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.

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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.

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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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Comments

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

  1. Ref the post by @Cat
    Sort it out Matt Kelly!

    The lame content and high number of inaccuracies and typo filled posts the EDP in particular, puts out is shocking,have a bit of respect for the subject matter and some pride in your company’s output, or does no one care there anymore?
    It’s embarrassing

  2. Archant axed its Norwich print subs in 2017. But by then there was already a mantra of getting things online as quickly as possible and “we can always correct things later”. (This is nothing new. A long time ago the then head of digital marketing headed a study into online offerings and wanted every unsubbed story to go online before it was corrected, including long submitted sports reports – those along the line of “The day dawned fair and bright as we set off on the long road to Wells…” and then buries the fact that the game was abandoned after fighting between the players. This person is now in an even more senior position at Prospect House, which shows you where Archant is going…)

    The idea of the new Matt Kelly way of doing things was that the newsdesk (or “hub”) would check stories before they went up, but presumably those vital few moments would affect Chartbeat results – and we can’t have that, can we? This system doesn’t work, not least, I imagine, because a number of the handpicked original members of the hub have left, for a variety of reasons.

    It’s the same with images. Previously the picture desk would have selected photos to go with stories; a task now entrusted to trainee or unqualified writers – and does it show! The same images used time and again, with a complete lack of knowledge of what the picture library has to offer as well as indifference to events as recently as three or four years ago.

    How many experienced, qualified members of staff does Archant have to call on these days? Very, very few, so the mistakes such as those identified will continue because there’s often no-one around to offer advice or knowledge. And it might easily be the same in Peterborough, depending on who’s the ultimate editor and how far the Google funding can stretch.

    The other thing about the Peterborough website is that I look at the background of those appointed and you can see the type of content being envisaged by Mr Kelly – and it isn’t heavyweight. Good luck with any repeat of the sage of former MP Fiona Onasanya.

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