INTERACTIVE: CASE STUDY/THIS IS LONDON - How Associated New Media brought London’s charms to online readers./This is London has listings but it is also an electronic paper updated six times a day

Not long ago, when the Net was a club for academics and cyber-geeks, it was possible to run from conference to conference and spark serious debate by predicting the death of newspapers.

Not long ago, when the Net was a club for academics and

cyber-geeks, it was possible to run from conference to conference and

spark serious debate by predicting the death of newspapers.



But no more. You can get the Internet in Dixons and newspapers are not

going to disappear. Instead, they will exist alongside the Web, with

each medium concentrating on what it does best.



What the Web does best is deliver useful and up-to-date information at

the click of a mouse - and this is precisely the aim of Associated New

Media’s Evening Standard Website, This is London.



Aside from its UK Plus search engine, This is London is Associated’s

first major Web content venture. Previous efforts have been experiments,

ranging from the business pages of the Standard, a football site called

Soccernet and a failed subscription-based royal gossip site,

RoyaltyUK.



This is London is an online guide to life in the capital, designed for

visitors and natives alike. But it isn’t simply an online guide-book. It

is a real-time guide to theatres, cinemas, pubs and restaurants and also

an electronic newspaper, updated with news, sport and weather six times

a day.



This is London brings together electronic versions of Hot Tickets, the

Evening Standard’s weekly free listings magazine, sections of its weekly

lifestyle magazine, ES, and six guide-books published by Associated

Newspapers, such as Children’s London, the London Pub & Bar Guide and

the London Restaurant Guide.



That said, for things like restaurant, theatre and cinema reviews, the

site does not simply rely on what is printed in the guide-books and the

paper. It has its own staff of ten journalists to add new reviews and

stories daily.



Perhaps the strongest measure of the weight Associated is giving its

new-media activities is the presence of Martin Dunn, the former Today

editor, as Associated New Media’s editor.



Dunn, who returned to the UK from the US, where he was editor of the New

York Daily News, says the Standard was the obvious choice for

Associated’s first major new-media launch: ’Over the years, it has

aggregated a huge amount of content,’ he explains. ’We looked very

closely at Boston.com of the Boston Globe, which is a great aggregator

of one thing - news and information about Boston. We realised that we

had the same. So we took the decision to focus on London and the Evening

Standard brand.’



Not only did Dunn’s team look at the Boston Globe’s site, they now plan

to work with it and other similar ventures. Associated is to strike a

deal with the paper and the New York Times, which is about to launch

NYToday.com to inform visitors and locals about the city.



The three sites will cross-promote each other as the places to look for

information about each city. Deals with the Globe and the Times are

likely to be followed by others in Europe and more US cities, according

to Dunn.



While This is London has little competition, Time Out has a weekly

updated site and Capital FM’s site provides some listings information.

In the US, the competition is considerably more pronounced. Both

Microsoft, with its Sidewalk city guides, and AOL, with Digital Cities,

are active in many major US conurbations. AOL is set to launch UK

versions this year, but Microsoft has yet to say when it will bring

Sidewalk across the Atlantic.



Although This is London has only been around for two months, the site

has proved a success with advertisers, with all the spots on the site

sold out in both December and January.



Among the advertisers scheduling This is London are Budweiser, LineOne,

Vodafone, British Airways, Nurofen, Ericsson and Orange.



Lee Thompson, commercial manager at Associated New Media, says: ’It has

been a very encouraging start for us, but not surprising. We are a

high-traffic site with huge national and international potential, and to

that end we are offering as diverse advertising packages as we can.’



Thompson says that the site is not simply offering banner ads and

sponsorships, but it is also looking to tie advertising opportunities in

with London-based sports events, such as the tennis at Wimbledon. The

site can be accessed at www.thisislondon.com.



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