'Look at this baby chimp': Independent launches new Buzzfeed-style website for i where readers are 'in charge'

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The Independent has launched a new Buzzfeed-style website allowing readers to rank stories to decide how prominently they appear in a top 100 list.

Using an “upvote” system, the i100 site, which went live yesterday, told readers in a launch message: “We are putting you in charge.”

The site has three journalists working on it full-time, but will also feature contributions from other online and newspaper journalists. One of the site’s most popular stories this morning lists “Patrick Cockburn (edited for i100 by Evan Bartlett)” as its byline and is headlined "11 things you need to know about the Isis caliphate".

The website will feature a mix of banner advertising and native advertising, and has announced a deal with the bank First Direct.

The website is designed to be read on mobiles, tablets and desktops.

One of the website's stories, currently ranking at 44 out of 100, is headlined: "Look at this baby chimp".

The article reveals that in May when the i "teased" on social media that it would be launching something new, one reader wrote on Facebook: "Actual news instead of "look at this baby chimp"?"

The page reports: "While we think you'll learn a little about the world while you explore this site, we have nothing against baby chimps either.

"So to prove our open-mindedness, we present something we think you'll really appreciate."

Its launch has been led by The Independent’s digital editor Christian Broughton, who took up his role in October 2012 and who has seen online editorial staff numbers triple to around 40 in that time.

He said: “This was a unique opportunity to deliver authoritative news using a new way to read, share, suggest and vote on stories. The result is a site that makes the most of the very best of social media.

“i100 builds on the thriving i newspaper brand, providing news and comment in a way that makes you want to engage. It can great fun, but it can also be extremely powerful – this is about proper news. Accurate, independent, intelligent, witty, high-quality journalism is in i100’s soul.”

Broughton told Press Gazette: “We had a brilliant opportunity to launch a newspaper website [for the i] in 2014, but why would you just launch another newspaper website?”

On the desktop version, the 1-100 list features on the left-hand side of the site, with journalists deciding what readers can see in the centre. But when visiting the site on mobile, the first thing readers see is the list.

Broughton said: “You can get carried away with these concepts, but do we really need homepages? Do we not just want to go in and see what’s trending, what everyone’s loving, see what people want?”

He added: "We have people who stare at analytics screens all day long and work out what stories people are engaging with most, and they tend to put those at the top. And we just thought, well if we're going to put people in charge, let's really put [them] in charge. We think it really empowers readers."

Editor of i, Oliver Duff, said: “i100 will appeal to people who want intelligent, pithy updates on the go.  We’re launching a mobile platform that complements the successful i paper in print.

"i100 readers will recognise the founding principles of i: brevity, quality, superb value and dialogue with our audience. We want to hand more power to our readers.”

In a launch message on the normal Independent website, journalists are encouraging feedback on the project, saying: “We’ll listen. You can shape this.”

According to The Independent, it "is designed to be consumed on mobiles, tablets and desktops, and takes ESI Media into new territory for audience growth, user data and social-media engagement".

The launch message says:

i100 isn't like most news sites. That list of stories, numbered from 1 to 100? The order isn't set by us – it's not a list of what our editors think is important. The article at No 1 isn't our top story, it's your top story. The journalists at i100 write all the articles, devise all the quizzes, and process all the data as maps and charts, but the readers are the ones with the real power.

“See the red 'upvote' button on each article? Click it to make it green and you'll help to send the story to the top of the list. If you share the story, read it, or post a comment, up it rises. Why? Because we are putting you in charge.

“Because i100 is from The Independent you can still trust us to take our facts very seriously (even the funny ones). Some of the stories will have been inspired by the brilliant work in the i or The Independent. Most will be from the crack team of i100 journalists.

“Either way, you can trust it – spend a few minutes on the site, whether clicking on the stories in the list or just scrolling down from one article straight into another, and you'll know what's happening in the world – good news and bad. It's serious stuff. You just don't always have to be so serious about it.

“Tell us what you think, or suggest stories, on twitter (@thei100) or Facebook (facebook.com/thei100), or individually – some of our Twitter accounts are below. We'll listen. You can shape this.”

The i is the latest UK national newspaper to mimic the light-hearted, list-based approach of US site Buzzfeed with a launch.

Last year the Sunday People launched a Buzzfeed-style website with a strategy of providing "news without the boring bits". It closed after three months in January this year.

In May the Telegraph launched a Buzzfeed-style football website beyond its metered paywall called Project Babb.

Trinity Mirror's UsVsth3m.com has been the most successful attempt by a UK national newspaper to ape the light-hearted mould-breaking approach of Buzzfeed, mixing humour and news. It claims to reach more than 7m unique readers per month.

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