Guardian Cities: Local sites for local cityfolk?

So now, courtesy of How Do, we’ve got a name for it: Guardian Cities.

The rumblings about Guardian Media Group’s ambitions in regional markets have been ongoing for a while.

Not so long ago, I heard they were looking for someone to lead the effort. There were whispers — probably wrong, it now transpires — about large amounts of unused print capacity, too.

If you think about it, GMG’s position in local newspaper publishing is intriguing.

Small enough not to be entirely mesmerized by the need to preserve print profits. Big enough to have plenty of experience and resourcing on tap.

GMG also happens to be a dab hand when it comes to classified job advertising at a national level. (”Couldn’t we do something at local level, too? With our audience of young professionals in big cities?”)

On that basis, I occasionally half-wondered whether GMG would skip the awkward evolutionary step that involves printing freesheets for every British conurbation. (Tactical distribution of free copies of the Manchester Evening News aside.)

So perhaps we’ll see McCall & Co proceeding directly to local sites for local people.

How Do’s report suggests that GMG’s researchers have been asking Mancs how they’d react to “a Guardian-branded website that would connect you with your local community, cover local issues and provide you with information that was highly relevant to your area”.

A spokesperson from Farringdon cautions How Do: “The fact that we are doing research doesn’t itself mean we will or won’t launch a new product.”

No. But the fact that you’re putting research money into the concept is intriguing. Encouraging even.

Especially when so many print-addled newspaper executives poo poo the idea of web-only local publishing. (A consensus this solid makes me suspicious that too many in the industry are simply repeating conventional wisdom.)

Interesting, too, to note that Tony Elliott of Time Out (which has sites for London, Edinburgh, Manchester) is looking for funding to help transform his empire for “a situation in two to three years where the comprehensive role that we play is online”.

In an interview with the Guardian in September, Elliott described the BBC as a “perfect partner”.

Perhaps we should take this to mean that Elliott views GMG — which does have a few quid in the bank and seems to like joint ventures — as an imperfect partner. . .

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