Editorial director at Trinity Mirror regionals, Neil Benson, has hinted that the company may be considering further ‘reverse publishing’products after success in Teesside.
The Teesside Evening Gazette has launched six free newspapers made up of content gleaned from the region’s 20 hyper-local citizen journalism websites since last December.
The three weekly and three fortnightly papers are sent to homes in Ingleby Barwick, Acklam and Redcar. They contain hyper-local content produced by about 150 bloggers and five journalists, and are supported by hyper-local advertising.
Internal figures suggest that the sites achieved a combined 40,600 unique users in July.
Benson told Press Gazette: ‘We are clearly very pleased, and continue to look at the way it has gone very closely.
‘It’s still early days but I think things are going better than we expected, so we are keeping a close eye on it and I wouldn’t be surprised if we spread it further afield.”
Benson said the company is taking a two-stage approach. ‘First, we want to increase the overall audience, and then, if we can do that, we can make a commercial success out of it,’he said.
‘There is no doubt we are reaching new audiences: the number of unique users is increasing at a rapid rate, and if you add that to the performance of the Gazette there is no question in our mind the audience is growing.
‘There is a raft of advertising that is smaller and more local than what we would normally get in the Gazette.”
Last December, Gazette editor Darren Thwaites created the reader content team of five journalists, led by reader content editor and former community news editor Julie Martin. By the time Gazette People launched in January 2006 she had developed a regular supply of reader-generated content.
The company hopes to double the number of bloggers within the year, making them more central to content.
Benson remains positive about the future of the regional press.
‘I think that much of the doom and gloom about the regional press has come from commentators,’he said. ‘The death of the regional press is exaggerated but we have to find a new business model, because things are changing. If you’re growing your audience, that is a positive step.
‘There will be trial and error. I don’t know if hyper-local sites are the Holy Grail or another cul-de-sac, but at this stage we are encouraged by them and they might be one of a number of things we can do.”