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. I’d suggest Kelly and whoever else is responsible for their online content takes a more, grown up, professional and ‘relevant to the audience’ approach to news as the current guff pushed out on their Eastern Daily Press site, presumably aimed at hitting the numbers rather than providing genuine local news, is beyond embarrassing.

    If their EDP and weekly sites are good examples of what they’re capable of and is “….community-driven content, useful information….” then the Peterborough launch will be a dead duck before it even takes flight and Google will have wasted even more of its money.

  2. It will be at least a whole generation away until businesses see online advertising as a viable and effective form of reaching their specific audiences, this is just a poorly disguised attempt at ram raiding a bordering competitors territory using Google’s money to do so.
    Most established firms have a background of advertising with their local newspaper at a time when tens of thousands of copies were bought and the local morning, evening and weekly paper was an essential purchase to find out all the news about s local area, now with audiences migrating online and new brighter hyper local competitors emerging and becoming established the old publishers such as Archant are simply chasing shadows, offering nothing but reheated social media posts, public supplied content and irrelevant content t lifted from other parts of the company.

    Just today the first post I saw on the EDPs online site was about a piano bar in Norwich which was closing where the entire piece had been lifted off the businesses own social media sites, quotes, comments et al, likewise yesterday a piece about a wedding venue closure which had been repeated 4-5 times throughout the day in a desperate attempt at attracting clicks and likes, unfortunately for them it only attracted ridicule and negative comments about the repetition and inaccuracies contained within the piece.

    Until the quality of the company’s output is made more relevant, original and professional they’ll continue to struggle to find audiences, much less ones prepared to pay to access it.

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