The new project will explore the telling of "the day's news agenda and a range of topics that people care passionately about", predominantly through data, graphics and interactives, according to the first post on a Tumblr account titled Mysterious Project Y, where Trinity Mirror made the announcement.
"We've just had Prime Minister's Questions about energy bills," Malcolm Coles, Trinity Mirror's product director, told Journalism.co.uk yesterday (Wednesday), explaining the thinking behind the project, "so can you sum that up with a few quick stats or charts, present it in a visually attractive way and really narrow the story down to the few key facts that explain it. Can you tell news that way rather than writing 500 words?"
Martin Belam, who helped launch UsVsTh3m, is set to lead the project from Trinity Mirror's London office. In a personal blogpost accompanying the Mysterious Project Y announcement the site is looking to hire people covering four "skillsets": data journalist, data journalist researcher, front-end developer and designer.
"Part of it is, can we build tools that we can then re-use out on the main website?" said Coles, explaining how the team will be expected to make templates for quick publishing of graphics or charts but also "bespoke" interactives and infographics.
A key focus for the new team is in making visual representations of data that are attractive on both mobile and desktop, but also how to make interactives that readers will want to engage with on a small screen, a medium Coles said is "tricky to get right" across different platforms.
Equally important will be making the content "shareable" on social media, a concept still somewhat nebulous in the industry but that Coles said Trinity Mirror is beginning to understand thanks to the work of UsVsTh3m.
"There's definitely something around writing the headline right for social which might be different if your focus was Google News," he said, "and something around the things people share saying something about themselves."
UsVsTh3m received 750,000 unique visitors in its second month, largely through social referrals. Now, five months after its launch, Coles said the site is on track to hit 2.5 million visitors in October.
"UsVsThem work quite hard on what the messaging is around quizzes," Coles continued. "When you get a score, it's not just a score – it's a statement".
"And people like that sense that what they share expresses something about themselves," he said. The question now, he added, is "whether we can tap into that by doing stuff that is interesting or interactive, that people will share because they want to be associated with it".
The new site is due to launch towards the end of the year once Coles and Belam have "got the right team together", he said, and from then he will see how it develops and what it can bring to the rest of the organisation.
Trinity Mirror already has a data journalism unit, responsible for the recent group-wide school rankings database, but Coles said the new project is being treated as an experiment "to see if you can tell the whole day's news in terms of data journalism".
"We might be dreaming that people might be interested in this," he said, "but it might be a fantastic success. News organisations need to experiment so we'll see how it goes."
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