Telegraph launches 'fun' football website beyond the paywall to attract younger readers

The Telegraph has launched a 'fun' football website outside its metered paywall aimed at attracting a younger audience through social media.
 
Project Babb, which features no Telegraph branding, was unveiled at the beginning of this week in a “soft launch”. The site does not yet carry any adverts but sponsorship is being considered.

Designed from scratch by the Telegraph, it is a mobile-first site and will have four journalists working on it during the World Cup. 

Babb describes itself as “pro-fun, pro-laughter and pro-joy” as well as “anti-banter, anti-dullness and not fond of PR fluff”, and has been likened to sites such as Buzzfeed and UsVsThem.

It also says: “Conceived as an antidote to po-faced football coverage, Project Babb celebrates the sport and everything which makes it the silliest spectacle on earth. We have been dogged by persistent and entirely true rumours about links to the Telegraph Media Group.”

Telegraph Media Group editor-in-chief Jason Seiken told Press Gazette this is one of many digital offshoots that the Telegraph is launching.

He described it as a “lean” and “agile” project, meaning it has not taken long to launch, and is easy to alter in line with the interests of readers.

He said the site is "very much an audience-driven product", explaining that the idea to create it was conceived after analytics data showed a younger audience was interacting with Telegraph stories on Facebook but not necessarily visiting the website.

Seiken said: "A year ago it used to be that you would have more of a waterfall approach to building things and it was very much you would take ten or 12 months to build an app, for example.

"Our approach now is very agile. We look at everything we do and ask: can it be done in ten weeks? If it can't be done in ten weeks, we ask: is it really worth doing that?"

He added: "What we aim for is for it to be a light and entertaining and quirky, but still within the parameters of what the Telegraph stands for, which is high quality and interesting content.

"So the ideal reaction that we aim for from the audience is… it's good for them to be surprised… So for people to look at the site and say: 'This is the Telegraph?' And then… their second reaction might be: 'Well, yeah, I can see why that's the Telegraph."

Seiken was joined in a conference call with Press Gazette by social media and engagement editor Kate Day and head of product for mobile Alex Watson.

Speaking about how the site is subject to change, Day said: "It has been agile from its inception, this product, and it doesn't stop now and so that agility and that ability to test and learn both in terms of product and in terms of content very much continues, which is another reason for this soft launch so we can just keep building it up and learning what the audience is interested in and focusing very much on who that audience is and how they respond to that product rather than launching something and working out at the end of the World Cup whether it works or not."

Asked about how the website will make money, Watson said plans have not been finalised, but that sponsorship is being considered.

Watson said the site has already equalled the traffic of certain sections of the main website. He said that around 60 per cent of traffic has so far come from mobile devices.

So far, stories to feature on the site include: "The Premier League season neatly summarised in a flowchart", Crystal Palace’s Jason Puncheon posts a photo in which he may or may not be holding his junkTim Sherwood’s career as Spurs manager, told by lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and World Cup bus slogans ranked from least to most embarrassing.

The Telegraph began advertising for positions on the new website in March on Storify, without specifying what it would be.

Since going live, the site has been likened to the Mirror’s UsVsThem and Buzzfeed.

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