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Global: Times boosts subs through Facebook groups

The Times of London has found a way to attract new readers and convert them into subscribers by tapping into topical Facebook groups.

The newspaper created three Facebook groups, managed by five social media journalists and designed to “to give articles and topic areas that much more prominence”.


52 | 48 is dedicated to Brexit with more than 1300 members, First Edition is for book lovers with 1200 members, and Screen Times boasts 400 members and caters to film buffs.


Ben Whitelaw, head of audience development at The Times and The Sunday Times said: “You rarely see this willingness [from publishers] to go head-to-head with readers.”


“This is a good start to get them more involved in everything we do, from how they use our product to what journalists they like. It’s not just about how many comments they have submitted.”


More publisher traffic generated by Google

Google is sending more traffic to publishers this year compared to Facebook.


According to new data from Parse.ly, a digital analytics company and service used by more than 2500 publishers including The Wall Street Journal and Time Inc, the search engine generates 44 per cent of traffic.


Facebook generated more traffic to publishers than Google in January. However, the social media giant went from 40 per cent at the start of the year down to 26 per cent by the end.


Google’s lead can be attributed to its decision to end its “first click free” program, as well as the company’s accelerated mobile pages (AMP) feature which hosts publishers’ content directly on Google’s servers.


Agency trials automated news service

The Press Association and Urbs Media have set up an automated news service called RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots), which is currently being trialed with some of the UK and Ireland’s leading regional publishers.


“We believe these are the first automated local news stories published in established news brands anywhere in the world,” said Gary Rogers, editor-in-chief at Urbs Media.


RADAR uses Natural Language Generation software to create up to 30,000 stories a month, and was designed to provide fact-based insights into local communities.


The service is funded through Google’s Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund aimed at supporting quality digital journalism across Europe.


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