Regional Press Awards: The digital success stories inspiring an industry

Darren Thwaites with Nick Ferrari

The Manchester Evening News has been named website of the year for the second year running at the Regional Press Awards.

Judges praised the MEN website for its use of elegant headlines and compelling storytelling combined with smart use of audience engagement which, they said, helped the title to stand out from the digital crowd.

Highly commended was the Yorkshire Post, which judges said was a website which works excellently in tandem with the newspaper.

Also on the shortlist was CambridgeshireLive, praised for its live blogs and community engagement which judges said were both ‘particularly strong.’

LeedsLive, Reach PLC’s website which only launched a year ago, was also shortlisted, was described by judges as being dynamic and fresh, with particular praise for the way it brought stories alive.

“It often starts conversations about the biggest issues in the city,” judges noted.

The Liverpool Echo ‘delivers engaging content which audiences want,’ according to judges, who went on celebrate the ‘excellent range of coverage, good visuals and strong investigative coverage throughout.’

Completing the shortlist line up for website of the year was WalesOnline, which judges said was ‘focused on speed and accuracy to deliver crucial information to an engaged audience that trusts its sources.’

WalesOnline might not have won website of the year, but the team did have two other digital award wins to celebrate on what was a great afternoon overall for the Cardiff and Swansea-based site.

Social Media Team of the Year

Chiara Rinaldi from WalesOnline with Nick Ferrari and the social media award

It won social media team of the year, and judges said the team demonstrated powerful storytelling using innovative and original ideas to publish breaking news.

Judges liked the overall tone of the content and experimental nature of much of the work, presenter Nick Ferrari told the audience.

ChronicleLive in Newcastle was highly commended, and judges praised the team for their ‘carefully crafted content that provides a vital source of news.’

Also shortlisted was KentLive, whose Facebook Traffic and Travel group received specific praise from judges, NottinghamshireLive, noted for having the ‘confidence to tell readers what it thinks is right’ and the Warrington Guardian, heralded for ‘using live reporting on social media to ensure it is the go-to news source in the area.’

Digital Initiative of the Year

Chiara Rinaldi from WalesOnline

WalesOnline also scooped digital initiative of the year for ‘Geraint the Robot Reporter’, which uses Amazon’s text-to-speech service to make software that transforms a written report into an MP3 for audio reports.

“The winner is an innovative piece of technology that dramatically saves reporters’ time,” judges said.

Highly commended went to the Manchester Evening News for its Instagram Initiative, which has focused on celebrating Manchester on the picture-led social media platform.

Judges said: “It is a community focused initiative that reflects the pride people have living and working in Manchester.”

Also shortlisted was ChronicleLive for its live coverage of the 10-week John Henry Sayers trial over a nightclub shooting, the MEN’s Family project which has built an online community around parenting content, GrimsbyLive’s interactive Poppy map created to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

WalesOnline had a second shortlisted project in this category, for its vertical sports videos, big match guides and as it happened stat packs.

It was, said judges, a project which had revolutionised the way football fans digest coverage on their mobiles.

The Overall Digital Award

Maria Breslin collects the Overall Digital Award from Nick Ferrari

The overall digital award, which looks for a title which produces the best journalism and service to readers on a range of platforms, went to the Liverpool Echo.

“Fantastic innovation that shows quality journalism can thrive online,” judges said. “The use of podcast, newsletter and email briefings show a comprehensive digital offering for the Echo’s readership.” Judges said they were also impressed by the co-ordination of various online tools to engage audiences.

Highly commended went to the Reach Data Unit, which had “informed and entertained huge audiences across Reach.”

The judges praised its work, complimenting it for making a ‘considerable and vital’ contribution to regional journalism.

Also shortlisted was BirminghamLive, which was praised for its ‘hugely ambitious digital storytelling project to mark the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of Smallpox in city’ which was anchored around ‘a fantastic podcast series.’

The Eastern Daily Press won praise for the great use reporters make of interactive tools to enhance their stories to increase audience engagement, such as quizzes, interactive graphics, animations and timelines.

HullLive, the online home of the Hull Daily Mail, was described in the shortlist as having live coverage at the heart of its website. “It has built Facebook communities and used social media platforms to steadily increase reach,” said judges.

Completing the shortlist in this category was WalesOnline, which was “prioritising up to the minute breaking news and detailed and original journalism” according to judges.

“Combining this with analytics and journalism leadership, WalesOnline excels in the digital sphere.”

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