First person: How we’re creating a new kind of local news for London

It’s a little over four months since MyLondon burst onto the local news scene, with a promise to take a different approach to covering the capital. Breaking news editor Andy Worden shares how it’s going so far

MyLondon. Not checked it out yet? Go on give it a quick look. We double dare you.

It’s been four months now since we launched our new site.

So what have we learnt?

What’s been encouraging is what we were always hopeful of has proved true.

There’s an appetite in areas of London we have never covered before for the sort of news and features that were popular in the parts of London we already covered.

Some parts of this enormous city have been easier to crack than others.

In parts of the city there’s intense competition. That’s got to be a good thing for the people who live there, right?

Others parts, it’s arguable, have been underserved. So, hopefully, our move to covering the whole of London cannot be a bad thing.

Andy Worden

Of course, covering 32 boroughs isn’t easy. We fully accept we’ve barely scratched the surface with some of them.

But we hope that the more established and well-known we become in all parts of the city, the more evenly our coverage will be spread around every corner of the city.

As well as gettting our heads round the geography of our new patch, we’ve put lots of focus on our balance of content and the tone of the site.

We’ve split our reporters into two teams. A breaking news team do the side of the job I’d like to think we’ve always been pretty good at. The live blogs. Reacting quickly to big stories. Making smart decisions on what to cover and how.

We call the other half our creative team. They work at a slightly (only slightly) slower pace. They work on long reads, opinion pieces, evergreen content, the odd listicle.

This helps ensure the site remains more upbeat than our old sites — which were often very crime heavy. They weren’t always the sort of places to come for a chuckle or a read of something that would make you smile or think.

But we’ve learnt that maintaining that balance isn’t easy.

Lots of people have said very kind things about the site feeling different. That’s been the aim but there are times we’ve realised it was in danger of slipping back to what we had before, particularly on days where we’ve had lots of breaking news.

Careful management of the homepage is crucial. Careful management of each reporter’s newslist even more so.

On days where you are lower on numbers page view targets don’t reduce so resisting the temptation to just throw everyone at breaking news has been important.

We’re playing a long game and what we don’t want is someone to come to the site for the first time and think it’s exactly the same as our old sites. It needs to feel unique.

This is where the personality of the site has been important.

We are trying to give the site a distinct tone and feel.

We try and inject some wit and fun to stories wherever we can. Sometimes we will try something a bit different — like when we sent a reporter out to ask a load of Londoners where they thought the North started. Just south of Aberdeen according to one. Just above Watford said another.

We try and avoid language and jargon that our readers simply wouldn’t use.

And we try and avoid anything that slows the storytelling down or gives the reader an excuse to get bored and not make it to the end of the piece.

There’s still so much for us to learn and do. But our figures are increasing each month.

And we think our website has become a lot more consistent in its style and feel over the four months.

Hopefully in another four months we’ll have made a whole heap more progress.