The newspaper publisher is thought to have set aside a multi-million pound budget in launching the People.co.uk, designed to make the Sunday People newspaper brand a seven-day operation. Positioned as “Buzzfeed for grown-ups”, People.co.uk used a picture-heavy interface and repackaged the most popular stories from around the web through short form articles ranging in topic from celebrity, to football, to beauty.
Unusually for a newspaper publisher website, People.co.uk was funded solely by a native advertising model. After a “pre-nup” trial period, advertisers signed up to a contract whereby they joined a list of clients from which journalists could choose to associate their stories with. An article about the new celebrity winter fashion trend of “stripper boots”, for example, could be accompanied with products from New Look – one of the site’s launch advertisers – that users could click through to purchase.
Other launch advertisers included Monarch Airlines, House of Fraser, Nails Inc and Money Corp.
The relaunch was led by Sue Douglas who joined Trinity Mirror last June and became publishing director of the newly-created subsidiary Sunday Brands, which also spans regional titles Wales on Sunday, the Sunday Sun in Newcastle, Sunday Mail in Scotland and Sunday Mercury in Birmingham.
Douglas’ role was later changed to focus on the People website, leading a team of four, all of which will leave Trinity Mirror at the end of the month.
Trinity Mirror said in a statement: “Whilst there was much original and good work done, People.co.uk just didn’t attract a big enough audience to make the site a viable proposition.”
People.co.uk is currently just the 29,947th most visited site in the UK, according to website analytics service Alexa.com.
The People.co.uk project was described by Douglas at launch as a “mini incubator with the legacy and power of a big media owner” and it was hoped that within months the site would attract “millions of uniques”.
Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox says of the closure: “The idea of the site was to bring the People brand to life across seven days but it simply hasn’t attracted the audience that we had hoped for.
“Our aim is to become one of the UK’s leading multi-media publishers and we will only achieve this by experimenting with new digital ideas.”
That strategy was highlighted today (29 January) with the announcement Trinity Mirror has appointed Malcolm Coles, who launched the publisher’s experimental sites UsVsTh3m and Ampp3d last year, to the newly created role of general manager of Mirror Online. He will be responsible for running the brand’s online platforms, developing new digital products for the division and he is also tasked with “significantly growing” the Mirror’s digital audience in 2014.
Additionally Martin Belam, who also worked to launch UsVsTh3m and Ampp3d and is the owner of the Emblem digital media consultancy, has been appointed as editor of new formats.