Northcliffe rolls out new generation of geocoded websites

Journalists at Northcliffe Media‘s regional titles have begun geocoding stories as the group prepares to introduce geographical targeting on the “next generation” websites that it has continued rolling out this week.

The company today relaunched 10 of its existing 55 “thisis” regional news sites using new software that will allow readers to specify a postcodes to find stories about their location.

The 10 newly-redesigned sites include ThisisTotalEssex.co.uk, ThisisDerbyshire.co.uk and ThisisCornwall.co.uk.

The new sites use a design first unveilled in May on ThisIsHullandEastRiding.co.uk, the site run by the Hull Daily Mail, which last week won the Multimedia Publisher of the Year award at the Regional Press Awards.

A further 79 sites will be completed by mid-September. This will including the launch of 35 new sites which will more precisely target smaller communities already covered by the group’s large existing centres, such as ThisIsBelper, which is within ThisIsDerbyshire.

‘We’re trying to extend our reach away from what are our traditional newsprint footprints,’said Northcliffe content strategy director Robert Hardie.

The new sites’ geographical targeting functionality will allow users to enter a postcode to find all the stories on the site that affect them. The localisation functions will remain hidden until journalists have built up enough stories with postcode data.

‘It should only take month or two until we’ve built up that bulk of stories with postcode data attached to them,’said Hardie.

Because not all stories affect only one specific point, the company is finding geocoding challenging, Hardie said.

He said that while a traffic accident might affect only one location, a story about bed-blocking in hospitals would affect people over a wide area.

‘On the one hand it’s opening up a major opportunity for us, but it also means we’re going have to learn new skills and make value judgements about how we tag stories with postcodes,’Hardie said.

‘It’s a new skill that we’re going to have to get used to doing very cleverly,’he added.

The new sites allow journalists to more easily publish separate print, online and mobile stories from within the Tera editorial system used at all Northcliffe Newspapers.

Journalists will also be able to add keyword tags and search-engine friendly headlines to web stories.

‘We’ve severed the link between print production and web production,’Hardie said.

The new sites will integrate advertisements from Northcliffe’s classified sites Jobsite, Motors.co.uk and Findaproperty.

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