Credit: WOW247

Johnston Press's entertainment platform, WOW247, re-launched yesterday with a fully-responsive website aimed at younger audiences.

Initially coming into the market as a listings-based site in 2012, it was mostly "hanging off the side of Johnston Press and other news sites", according to Steven Thomas, general manager of WOW247.

The new version of WOW247 hosts lifestyle and 'what's on' content across a range of categories, including film news and reviews, information about music festivals and playlists, restaurant reviews and food recipes.

The platform was built by "looking at what subjects were performing really well in terms of social networks and the web", said Thomas. He added that "the main reason for re-launching is that knowing the content we produce is popular, we had to bring that more to the forefront".

Articles include news stories in a traditional format, but also listicles, such as '10 things to see at Edinburgh International Film Festival' and '10 recipes that prove veggie food isn't boring'. Readers can access articles relevant to their own city, but the website also hosts evergreen content that "isn't targeted at someone from a particular location", Thomas noted.

WOW247's editorial team is run by a head of UK content, alongside an assistant head of content and a community manager. They collaborate with a network of 10 "city editors", appointed in key cities across the UK to curate articles brought in by 200 bloggers and contributors.

"These are people who live and breathe what happens in their cities and we expect the number of contributors to reach 300 as we come out of the summer", Thomas said.

Anyone can become a contributor to the website, and some have been nurtured in the WOW Academy, a practical programme for students, graduates and people who want to break into the media industry, with regular contributors paid for their efforts.

"Their content talks to our content pillars and is on brand," Thomas explained, "and they absolutely have to be rewarded, but we also have people who write on a semi-regular basis."

Earlier this year, Johnston Press reported a pre-tax loss of £23.9 million, after cutting costs on printing facilities for its titles. Since then, it has invested in creating or revamping its digital platforms, launching a first digital-led title, BelfastVibe, in March. Similarly to WOW247, it offers trending news, entertainment and lifestyle stories for younger audiences in the city of Belfast.

And WOW247 follows a similar pattern to the new policy of "central content hubs", which the publisher hopes will help create internal content to be syndicated across its broader network of 250 titles.

The website has averaged around 500,000 unique visitors in recent months, a figure Thomas hopes will double as a result of the revamp, and monetised largely through advertising, with native ads accounting for 20 per cent of last year's total revenue.

For now though, WOW247 wants to "watch and learn" how audiences consume each type of content it produces, with plans to expand in more cities in the future.

"We have to be aware of content consumption trends and I don't expect this redevelopment to be the last change", he said.

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