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Google to fund launch of three local news websites by regional publisher

Matt-Kelly-e1400584060744A regional publisher is set to launch up to three local news websites thanks to funding from Google.

Archant has announced a new three-year partnership with the search engine giant called Project Neon, which will target up to three UK communities “identified as being currently underserved by local news”.

The locations served by the new sites are yet to be announced, but Archant says they will be created “in a concerted effort to reverse the commercial challenges local news publishers have faced in the past decade”.

Part of the aim of the project will be to explore new business models for local news which can then be shared with the wider industry.

Archant’s project team will work with a team of experts at Google, which is providing funding for the project as part of the Google News Initiative local experiments project.

In a blog for Google about the project, the company’s chief content officer Matt Kelly, pictured, said the project would “rethink local news from every perspective, from storytelling to layout, from business models to website design”.

Said Matt: “The new businesses created under Project Neon will be 100 percent owned and operated by Archant. Google’s interest lies in developing digital business models and operational approaches that can be shared with the wider industry, and while they are providing expertise and funding, they will have no input whatsoever in editorial decision-making.

“We at Archant have been in the news business since 1845, when four free-thinking businessmen launched a weekly newspaper called The Norfolk News. Now, nearly 175 years later, we have a collection of more than 50 local news brands across the UK.

“It’s no secret that in recent years, our industry has been more challenged than at any other time in its history. But local news is as important as ever, and if we are going to find a sustainable digital-only model, it is bold experiments such as Project Neon that will help provide a pathway to thriving local news.

“With support and expertise from the Google News Initiative, I believe Archant has the potential to deliver exciting new solutions for local news brands, not only in the U.K. but also in other parts of the world where the local news business is in decline.”

Matt said more details about the project would be released in the near future, including the locations of the “target communities”.

He added: “We will chronicle our successes (and, no doubt, our failures) and share them publicly with the industry at large, enabling other media companies to do similar work.

“Nobody can accurately predict how the future of local journalism will look. But with our shared vision for building strong communities, Archant and the Google News Initiative will break new ground towards the goal of a local news industry that not only survives, but thrives.”


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  • September 19, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    One wonders whether the mystery locations will be those in which Archant already operates, and where offices has been closed/downsized and experienced staff have been steadily culled. Or will the company just parachute into new territory?

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  • September 19, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    An ABSOLUTE DISGRACE! Why are these failing companies being propped up by other people’s cash? They had their chance to ‘reverse the commercial challenges local news publishers have faced in the past decade.’ How they can be tasked with ‘finding a new business model’ is laughable. They’ve had a decade.

    What makes me really angry is that these failures are being given the opportunity to parachute back into communities THEY gave up on with someone else’s cash. Some poor hyperlocal will now suffer because of this.
    I hope it fails miserably.

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  • September 19, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    It’s clear to me the locations they’ll choose will be ones they’ve failed in already and lost their copy sale and advertising markets, closed offices and shifted staff abandoning communities where new hyperlocal publishers are ‘thriving ‘ in thus rewarding failure and closures and putting pressure on genuine local news providers in the areas.

    Either that or they might choose to crash into areas they’ve recently shown interest in purchasing currently in the hands of JPI.

    To me this whole thing is a complete fiasco,throwing money at a company whose own digital sites, and particularly social media postings, are littered with errors, inaccuracies, text speak and repetition aimed purely at attracting clicks and likes.

    To believe they have any ideas on how to uncover “ business models for local news” after losing their own territories to new competitors and having spectacularly failed to monetise their own digital news content is laughable and shows what could be costly naivety on Google’s part.

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  • September 20, 2019 at 10:16 am

    The big local news providers have been screaming most about suffering in the face of new innovation. First they whine to the BBC and now we get local democracy reporters, on condition no reporter loses their job… has anyone carried out a study to see how many LDRs were previously council reporters? I can think of at least three – and so rather than adding extra value we see the companies propped up or dividends for share holders.

    Now we have Facebook and Google reporters. What next the Uber correspondences? Hyper locals with their smaller overheads should be the ones getting this help.

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  • September 20, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    I genuinely hope this level of investment does lead to monetising local news as something needs to be done pdq but in my view Archant aren’t the ones to do it.
    Their failure to engage and properly monetise their own on line digital audience numbers and the inability to sustain ad spends via their tv broadcast license with (whisper it softly) Mustard tv, plus the lack of adverts in TNE ,despite boasts to fill it, doesn’t set them up well to succeed where they and others have tried and failed so badly in the last decade or so.

    One factor which I believe is being overlooked is more closer to home, that of trying to convince local business people to advertise on digital platforms using commercial people and managers who don’t understand or believe in the medium ,who remain deeply entrenched in a print background and have parochial newspaper thinking

    All of this indicates to me that Google have thrown good money after bad and made a seriously bad error of judgement here.

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  • September 23, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Still waiting for Archant’s Google-funded Local Recall project to be launched to the public…

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  • September 24, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    You know how dead slow Archant moves and how many meetings about meetings to discuss the points from the meetings they have previously had, then a suit will write ‘ a paper on it’ to feedback to the mangers to discuss at yet another managers meeting and this all takes time, it’s only been six months, give them a break

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  • September 24, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Yes, where is the €600+ Local Recall digital archive ‘scheduled to be live in 2018’….in 2019….?
    Obviously they don’t have to complete a project (or start it?) before the next huge handout from Google.

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