Northcliffe eyes ad revenue boost with regional website relaunch

Northcliffe Digital, the online local division of the Daily Mail and General Trust, is relaunching its network of 26 regional news sites in a bid to turnaround declining ad revenues.

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The “Thisis” sites have been rebuilt to include more user generated content, including events listings, business directories and picture galleries in addition to news.

Thisis will bring in advertising revenue beyond online display through regional daily deals services and by encouraging local business to create their own profiles, priced between £400 and £1000. Businesses can choose for their listings to feature descriptions, mapping, contact forms, trackable phone numbers and reviews.

Northcliffe Digital managing director Roland Bryan claims the overhaul allows it to compete with “major players” such as Yell, Time Out, Top Table and Qype as well as other local news websites.

He adds: “We’re moving the Thisis network from being a news portal to the gateway to the city. It’s the biggest change of positioning for these sites in 15 years.”

Northcliffe in numbers (Six months to 3 April)

  • Operating profit down 35% to £8m
  • Total revenue down 9% to £120
  • Advertising revenue down 9% to £85m
  • Digital revenue down 2% to £9m
  • Headcount down 7% to 336

Bryan says advertisers will benefit from the relaunch because the increased amount of content means brands have more opportunities for location-based targeting.

“Hyperlocal is a fantastic way for a larger brand to serve a specific need in a specific area, such as promoting a store opening,” he says. “The greater range of content – especially user generated content – gives more opportunities to target a very precise, affluent and engaged demographic.”

Every piece of content on the site will now feature a call to action for users to create new content, discuss further or share on Facebook or Twitter.

Bryan says despite the increased focus on user generated content, the Thisis network aims to publish more articles by journalists “than ever before” to give users more opportunities to engage with the network..

Northcliffe Digital claims the Thisis network attracts 5.9 million monthly unique users and an average of 54% of local residents visit their regional site monthly.

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