Peterborough chosen as first collaboration between Archant and Google

Archant yesterday announced Peterborough as the first community to benefit from a new experimental approach to local digital news and information.

Peterborough chosen as first collaboration between Archant and Google
Peterborough Cathedral is one of the finest Norman cathedrals in England. Photograph: NotFromUtrecht [CC BY-SA 3.0]

This is part of Archant’s Project Neon collaboration with the Google News Initiative’s Local News Experiments project. will launch in the Cambridgeshire cathedral city in Spring 2020 as part of the publisher’s bid to develop a new and sustainable commercial model for local news in the UK.

“Local journalism’s survival is so crucial, yet today its long-term future is under threat because nobody has yet cracked the challenge of making it profitable in a digital-only world,” said Matt Kelly, Archant’s chief content officer. “Like so many other communities in the UK, Peterborough has seen provision of local journalism shrink significantly over the years.

“Project Neon is all about experimenting with different models of journalism and business to create a sustainable business based on high quality, useful community content, and challenging some received wisdoms as we do it. What we learn, we will share openly with the industry and in doing so we hope to play a part in ensuring local news once again thrives.”

Peterborough was chosen since it is one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities with a population of around 200,000, has a very clear identity, strong sense of community and - since 2012 - no longer has a daily newspaper of its own.

Peterborough Matters will not seek to compete with existing traditional local titles, but instead try to build significantly higher levels of daily engagement with users through an innovative blend of community-driven content, useful information and local advertising, says Archant.

“We want to try to get closer to the people of Peterborough than anything that’s been before,” Emily Hewitt, Archant’s Head of Audience, said. “That means going back to the drawing board to rethink what local journalism means and how it is done and how it pays for itself. If we get it right, readers and advertisers will think Peterborough Matters isn’t just another local news brand, but a vibrant community platform that belongs to them.”

The Archant project team is now recruiting an initial staff for Peterborough Matters, including one commercial and four editorial roles.

Once Peterborough Matters is underway, the Project Neon team will identify at least two more communities to launch new digital-only local websites on a number of different platforms.

"Sustaining the business of local news is a global challenge," said the Google News Initiative's Jim Albrecht. "We're fortunate to have a partner like Archant who can help us understand the unique challenges facing local publishers in England, and we are excited by their choice of Peterborough as the first U.K. site for our Local Experiments Project."

Google is funding the project and bringing its product and technology expertise. The new businesses created under Project Neon will be 100 percent owned and operated by Archant.

Peterborough Matters will operate on a content management system developed by Canadian publisher Village Media, which has successfully launched a series of new local media businesses in Ontario, and takes inspiration from a number of hyperlocal sites, both in the UK and the US, says Archant.

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