities. [Stand Up Be Counted] is technologically much more advanced, this is going to allow people to upload directly onto the site."

We really want go to where people are already actually speaking and interacting with each other.Alan Strange, Sky News
He said the issues users will be talking about on Stand Up Be Counted will give Sky an insight into what young people are feeling and what they care about – things that the team may not necessarily pick up on otherwise.

Specialist journalists from Sky including Faisal Islam, political editor, Afua Hirsch, social affairs and education editor, and Tom Cheshire, technology correspondent, will be taking on the stories.

Strange said the aim of the project was to listen to what young people have to say and to "amplify these voices".

The platform will mirror social media platforms, with users having to register before they can upload content. However, the team have taken extra steps such as pre-moderation to prevent people abusing the system.

"We spent a lot of time and a lot of thought making sure that the whole site is secure," said Strange.

"There'll be no trolling [and] everything is pre-moderated so you won't see things that you see on social media. When someone says something that might be quite honest or very personal to them, we're taking care to make sure that they do it securely."

The platform itself is optimised for mobile, and is designed for people on the move, with a strategy that was focused around social interaction.

"We really want go to where people are already actually speaking and interacting with each other," he said, "and work with them in that way."

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