Why it is time for The Journal to be part of a regional supersite

Trinity Mirror North East editor-in-chief Darren Thwaites on the landmark decision that is putting our readers and audiences first

The ncjMedia newsroom
The ncjMedia newsroom

It’s just over a year now since our Newcastle newsroom took a bold step towards a digital future with the launch of a pioneering new way of working.

Closely followed by our colleagues in Teesside, we became the first regional newspaper publishers to launch a truly digitally-led newsroom.

It means we put our audience first - giving them what they want, when they want it and on the platform of their choosing.

The newsroom no longer exists to ‘hold stories back’ for the following day’s newspaper. And it’s no longer restricted in the way it covers stories by the limitations of ink, paper and printing deadlines.

The newsroom is simply there to ensure the greatest number of people enjoy the very best stories - whether they do so on a PC, smartphone or in the newspaper is entirely their choice.

Using real-time analysis of trends and reader behaviour, we’ve been able to hone our skills to serve our audience better and faster than at any point in our near 200-year history. We tell more stories to more people in more formats on more platforms.

The results have exceeded even our ambitions.

Almost overnight, we doubled our rate of digital audience growth. By the end of 2014, our flagship website, ChronicleLive, became the fourth biggest regional news site in England and the second fastest growing in the UK.

Recent rankings by independent online audience monitors Comscore highlighted ChronicleLive as far and away the biggest regional news platform in the North East, with Teesside’s GazetteLive a comfortable second.

ChronicleLive even hit the prestigious list of top Facebook publishers, mixing with illustrious digital company like Mail Online, the Huffington Post, BBC and Buzzfeed.

The new-look newsroom also scooped the Digital Innovation of the Year award at the 2015 Newsawards in London. It was described as a “bold move with huge rewards” which was “ripping up the book and inventing how news brands work with content across print and digital”.

Delegates from far and wide - regional, national and international publishers alike - have visited our newsroom in Newcastle to learn from our model.

After 15 months of frenetic development we’re still seeing audiences doubling year-on-year. Last month, more than 3m readers consumed just short of 25m pages.

The newsroom at the Chronicle and Journal in Newcastle
The newsroom at the Chronicle and Journal in Newcastle

This month we’ll be making another momentous decision to ensure we continue to grow our reach and influence.

Very simply, we’ll be uniting all our efforts in our Newcastle newsroom behind a single supersite - our flagship ChronicleLive.

Down the A19 in Teesside, our colleagues will continue to dominate coverage in the south of the region through GazetteLive.

In Newcastle, it means that ChronicleLive will have a much wider remit, one that is bigger collectively than either the Chronicle or Journal individually. It will serve from Northumberland to Durham through urban Tyneside and Sunderland as the No1 news service for the region.

Critically, it means that key stories in business, culture and regional affairs will now reach a much bigger audience, powered by the strength of a regional supersite. Our scale in search engines like Google and social media platforms like Facebook will help our readers find stories and our advertisers find customers.

Journal.co.uk will exist as an archive site for previously published content but from July 13 users will be redirected to ChronicleLive.

It’s important to note that this in no way affects our print publishing strategy. As a newsroom, we will continue to publish two great daily newspapers, skilfully selecting the best content from our digital publishing efforts to serve our print readers in the Chronicle and Journal. And we’ll continue in just the same way to publish the UK’s biggest regional Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Sun.

We recognise that many people still wish to consume their local news through a newspaper. Our printed format remains an enjoyable, relaxing read in which we’re able to use our professional editing skills to bring the very best content together in one place at one point in time.

To that end, we’ll also be offering an improved version of our current Journal e-edition app, which allows readers to view the newspaper on a digital screen anytime, anywhere.

The Journal was crowned this year as the UK Regional Newspaper of the Year and we’re pleased to say that the title continues to outperform industry standards, retaining a loyal and engaged audience base.

But analysis shows that our digital readers are behaving differently. ChronicleLive is growing audience rapidly right across the region, beyond the Chronicle’s traditional print footprint. And it’s growing audience across all demographics, again outside what would have been seen as the traditional target audience of the Chronicle newspaper.

ChronicleLive
ChronicleLive

Read more: Why our digital revolution is good news

Indeed, ChronicleLive now delivers around 25 times more page views and readers than Journal.co.uk.

Despite that, we’ve not reached our full audience potential because we’ve split our efforts across two sites. We’re often competing against ourselves by publishing the same content twice, which can penalise our rankings in search engines.

To achieve the scale and level of growth we want, we need to focus all our activity on one supersite that serves our whole region, across all subject areas.

This gives us a great opportunity to increase our digital audiences around core Journal print specialisms such as business, regional affairs and culture.

As one of the biggest regional newsrooms in the UK, we’ll continue to set the agenda on key issues that affect the North East - but now with even greater weight, authority and influence by engaging more people in the debate.

The change to single-site publishing gives us a huge opportunity to further grow What’s On audiences by expanding the platform to include Journal Culture.

In this most competitive of digital spaces, it’s important we offer a single brilliant digital service to readers without diluting efforts across two sites.

We believe our decision to throw our weight behind ChronicleLive will unlock significant growth opportunities, both in audience and revenues.

It will ensure we cement our position as one of the UK’s leading digital news publishers, enabling us to reach ever greater audiences.

We’ll help more readers find more stories and we’ll help more advertisers reach more customers.

At a time of unprecedented change for the media industry, we’re immensely proud to be flying the flag for our region. Like so many other North East success stories, we’ll make sure we keep true to our traditional values - but we’ll also innovate, grow and adapt to seize the opportunities of a fast-changing world.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer