Archant to launch standalone Peterborough news website with Google funding

Archant has revealed the first city chosen to benefit from millions in funding coming from Google as it searches for a sustainable model for local news online.

PeterboroughMatters.co.uk will launch next spring and will initially create five jobs: four editorial and one commercial.

The news publisher said it chose Peterborough because it has had no daily newspaper of its own since the Peterborough Telegraph went weekly in 2012, although the JPI Media title has a website of its own.

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But Archant said it was not seeking “to compete with existing traditional local titles” as it is focusing on combining “community-driven content, useful information and local advertising” to build higher engagement.

It added that the Cambridgeshire city was also chosen because it is one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities with a clear identity and strong sense of community.

Archant chief content officer Matt Kelly (pictured) said: “Local journalism’s survival is so crucial, yet today its long-term future is under threat because nobody has yet cracked the challenge of making it profitable in a digital-only world.

“Like so many other communities in the UK, Peterborough has seen provision of local journalism shrink significantly over the years.”

The website launch will be the first of at least three digital-only local news websites to be built as part of Project Neon.

Archant is the second publisher to receive funding under Google’s Local Experiments Project, which launched in March with a similar project from McClatchy in the US.

Archant will decide which two other underserved communities should receive new local news websites once Peterborough Matters is up and running.

Kelly said: “Project Neon is all about experimenting with different models of journalism and business to create a sustainable business based on high quality, useful community content, and challenging some received wisdoms as we do it.

“What we learn, we will share openly with the industry and in doing so we hope to play a part in ensuring local news once again thrives.”

The project is aiming to “rethink local news from every perspective”, Archant has said, including its business models, website designs, layout and storytelling methods.

Archant head of audience Emily Hewitt added: “We want to try to get closer to the people of Peterborough than anything that’s been before.

“That means going back to the drawing board to rethink what local journalism means and how it is done and how it pays for itself.

“If we get it right, readers and advertisers will think Peterborough Matters isn’t just another local newsbrand, but a vibrant community platform that belongs to them.”

The news publisher will wholly own the new websites, while Google will provide technology and funding.

The website will operate on a content management system developed by Canadian publisher Village Media, which operates a number of local and community news websites in Ontario.

Google News Initiative project management director Jim Albrecht said the company was “excited” by Archant’s choice of Peterborough, adding the publisher was helping them to “understand the unique challenges facing local publishers in England”.

Picture: Archant

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Comments

10 thoughts on “Archant to launch standalone Peterborough news website with Google funding”

  1. It’s hard to take anything this guy says seriously considering how bad Archants own digital performance is particularly after two decades of trying and failing to monetise it and when his idea of “ high quality, useful community content” includes;
    “ The best places for Sunday lunch in Norwich”
    “ first look inside the new Primark store”
    And I kid you not…
    .”Ten places to eat cheaply and well in Dubrovnik!”

    If that’s the kind of “ high quality, useful community content” the good folk of Peterborough can expect I’m sure they can hardly wait!

  2. So true Cat. Kelly is a danger to local journalism not its saviour! Trust me, I know this as work inside Prospect House. I’ve been here more than two decades and have never known so much change. This focus on “building audiences” as Kelly puts it, and turning a blind eye to the collapsing sales of the newspaper that makes all the money will surely end in tears.
    Just one thing I’d pick you up on is how well Norfolk is covered. To be fair, we have had barely any cuts to editorial, or content as they insist on describing it, in the last two year. I’m not sure those at JP can say the same. That said, Archant’s planning to survive without a printed newspaper are totally barmy. Their stupidity in chasing this worthless digital audience knows no bounds.

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