Gorkana meets…People.co.uk

After last month’s launch of People.co.uk, Gorkana catches up with Sue Douglas, publisher, Sunday Brands Ltd at Trinity Mirror, on news without the boring bits, taking risks and why PRs have a vital role to play.

As part of plans to transform Sunday People into a seven-day digital offer, you’ve overseen the recent launch of People.co.uk – what has been the reaction so far?

Exhilaratingly positive. People like it. There is real interest in something different AT LAST.

The design of the site is pretty unique compared to your competitors, with you even saying it’s a bit like BuzzFeed. What’s the thinking behind it?

We live in a visual world, increasingly dominated by constant communication and sharing of life’s experiences. Wordsmith that I am, pictures and moving pictures – video – is increasingly the answer in a busy, busy world.

Can you compete with the ‘big boys’ like MailOnline?

We are different and complementary. I love MailOnline. This is making news the hero, humour the centre piece, but celebrity will always belong to [MailOnline editor] Martin Clarke.

It has been billed as “news without the boring bits” – tell us more…

That is it. News. Not boring. I am a news junkie but even I flag when I get to the seventh paragraph on quantitative easing in the FT.

The seven-day operation is being run by a separate editorial team to the Sunday paper. Will there be any crossover in terms of content?

Our fledgling team of journalists draw content from every source. Being close to other journalists, busy collecting stories for a newspaper helps both sides.

Are you expecting to attract different readers than the paper?

Totally, but People.co.uk is inclusive and hopefully will attract readers as well as completely new users.

Talk us through the key channels of the site.

News, news and news. It is a snapshot of the way we live, the things we want to know and need to know, the gossip, the pictures, the trends, the people. The key channels are the key channels of our life. The “did you know?!!” revelatory stories, the things that make us laugh, smile, choke on our cornflakes. The strands are the zeitgeist: sport, which is always our religion, fashion, music, culture, art and that meaningless word lifestyle, plus politics, science, superstition, stars, money, animals, food and anything that people like.

How much new content is added on a daily basis?

A minimum of 21 tiles a day that each represent a content “column”, updated news crunch every eight hours.

How can PRs help with content?

PRs generate content about their clients. If journalists believe those stories are timely, pertinent and interesting, then PRs have a vital role as providers of stories.

What do PRs need to be thinking about when pitching to the online team?

Top tips for PRs when pitching? Tell us a story.

The site is being funded through native advertising, with zero display advertising. Tell us about this method.

We contextualise, in a real story we are running anyway, the commercial business offering, product, service or message eg Cameron says there are other ways to keep warm than pay huge heating bills. We do 10 ways to keep warm. One is a lovely fluffy jumper from our partner.

You’ve also got an interesting approach to commercial partnerships on the site…

Talent agencies are swapping stories and content from their famous clients for projection, packaging, context and ideas. Ad agencies are talking to their clients about a different way of addressing and interacting with users that are increasingly advertising “blind” and do not even notice an advert on a digital platform.

What brands tick the boxes for partnership opportunities with People.co.uk?

Any that are daring enough and cogniscent enough of a new world where people interact with real stories and turn off to two dimensional static messages.

And finally, your ambition is to hit a million unique users a month by early next year – how are you tracking?

Google analytics track the numbers and all things empirical. We are the creative (I hope!) power house that is trying to give people a different way of finding out about events in the world around them. It’s a risk, but without taking risks we can never progress and find a future.

Sue was talking to Gorkana’s Richard O’Donnell

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