One of the key reasons most traditional newspaper publishers have failed to evolve into successful multi-platform organisations has been their focus on protecting the business models that had made them successful, while pure-play digital players took advantage of new and disruptive models made possible by digital platforms.

Archant’s approach to tackling this particular problem has been the creation of a new division, Archant Digital Ventures, which has three objectives:

  1. Identifying new digital opportunities that fit Archant’s overall strategy.

  2. Investing in products/services that exploit such opportunities.

  3. Running these “internal start-ups” as standalone businesses that benefit from Archant’s brand, credibility, and marketing support, but are otherwise free to execute the strategy that makes the most sense for them — even if it means competing with Archant’s existing products.

Two recent examples of this approach are WeddingSite.co.uk and Streetlife.com.

WeddingSite.co.uk

Although Archant was already active in the wedding magazine and event space, the WeddingSite concept was created with a view to offer something different to both users and advertisers.

At its core, Wedding Site enables our users to plan their wedding via a set of digital tools that do most of the organisational “legwork.” However, it is the advertising possibilities created by this approach that are the most exciting part of the product.

The platform can identify what our users are planning to purchase and when and, crucially, how much they are planning to spend on each item. This, along with other key criteria we can supply (wedding date, location, number of guests), allows advertisers to identify and engage with only those customers that are relevant to them.

We also know what our users have already purchased, avoiding any advertising wastage. This strategy has created the level of targeting not previously seen in the wedding industry in the UK and is rapidly gaining popularity amongst both large and small advertisers.

Crucially, our users love it, too. Wedding planning is one of the most stressful, time-consuming, and expensive undertakings for any couple, so finding relevant wedding vendors is a major time-saver.

Almost 20% of all UK weddings are currently being planned through WeddingSite, even though the site is less than a year old.

Streetlife.com

Streetlife is a social network for local communities, enabling people who don’t necessarily know each other but live in the same geographic area (street, community, or town) to discuss issues of common interest.

Archant acquired a sizeable equity stake in the business in 2012 and, for us, it delivers in three key strategic areas:

  1. Reinforcing Archant’s role as the local media company by complementing our journalistic content with the platform where our users can raise and discuss their own local issues.

  2. Providing a rich source of local stories on which our journalists can follow up and reverse-publish into newspapers/Web sites.

  3. Creating a highly targeted local advertising platform.

With support from our local newspapers and Web sites, Archant’s marketing has led Streetlife to see extraordinary growth, with a number of heart-warming stories of how the site has made a real difference to the members of the participating communities.

For decades, publishers’ business model primarily relied on placing adverts around content. But our world has changed and doing broadly the same things and expecting different results clearly won’t work.

We are under no illusions that everything we try will be successful, but we believe that having a digital division that doesn’t suffer from “how things were always done in the past” is the necessary step in the right direction.