New Media at the Peterborough Evening Telegraph

Mark Edwards, Editor at the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, is seeing a whole new readership coming through as a result of their online publishing presence, over and above the readers who buy the newspaper itself.

07:55 Friday 22nd October 2010
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Today is the last day of our First Click campaign. Earlier in the week we revealed to you that nine and a half million people in this country are not on line. If you’ve not been tempted, today could be the day. The Internet has definitely helped people ineract with the news more. Our local paper the Peterborough Evening Telegraph has had first hand experience of this. In 2007 around a hundred and fifty people were commenting on stories online in the ET. Today, that figure shot up to three and a half thousand people per month. Mark Edwards is the editor. Morning Mark.
MARK EDWARDS: Morning Paul.
PS: That’s phenomenal, isn’t it? That’s an amazing increase.
ME: Yes it is. And it’s grown at an incredibly steady rate in the last two or three years. I think it’s grown as people have got used to doing it. People have become more comfortable about giving their views online. And you’re right. It’s an incredible increase.
PS: When did you first think, hey, we’d better take this seriously?
ME: I came to Peterborough in 2007, and we were getting a couple of hundred comments a month. And I think really around the late 08, early 09, we started to see some really strong growth in those comments. And then suddenly we were getting ,you know, we were actually having to put somebody on it for a few hours a day, to monitor it, and to adminster it, and also to check things. We were finding a lot of news stories and other things coming in to the paper via that method.
PS: What sort of things are they commenting on now? Is it just people moaning at Alan Swann?
ME: You get a few of those. There’s no doubt about that. (LAUGHTER) He has more than his fair share. We can judge a lot of the interest level in our stories by the number of comments they get. And you’ll find things like the cuts that you’ve been talking about, things like by-passes etcetera. They do attract a lot of comments. And in particular people want to make very detailed points. So if you’ve got a story about plans up, we might say in general where something is going to go, how it might affect Peterborough. And then people really do comment on how it will affect their street, what their concerns are about roads, and things like that. And of course you do get a few people making a few points about personalities in the town, as you are no doubt aware.
PS: Yes I am. (LAUGHS) What sort of people are commenting. Can you tell whether it’s .. what sort of demographic, young, old what?
ME: Yes. Just recently we upgraded our website, and although it had a few teething problems, what it does do is allow us to find out a little bit more about the sort of people that are commenting. It’s across the spectrum, but by and large, it’s a slightly younger demographic than the paper’s readership. So yes, we’re getting people, age ranges from late teens through to early forties basically.
PS: Do you get people on your website that perhaps don’t even buy the paper?
ME: I would think so, yes. I think our website had last month about a hundred and sixty five thousand unique users in the month, of which about thirty odd thousand of those were fairly regular returners. And we know from our research that about fifteen per cent of those probably buy the paper as well fairly regularly. But a big chunk of them, forty to fifty per cent of them, won’t buy the paper at all. They’ll be effectively new readers for us.
PS: How do you make money then Mark?
ME: We sell advertising. But I think it’s well known that you don’t make as much money online as you make in traditional media. But as a proportion of our business, that’s growing quite successfully. More and more Peterborough businesses want advertising on popular local websites, of which ours is one.
PS: Yes. Difficult times for local papers. Difficult times for all media. Difficult times for local papers to compete with other media as well, isn’t it?
ME: It is. But actually it’s strange, and we’re doing it quite well. One of the advantages of the website is it turns a new audience on to the newspaper. We quite often see a surge in sales following a small web debate that we’ve decided to do a print story on. A lot of particularly younger people are introduced to the Evening Telegraph brand a bit earlier in their lives than they normally would be, because they come across it online.
PS: That’s interesting, isn’t it. What does the paper make of the spending cuts then? I saw the front page yesterday. You went for cuts cuts cuts cuts.
ME: Yes well that’s what it is Paul. And I think it’s a worrying time for Peterborough. I think the devil is going to be in the detail as usual. I think it is all about exactly how many jobs. Obviously we’re as worried as anybody. There are hundreds of jobs at risk in Peterborough. I think our intimation at the moment is it may not be quite as many as the unions fear. But nevertheless it’s a real problem. And I think Peterborough is well placed to pull itself out of recession, but what’s key to it is finding those people work. We need to work really hard to attract some good level employers, and jobs at all levels. If people can find work, then the city is going to do well. It’s got great transport links. It’s got a great green cluster. It’s got everything you need, and it’s got plenty of places for development, plenty of places you can go. Many places, you can see for example in Cambridge, it’s quite hard to see where new development’s going to take place. But not in Peterborough.
PS: Nice story about Queensgate this morning as well. Well done. I tip my cap.
ME: Thank you very much Paul.
PS: Mark Edwards, editor of the Evening Telegraph, saying how amazing the upsurge in people clicking on their website has been. And so many unique users, some of them don’t even buy the paper.