Google is teaming up with one the UK’s biggest regional news publishers in a bid to find new ways of making local digital journalism viable in a world dominated by social media.
The tech giant is working with Archant, the company behind more than 50 newspaper titles across the country, on an experimental project that hopes to save local news.
It is understood that the partnership involves several million pounds of funding from Google.
According to Press Gazette research published earlier this year, 43 UK local news titles closed in 2018 while 29 were launched.
New all-digital news platforms separate from Archant’s existing portfolio will be built, aimed at up to three UK communities.
The properties will be 100% owned and operated by the Norwich-headquartered firm, with support and expertise from the Google News Initiative.
“We will endeavour over the next three years to launch three new community websites in communities in the UK that have been identified as being under-served by local news, either because the existing news provider has withered away to nothing as has happened in many places or because they’ve never had a good news representation,” said Matt Kelly, chief content officer for Archant.
“The idea is to have the luxury to experiment and try to come up with some positive solutions to what is a serious and chronic problem, not just in the UK but further afield, which is the decline of the business model for local news.”
Exact staff numbers are yet to be decided, but Mr Kelly said it might be able to support somewhere between 20 and 30 employees across the three communities over the three-year period.
Results from the project will be shared with other publishers across the globe, in an effort to lead as a “playbook for the rest of the industry”.
“In terms of precisely how we’re going to do this, we’ve got some early thoughts – a lot of it will be good old-fashioned people in the community, building relationships and making sure that everything that moves is covered and taking a lead on important community issues,” Mr Kelly continued.
The partnership follows a similar project in the US with McClatchy, announced in March.
“Local news plays an important part in keeping people informed about their communities and the news they care about,” said Madhav Chinnappa, director of news ecosystem development at Google.
“This partnership between Archant and the GNI’s Local Experiments Project aims to put innovation at the heart of a new effort to rethink local news from the ground up for the age of digital.
“This is an experiment in the true sense of the word – looking to see what works and what doesn’t, and sharing what we all learn with the wider industry.”