'Hyperlocal' community coverage for Trinity regional sites

Trinity Mirror is moving beyond repurposed newspaper stories as it relaunches its network of regional newspaper websites.

Breaking news online, multimedia, community features, and user-generated content are expected to grow in importance as Trinity Mirror overhauls its regional sites with a greater emphasis on its newspaper brands.

This week, the launch of the first newspaper site built entirely as a blog highlighted how the group is hoping to use "hyperlocal" community coverage.

"There's been a reliance on reproducing material out of the newspapers," Trinity Mirror editorial director Neil Benson told Press Gazette.

"That was fine to get started and get you a web presence. But what's the point of duplication? We're starting to get a better understanding of how best to use different channels.

"We've got numerous examples now of several pages a week in small papers being filled by content that was originated on the web, so it's very much a two-way street.

"It's not just about taking print stories and putting them online."

Following six months of consultations with editors, advertising directors, designers and web usability experts, Trinity Mirror has developed three new website templates, which are being rolled out to its regional newspapers.

Two of the templates are designed for its metropolitan dailies and a third, intended for local community newspapers, is built entirely in the blog software Movable Type.

This week, the Buckinghamshire Advertiser became the first local weekly to relaunch its site built entirely in the blog software.

Advertiser editor Julie Voyce is hoping to bring local bloggers on board as early as next week.

"I think local papers are there for their community, and if we serve them in this way it's just moving with the times really," said Voyce.

David Black, director of digital publishing for Trinity Mirror regionals, said: "We'll still use our content management systems for some of the more advanced sites that we're doing, like the daily newspaper sites.

"But for our community sites and for some of our weeklies, Movable Type is a great system."

The Movable Type platform is also being used at one of Trinity's daily papers, the Teesside Gazette, which is using the software to run its network of 10 hyperlocal blogs, which each focus on a single postcode and is run by an unpaid volunteers.

An online ‘hyperlocal' setup, which is due to be expanded to cover all 23 Teeside postcodes, allows the Gazette to reach an even more grassroots level an than even a weekly community paper, says Benson.

"Certainly a single postcode is more hyperlocal than anything our evening paper — or any evening paper we could hope to lauch — could ever reach. There aren't enough people in one postcode to make that sensible as a business."

But the focus on a tiny patch means the definition of news will have to broaden, says Benson.

"I don't like the term ‘citizen journalist', because they're not trained journalists.

But we can talk about members of the community providing us with content.

"Increasingly, we're talking more about ‘content' than ‘news'. The traditional definition of news is the things you get from the police, fire or ambulance services that newspapers have as their staple. ‘Content' can be anything that interests you. It's a much broader definition.

"We're trying to get our journalists not to impose their own definition of news on users, but to go with the flow."

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