Teesside editor hails unique reach of hyperlocal websites

Just over a year after launching, the hyperlocal websites run by the Evening Gazette in Teesside now have significant penetration in the postcode patches they cover, the paper’s editor has claimed.

Darren Thwaites told delegates at the digital seminar of the annual PPA conference in London last week that the five largest of the 20 blog-style sites run at the paper now have a monthly audience similar to the number of households in the tiny patches they cover.

The largest of the Gazette Communities sites, which covers Redcar’s TS10 postcode, has 16,366 monthly users in an area that contains 16,396 households.

The Gazette Communities sites had a combined audience of 140,000 unique users in March, up from 24,000 in April 2007. The paper’s main website, Gazette Live, now has 200,000 monthly unique users and 2.5 million page impressions.

‘We talk about this now as Teesside’s fastest-growing brand,’Thwaites told delegates.

The sites are produced with a combination of stories produced by the paper’s 70 journalists and 250 volunteer bloggers who can publish directly to the web.

The sites’ content is reversed-published in five free newspapers that are distributed to every household in the postcode.

‘They are profitable and generate a significant new revenue stream,’he said. The much-discussed project, which has won several awards, is now being rolled out to other Trinity Mirror sites, including the Coventry Telegraph.

‘One of the weaknesses of print products is that there are a limited number of pages, so our ability to delve deep into communities has always been limited by the number of pages we print,’he said, explaining the sites’ appeal.

‘Anything at all that happens at that level is of interest to readers – a break-in to a garden shed, a planning application for a new conservatory. To the rest of Teesside – not interested.”

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