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.

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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.


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

  1. I wonder how Ex Mirror night editor Kelly feels about Reach ramping up the number of additional journalists they’re taking on to turbo charge their “live” series of online news sites?
    With the number and quality of those they’ve appointed It looks like they’ll leave Archants less than impressive Google funded Peterborough Matters and the other two yet to be announced offerings in the slow lane.

    Hopefully Reach can share their skills and knowledge of how they develop and monetise their own self funded news sites with the industry at large and maybe then Google might reconsider who they throw their millions at and put it where it’s most likely to succeed.

  2. Those responsible for content are too busy looking the other way – the digital content director is one of those obsessed with The New European, for example. Not that a title means anything – the creative director, a real Private Eye Polly Filler-type writer, has just called Caroline Flack “Norfolk’s most sparkling daughter” in her latest dire column. Edith Cavell? Never heard of her! Sometimes it seems as though the company is riddled with mediocrity from the top down.

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