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. Matt, matey, I know you read these comments because you’ve tweeted about them in the past, so answer me any of the following:
    1) Local Recall was supposed to be launched in March. Still no sign of it happening despite Google funding three FTEs. Why should this Google-backed venture be any more successful.
    2) Before you arrived, the EDP tried to get a foothold in the Fens with a dedicated edition, featuring stories taken from the area’s weeklies and some cobbled-together Peterborough United coverage. It didn’t last long, so why should your latest offering? Are you going to offer anything other than stock Archant online fare such as “Your first look at the new Primark/H&M/whatever store?”
    3) It’s ironic that Archant wants to expand at a time when it is contracting from its heartland. Care to explain why, although still circulating in north Essex, the East Anglian Daily Times has stopped actively covering Colchester United?
    4) Archant has slashed staff elsewhere, photographers, subs, news editors – all the sort of experienced people who might have provided “high quality, useful community content” and added value to your existing products. The company couldn’t wait to get as many people as possible off the pay roll, so why should we believe that this will be any different?

  2. How can Kelly claim Peterborough to be “….currently underserved by local news” when it already has the JPI owned Peterborough Telegraph and its associated website peterboroughtoday covering the area as well as smaller countywide community independents there already?
    This isn’t about devising a Google funded new revenue model to best serve the industry,its a not very clever, thinly disguised under the radar attempt at establishing an Archant presence on a rivals territory using Google’s money to do so!

    I hope JPI take the gloves off and shove Kelly and Archant back on their own patch, better still open a rival news service in Norfolk / Norwich,an area genuinely underserved and desperately needing a good local news provider and where they’d be welcomed and pushing against an open door with readers and advertisers ready and waiting.

    With almost a million people in the catchment area and the EDP selling a pitiful 24,000 copies or so and the Norwich evening selling around 6,000 copies there’s a real opportunity to take the market and establish a strong JPI presence in the county, likewise right across Norfolk where the weekly titles are fading fast have lost their audiences and sell only a handful of copies each week.

    let’s hope JPI see this for what it is and they take the opportunity to strike back.

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