My London, Reach’s news website for the UK capital, has overtaken the Evening Standard on a key industry audience metric.
MyLondon achieved 31m UK page views in September, versus the Evening Standard’s 30m total – according to Ipsos Mori data, the news industry recognised audience data provider.
The Standard is however still ahead of MyLondon on unique UK visitors per month: 10.8m versus 6.7m, and on time spent reading the site: 53m minutes versus 15m minutes per month.
My London launched at the end of 2018 with a staff of around eight reporters and this year has expanded from a team of 20 to 70 people after investing in news, what’s on and specialist roles such as a dedicated race and diversity editor.
By the end of 2021 the editorial staff count is expected to reach almost 90.
My London was Reach’s first attempt to provide a news brand for the whole UK capital, having created the website by merging its Get West London and Croydon Advertiser brands.
The website is now Reach’s third-largest regional newsroom operation, behind the Manchester Evening News which has around 85 editorial staff and the Liverpool Echo in second place – although a major recruitment drive is ongoing across Reach’s regional titles.
My London editorial director Liz Hazelton told Press Gazette the rapid growth of the site could largely be put down to the investment in staff that has gone into it.
She said it was about having “the ambition to say we can see a great opportunity here and we’re willing to put journalists into London in a way that that no one has ever done, I think, not for a very long time”.
She added that there is “not really any publication that’s serving a mass market in London at the moment”.
“We’re not really for multimillionaires, we can be for them as well, but we’re actually for everybody who lives in London, loves London, experiences London as we all do really.”
Hazelton, who was deputy editor at Mirror Online for three years and also worked on Reach’s customer value strategy before joining My London at the start of 2021, said the site has more “boots on the ground” than competitors.
This enables coverage of every borough and means its journalists don’t just turn up once but can build proper relationships in communities, she said.
The hiring spree has also focused on getting in people from a wide range of backgrounds, meaning they can better speak to London’s diverse communities.
Asked for examples of what has worked on My London, Hazelton pointed to community reporter Ruby Gregory’s work on social housing and to chief reporter Zak Garner-Purkis’ work just nominated for a British Journalism Award, including an investigation into Crossrail delays and interviews with former schoolmates of Shamima Begum.
The recent appointment of former Left Foot Forward editor Josiah Mortimer as City Hall editor will also help the site develop politics coverage beyond Westminster, Hazelton said. He has already been met with shock at City Hall meetings that any member of the public was present, let alone a journalist.
My London also employs nine of the 13 BBC-funded local democracy reporters in the city.
Having this sort of extra scrutiny can only make a difference, Hazelton said. After the fatal Grenfell Tower fire disaster in 2017 there were claims that safety concerns would have been picked up before the decline of the London local press.
“We know we change things in a very small way,” Hazelton said. “Even with people with terrible problems with their houses, we already know that landlords have mysteriously turned up and suddenly fixed a few things and maybe killed the rats.
“We can make a difference. I think it’s very easy to say in journalism we can’t make a difference, but I think actually we can and I think simply being in places, asking questions, finding out what’s really going on, not just presuming it’s what’s come on a council press release – I mean, that’s going to make a difference isn’t it? I don’t see how it can’t.”
Currently My London’s traffic mainly comes from either social or search, but Hazelton said the plan is to build up direct traffic next year. This will come by growing loyal readers with newsletters and identifying what types of stories people connect with most, she said.
“We want to really reflect the full spectrum of London life so yes, there’s a lot of very serious stuff but yes, we will write about restaurants and we will write about showbiz and we will write about the entertainment side of things as well,” Hazelton said.
“So you get this really vibrant and dynamic product that people actually really want to come back to.”
Reach chief audience officer David Higgerson added: “As exciting as this milestone is, I really believe this is only the start for My London and a sign of things to come for many of our other regional sites.
“We are hugely ambitious about the potential for My London to not only grow but to earn a truly loyal audience and become an essential part of London life.”
A spokesperson for The Evening Standard said: “The Evening Standard is committed to doubling down on multi-platform journalism and driving direct conversation with our readers. Over the past year we have undertaken a site-wide redesign of our desktop and mobile products, and launched new targeted digital channels building on the paper’s core strengths.
“Standard.co.uk is a fast paced, news-breaking website delivering sharply streamlined local-global content focused on London’s news to a growing audience across the UK and abroad.”
My London has consistently been near the top of Press Gazette’s list of fastest growing UK websites, which use Similarweb figures rather than the new Ipsos Iris nmetric. These are different as Similarweb defines a visit (session) as a visitor accessing one or more pages in a website and subsequent page views are included in the same visit until the user is inactive for more than 30 minutes.
In September My London saw the third biggest growth with visits up 50% from 5.4m to 8.1m. The Standard placed 18th in our table of the top 50 UK English-language news websites in September with 15.8m visits and 14% year-on-year decline, with My London in 24th place.
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