Archant launches website in Google-backed project to find sustainable local news model

Archant has launched its first experimental local news website as part of a multi-million pound partnership with Google to find a sustainable model for regional journalism.

The publisher, which owns more than 50 local UK news titles, including the Eastern Daily Press, said the site would test “different editorial approaches and business models” to make local news pay.

Local print newspaper sales are shrinking as people increasingly get their news online, with print advertising also impacted. However digital ads are failing to make up the losses.

Peterborough Matters (pictured) is the first of three news websites to launch as part of Project Neon, funded by Google’s Local Experiments Project, and went live today.

Its three-strong editorial team is made up of reporters John Baker, Shariqua Ahmed and Carly Beech.

All three have lived in Peterborough for years and have a “deep connection to the city”, something Archant said was important when putting the team together before Christmas last year.

The reporters have held meetings with residents at venues across the city in recent weeks ahead of the site’s launch today.

“We want to be visible, we want to get to the heart of our communities and we want our readers to know that they can find us in and around Peterborough – and we want to talk,” Archant said.

Readers can also sign up for regular email newsletters

Although the publisher admitted that with a small reporting team the site would not be able to cover “everything and anything”, it would be “covering the topics that matter most” to locals.

“Our purpose is simple, we want to tell the stories that have been overlooked, report on issues that matter to all corners of the city’s diverse communities and take a fresh look at the way in which we cover local news,” Archant said.

It said the website is an “experiment” that would “meld the best of our editorial minds with Google’s expertise in building engaging digital experiences and understanding user journeys”.

It has committed to sharing what it learns with the news industry.

Jim Albrecht, product management director at Google, added: “Quality local journalism strengthens communities, supports an informed citizenry, and provides clarity and context for local officials. So it is critically important that we find sustainable approaches to the local news business.”

He added: “By bringing Google’s funding and product support together with Archant’s editorial expertise, we hope to test and validate new business and product approaches that we can then scale across the industry to more broadly support the future of local news.”

Emily Hewett, Archant’s head of audience, said there had been a “positive response from people who live and work in the city” to the new site.

A second local news website is expected to launch in the coming weeks.

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10 thoughts on “Archant launches website in Google-backed project to find sustainable local news model”

  1. The U.K. regional press, certainly as far as the main publishing groups go, is in a woeful state with little sign of any reversal of fortune and most certainly needs new innovations and new business models to kick start any form of revival, but having spent time on Archants ‘Peterborough matters’ website it’s quite apparent this isn’t it. From what I can see it’s just yet another dull grey site lacking anything new and unlikely to draw the public in out of anything other than initial curiosity, it certainly isn’t the all singing all dancing ground breaking blueprint others can adopt as per the initial investment brief.
    Archaic regional publishers are still trying to fit old processes and institutionalised newspaper ad sales staff into digital online holes, it doesn’t work and never will, there’s little or no belief in the medium by those whose job it is to sell it and no faith in its effectiveness by the businesses they’re trying to convert, the ad reps aren’t being negative they’re just feeding back what the local commercial public are telling them, information those above them blindly choose to ignore as they crash on to justify their belief that commercialising online local community news is the future, it isn’t.

    Kelly himself has gone on record as saying it’s “nigh on impossible to make online news pay” so what has happened since then to make him change his mind ?and why ,in spite of what he must see for himself is poor quality content ,does he believe he and Archant are the ones best placed to deliver innovative ground breaking ideas?
    The fact it’s not their money they’re gambling with maybe?
    Another vanity project to dally with rather than the more pressing priority of abysmal group wide content and rapidly dwindling audiences ?
    Forget the bundled up audience numbers across all mediums, they’re worthless if it’s not being converted to hard cold cash and when potential buyers aren’t interested in buying.
    I see no evidence of anything innovative or any ‘editorial expertise’ when I randomly dip into Archants own online output, instead I see social media posts copied from the public’s own postings,poorly written ‘nothing stories’ ridiculed by the public in the comments ,and out of area non local group shared content.

    I don’t believe the problem is with the medium, digital news is the norm now and is fully accepted and accessed 24/7, the problem is with regional news groups thinking their content is worth paying for when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.
    Until it is nothing will change

  2. This morning I read an EDP online post about the tragoc passing of Caroline Flack which consisted of nothing more than paragraphs relating to her time in Norfolk/Cambs lifted verbatim from her autobiography, no additions, no comment no quotes from friends who knew her and shockingly with ‘College’ spelt COLLAGE and worse still Cambridge spelt CAIMBIDGE!

    Earlier there was a post on 2 of their Norfolk sites about a new gym opening which they said “…offered a sneak ‘peak’…” We know subs went out when the cheap and cheerless approach was adopted but these errors are basic and far too frequent.
    Is there no pride in anything the staff post?
    No quality control?
    Is there no editor overseeing or even cursory checking content before and after posting?
    Once again it was left to the public,commenting on the amateurish nature of the piece, to point out and correct along with the now regular ridicule these inaccuracies and errors
    attract. If this is an example of Archants ‘excellence in journalism’ it’s no wonder things are so bad.
    Maybe the content heads want Lincolnshire people to believe ‘Peterborough Matters’ but certainly accuracy and professionalism doesn’t appear to.

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