Regional publisher Northcliffe Media has completed a relaunch of its newspaper companion websites designed to take its online offering “beyond news and information.”
New versions of each of the 26 thisis sites are now live, following a pilot launch involving three of the sites last week.
The new colour-coded sites have been completely redesigned and rebuilt on the same technical platform that powers the Local People network of more than 200 community sites.
The publisher’s local online arm Northcliffe Digital said the revamp was designed to “evolve the thisis proposition beyond news and information to users’ first port of call for whatever they want to know, do or find in their regions.”
Among the biggest changes will see user-generated content displayed prominently on the homepage alongside news.
In a bid to provide an “integraed user journey,” local business reviews, deals and listings have been embedded alongside relevant local editorial content.
Northcliffe Digital managing director Roland Bryan said: “Delivering great local news content remains at the heart of our mission, but we are now moving towards a more interactive and relevant social experience for our users.
“The new sites are built around our users and promote interaction between people, local businesses and our content. Every piece of content across the thisis network has calls to action to allow our users the opportunity to create, respond or discuss.
“As the internet becomes more social, it’s crucial that we enable conversations between individuals in the community, the businesses that serve them as well as the journalists who are leading the local news agenda.”
“Our aim is for Thisis to become the first destination for the local communities we serve, bringing people and businesses closer together; delivering not only audience reach, but also highly measurable results to our advertising partners.”
However some Northclffe newspaper staff, speaking anonymously to HTFP, have expressed concern about the prominence being given to user-generated content.
One said: “Readers can file their own “articles” which compete directly with the actual news content at the top of the page. Madness.”
“The new design puts readers’ comments up in lights using ‘soundbite’ boxes in a prominent position on the homepage. The result was one site having remarks to the effect of “what the *£@% is this new site about” for its first four days with the new design.”
The thisis network boasts 5.9m monthly unique users and claims more than 50pc local penetration in the regions they serve.