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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.

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

Comments

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

  1. Speaking as a former JP reporter, I can only say this; you reap what you sow.
    They have cut relentlessly and the Peterborough Telegraph is a very pale imitation of the newspaper it once was.
    If Kelly and Archant think they can succeed in Peterborough it is perhaps better to ask why that is, rather than blame then for trying something new? She’d no tears for JP – they have been poor custodians of journalism in Peterborough.

  2. Surely Matt Kelly going on record saying it’s nigh on impossible to make online news pay,coupled with Archants inability to monetise their own digital news was enough to sound alarm bells with Google?
    Yet despite this they dish out millions to fund what turns out to be a covert opening clearly aimed at Archant gaining a foothold in a neighbouring territory after having spectacularly lost their own audiences in Norfolk and Suffolk.
    No doubt the other Google funded launches will also be similar ram raids on competitor areas where Archant don’t have a presence.
    After years of failing to make their own online news pay despite , I’m told, the commercial teams being pressurised to sell digital at all costs,and with their own content so poor ( new kebab shop to open in the city, carnage as car stalled at lights and Norwich city fc sticker collections anyone?) what makes Google believe Archant can do it, particularly on a competitor held territory?
    This proposed launch benefits no one other than Archant themselves and is likely to stir up a hornets nest with JPI who will see it for the smash and grab raid it is, surely it would have been better for Google to fund a wholly independent unit made up of experts and successful online operators from across the industry to devise sustainable business models to fully realise the revenue potential of online regional news?
    Instead they go with Archant.whose chairman recently had the embarrassing task of reporting on the worst set of performance figures in the company’s history.

    Something needs to be done to realise the full revenue potential of the growing online news audiences but Archant and Matt ‘ its my way or the high way’ Kelly simply aren’t the ones to do it.

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