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Archant overhauls London24 digital media brand to cater for native advertising and signs Renault as launch partner

By Jessica Davies | News Editor

May 27, 2014 | 4 min read

Regional newspaper owner Archant has overhauled its digital news and media brand London24 to cater for native advertising and has signed Renault as launch partner in a six-figure deal.

London24, which made its debut two years ago as a digital-only title, curating stories from Archant’s 14 local London newspapers including the Ham & High, Hackney Gazette, and Islington Gazette, now claims an average 850,000 monthly unique visitors.

The new, responsive site has been designed to tie in more deeply with partners such as Streetlife, a local social network in which users can input their local addresses to then share news and information with those that live nearby.

The publisher first partnered with Streetlife last summer but is now ramping up its focus having found it can build richer profiles of its readers via the partnership.

Archant digital director Paul Hood told The Drum that to ensure it can futureproof its revenue models it must have more to offer than news alone, but utility and social functions.

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“We use Streetlife as a listening tool. The main point about this partnership is that it allows us to gather a richer data set so we get to know a lot more about our readers, which is key to our strategy.

“We can piece together people who are reading certain articles on the site and then going on to Streetlife – it gives us a much richer profile of our audience. Then when they come back to the site we can ensure we are putting much more relevant advertising in front of them, which is more qualified than if they have had only one point of interest with us.”

It has now employed former BSkyB database marketing controller Richard Wilks as head of audience and insights to help build this additional layer of data insight for the publisher, which it can then convert into revenue and premium advertising packages.

Meanwhile, Archant is also looking to move away from its reliance on programmatic display advertising by creating fewer ad slots on its site to ensure it can offer advertisers premium, native advertising options, which provide a better return for both publisher and client, according to Hood.

“Display advertising remains the primary revenue stream for the site but we are less interested in relying on programmatic advertising where we can’t control the floor prices. It’s still part of the revenue mix and we are still open to it but we want to reduce reliance on it.

“Now we have introduced native formats, and we are testing and learning there. The term native is over-hyped, it’s just a response to what we have all been talking about – the fact that display ad yields have been commoditised by oversupply, so yields have been going through the floor.

“So unless you have audience and scale of gargantuan proportions it doesn’t work for you as you have to sell it cheap. If you’re not a scale player, which we aren’t compared to the likes of the Huffington Posts of the world, then if we sell it cheap we would just go out of business.

“Native advertising has just come about because there needs to be a stand-out point of difference for this commoditised, display advertising. There is an issue with banner blindness – people tune out to them when they clutter a page.

“We have found engagement on ads much higher when there are fewer of them on a page, which is why we have cut back on the amount of ad slots across our portfolio to around four per page. We are not interested in saturating our site with loads of ad slots that are sold via programmatic networks. Our approach is to go for the premium sell,” he added.

Renault is among the first brands to capitalise on the new ad opportunities on London24, in a six-figure deal to promote its new electric model Zoe to Londoners. This will involve the car marque supplying the publisher with six cars for which its readers will then provide independent, editorial reviews, which will be published on the site in an area marked out specifically for Renault. Additional, useful information about the Zoe, such as how many charging points there are in London, and what the benefits are of charging an electric car over using petrol, will surround the reviews.

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