Google Backs Experimental Hyperlocal News Service for Peterborough

By Gary Cutlack on at

Google appears to be trying to shore up the world of local news that its internet has so roundly destroyed, and is making reparations of a sort by backing a news source dedicated solely to reporting events and happenings in and around Peterborough.

Peterborough Matters is the first fruit of Google's Project Neon, a needlessly evocative tech idiot name for an experiment in funding local news – and ensuring the results are thrown around its master's search results pages for maximum impact. Google has partnered with publisher Archant, and it's Archant that's doing all the admin and hiring the writers and buying in horoscopes from whoever shamelessly makes them up and gets paid for it, with this first site looking to boost the "...downtrodden attributes and pockets of positivity" within Peterborough.

The site appears to have three employees right now populating its barebones, my-first-Wordpress-install pages (you can submit your own obituary), and Archant says the team is doing a great job of living the exciting journalist dream of using MacBooks in Costa and chewing pencils as old people reminisce about how there used to be shops dedicated to only selling vegetables, more buses, and fewer foreign accents in the post office queue, explaining: "They have been actively out and about in recent weeks, holding meetings in independent coffee shops, co-working spaces or in one of Peterborough's many libraries. We want to be visible, we want to get to the heart of our communities and we want our readers to know that they can find us in and around Peterborough – and we want to talk!"

And one lucky staff member got the job of doing the Twitter on work time too. That is the Clark Kent dream right there. Here's someone from Google pretending to have invented rather than annihilated local news: "Quality local journalism strengthens communities, supports an informed citizenry, and provides clarity and context for local officials. So it is critically important that we find sustainable approaches to the local news business. To this end, we're delighted to partner with Archant in launching Peterborough Matters."

Google paying for it as an experiment in humouring the little people doesn't seem a particularly sustainable model, mind, so we imagine it'll all abruptly end when the tech giant stops picking up the bills for the crosswords, the domain starts redirecting to news.google.com one morning and everyone's locked out of their email. [Peterborough Matters via Trustedreviews]