The award-winning success of the Teesside Evening Gazette website has enabled the title to invest in more staff, according to its editor, Darren Thwaites.
Speaking at the Society of Editors Scotland conference at Glasgow Caledonian University, Thwaites said that the most successful section of the site was Gazette Communities – a series of ultra-local sites targeting small postcode areas.
Under Thwaites’ editorship, the Evening Gazette was this year named website of the year at the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards, and is currently shortlisted in five of 13 categories at the Association of Online Publishers awards.
Thwaites said of Gazette Communities: ‘They have attracted new advertising and proved such a success that Trinity [Mirror] has launched print versions of the microsites.
‘We have new advertising opportunities and it has generated great content that we can reverse back into the paper.
‘I have been able to expand my team on the back of the commercial value of the microsites.
‘We’ve got a combined 50,000 unique users across the sites and the more established ones are growing by 25 per cent a month.”
Gazettelive.co.uk carries regular videos produced by 10 trained videojournalists, plus blogs, forums and picture galleries that attract ‘tens of thousands’of visits, Thwaites said.
User-generated content is making up a large proportion of the microsites, and the paper aims to recruit 160 bloggers, including charity workers, teachers and youth leaders, by the end of the year.
Thwaites said search engine optimisation was driving traffic from Google to the website. The site now attracts 200,000 unique users a month.
The University of Teesside and the Evening Gazette have created a multi-media journalism degree. Due to start next month, the NCTJ-accredited BA Hons in multimedia journalism is to be 70 per cent applied practice.
The university has also been running short courses in video acquisition and editing for print journalists for the past year.