Daily Mail & General Trust plans to double the number of websites in its Local People network in the next year and could look for international expansion.
In the past year it has pushed the number of sites it publishes over 100 and moved out of beta-testing as it looks to expand the network.
Roland Bryan, managing director of Local People, told Press Gazette that DMGT planned to launch a further hundred site in the coming year after the success of the launch phase had convinced them of the commercial opportunities open to the network.
Bryan, who would not reveal any details of the commercial growth of the network, told Press Gazette that he was in talks with independent local publishers and rival newspaper groups about allowing them to either franchise Local People technology or working in partnership to enhance their local commercial links.
In addition, he said that publishers outside the UK were looking at the platform, which has been redesigned in recent months, with thoughts to use the technology.
Each site in the pilot launch catered for an area with populations of between 10,000 and 50,000 in the south west of England.
Following this strategy DMGT added new sites across London and moved away from the traditional patch of its newspapers with launches in the North West in the last 12 months.
Bryan said the network wasn’t reliant on publishing solely in areas where DMGT, through its regional newspaper business Northcliffe, already had a strong foothold and could provide commercial support through its Thisis news websites.
More than two thirds of Local People’s sites, he said, were now located in areas where Northcliffe didn’t publish a newspaper.
‘We make a judgement town by town. Each town has to have a significant community feel, towns like St Albans. People in those places live and work in their townsâ€¦we don’t work well in towns where people work elsewhere,’Bryan said,
Bryan told Press Gazette that since launch the network had built a base of 332,000 users. Local businesses in each area pay £500-£1,000 for a year’s listing on the sites.
Bryan said: “Our focus is providing small businesses a way of reaching a really local audience.
“The targeted nature of our sites means that our advertisers can achieve this with low wastage.”
The sites aim to create interaction in small communities by allowing users to create profiles, upload images and text, form groups and message each other.
Local People also allows users to rate and review local businesses.