How 3 projects changed the face of UK journalism online


It is perhaps a sign of the success of Trinity Mirror’s web-savvy projects Ampp3d, UsVsTh3m and Row Zed that reports of their closure have generated such strong reactions from journalists across a range of titles.

UsVsTh3m launched in early 2013; Ampp3d towards the end of the same year. The launches themselves represented a fresh approach to mainstream publishing online: standalone teams free to innovate without the baggage of print costs, systems and cultures.

The projects were initially given 3 months to prove their worth as separate projects but ended up becoming part of the Mirror site and sticking around for 2 years.

On those grounds alone UsVsTh3m, Ampp3d — and Row Zed in 2014 — have been a success. They achieved what they set out to do, and more.

But they have also had a massive influence on the wider industry — an influence which may have contributed to their closure.

Since their launches a lot has changed in publishing — much of it due in part to the paths blazed by Martin Belam’s teams.

The agile and independent approach to product launches that Belam advocated has now become commonplace: The Telegraph echoed Row Zed with its own Project Babb; The Sun attempted its own Ampp3d/UsVsTh3m clone with Sun Nation. Sky’s mobile-native election coverage came with a dose of UsVsTh3m too. Even The Times and the FT are willing to devote time to standalone experiments and hackday-driven innovation.

When Ampp3d and UsVsTh3m moved from being standalone sites to part of the Mirror, that influence spread internally too: after Ampp3d has gone quiet, Trinity Mirror’s data unit in Manchester still carry the torch for data journalism. After Row Zed has left the stadium and UsVsTh3m has its last fight, Trinity Mirror’s social media unit and social media editors will continue the practices it pioneered.

Look across Trinity Mirror titles and you see an ability to write snappy web copy that was rare two years ago. It’s not at the standard that Belam’s teams pioneered, but it’s a start.

I am incredibly sad for the team that Trinity Mirror will be making redundant. Some of them I consider good friends, and many of them I taught. They have been part of something seminal: that’s a rare experience, and its end will hurt.

But I am also incredibly happy, and proud, of what they have achieved.

They will look at the tweets today and see that they have a lot of fans in the industry. Indeed, at one point the terms ‘usvsth3m’ & ‘ampp3d’ were trending in London. Now they get to work in an industry they helped to shape. Watch them fly.

More: Ampp3d and UsVsTh3m: 7 of their best moments

First published on the Online Journalism Blog. Subscribe to regular updates here.