Ten regional titles officially launched their Google+ pages today with the hope of reaching new audiences and finding new ways to tell stories online, in keeping with the 'newsroom 3.1' model, announced in March.
"Social is hugely important for us and drives a lot of traffic to our website," Gayle Tomlinson, head of social media at Trinity Mirror Regionals, told Journalism.co.uk, "and providing new ways of telling stories – whether that's video pictures or quick snippets – is how people are taking in their news now.
"People are looking for different things and not always looking to pick up a printed newspaper, they're looking at Facebook, Google+ or Twitter."
While Tomlinson admitted Google+ didn't have the same "mass audience" reach as Facebook or Twitter, she said the reporting and publishing tools on the platform played a big role in the decision to experiment across the brand.
Multimedia organisation tool Google Stories and video conferencing function Hangouts on Air will both play a role in initial experiments from the publisher, Tomlinson said.
"Say the council is shutting down the swimming pool," she said of how Hangouts on Air may be used, "we can get a member of the community to talk to the chief executive of the council, what their plans are, why they're doing it.
"Then we can take that, repackage it and turn into a two minute clip which we can put up on our website or on Google+. It's about taking it beyond the usual 'let's write 300 words on something'."
The potential for quickly integrating reportage from the ground straight to the network using Google Stories, launched in May, is another area Tomlinson is keen to explore.
Using Newcastle's Great North Run as a hypothetical example, she said a reporter could follow the race while interviewing and taking photos as normal, but that Stories could collate the pictures into an animated GIF automatically posted to Google+, or which could be embedded on a Trinity Mirror website.
Tomlinson said this could act as a way doorway to traffic between websites and Google+ pages, and vice versa.
"It's a new audience that shouldn't be ignored," she said. "We're looking at more local council stories, more politically-leaning in terms of the tales we tell there.
"Sport we've found is one of the areas that people seem to be interested in as well. It's more high brow maybe, but we'll learn more about what the audience is on there."
National and international news organisations, like Al Jazeera, the New York Times and Storyful, have long experimented with Google+ as a means to host video conferences or bring colleagues together, but the platform has yet to find the same appeal as a source of news for readers as other social platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
"The functionality isn't brilliant but that's not a reason for us not to do it," she said, adding that the print editions of the individual titles will feature a guide on how to use Google+.
"A few other publishers have set them up but not done much with them yet," she said. "It's as if we're all on there just waiting for something to happen."
The Google+ offering will fit into the workload of recent hires at each title dedicated to social media.
The ten titles launching a Google+ page today are the Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News, Newcastle Chronicle, The Gazette, Huddersfield Examiner, Birmingham Mail, Coventry Telegraph, WalesOnline, Daily Post and Get Surrey.
Free daily newsletter
- Tip: How to tell stories using small data sets
- Tip: Why journalists should use design methods in reporting
- Startups with innovative solutions for newsrooms can apply to global programme until 8 January
- Google awards €20.4m to media projects in Europe as part of the fourth round of its Digital News Initiative
- Tip: Open this data journalism advent calendar throughout December