Five UK online journalism entrepreneurs
- Lawrence Lever, David Turner and Richard Lander of financial news publisher Citywire.
Citywire was founded in 1999 by its chairman Lawrence Lever, formerly financial editor of the Mail on Sunday and assistant city editor of the Times. Citywire’s chief executive is David Turner who was previously at the Financial Times group where he was publisher of all the FT Group’s business publications. Richard Lander, Citywire’s editorial director, was previously at the Times, Independent and Reuters.
Citywire is an independent financial publishing and data group, 22 per cent owned by Thomson Reuters. It now has a team of more than 80 staff, producing news, investment ideas and recommendations every weekday. Chief executive David Turner has this advice for would-be journalist entrepreneurs:
Don’t underestimate the amount of capital you will need to start a business. It usually takes a lot longer to turn a profit than you expected. Be prepared to dilute your equity; better to have a little bit of something rather than all of nothing. And always tinker with your business model and your products, they can always be better.
Interestingly, Citywire is also an example of a company that started online only and then started producing print publications, including New Model Adviser and Citywire Wealth Manager.
- Steve Eminton, letsrecycle.com:
letsrecycle.com was set up in October 2000 so we are looking forward to celebrating our 10th birthday next year. I would point out that I was fortunate to jump ship from the big brother Emap with a commercial guy as well, Steve Dickinson.
We felt that there was a gap in the market for an internet-based news and information service for recycling and waste. We had two things going for us, one was that recycling was beginning to take off and the other was that no-one else was taking the web seriously in the sector. The only problem at the time was that many council officers still only had dial-up services and slow PCs and the industry was often cash and a notebook/fax for doing business.
But, we were lucky to catch the market right and with strong editorial coverage – sharp news and editorial integrity – plus an excellent sales team, we managed to deliver a product which is one of few solely funded by advertising and sponsorship of sections.
- Hermione Way, Newspepper.com.
Hermione Way set up Newspepper in 2007 while she was still studying for a journalism degree at London Metropolitan University. It was partly born out of her frustration at the lack of paid work experience for journalism students and was initially intended to be a YouTube-like citizen journalism site for news videos.
But she soon realised that: a) many journalism students are not being taught all the necessary skills they need to succeed in a multimedia world; and b) there is an increasing commercial demand for video and people who can provide it cost-effectively. Putting the two together meant a new and viable business model for Newspepper: to provide paid work experience and training to journalists with broadcast experience and hire them out to organisations who need value-for-money media services.
Way has only one other full-time member of staff and does not even have an office, preferring instead to operate out of a private members club, so her overheads are low. She also has the advantage of mentoring from her angel investor, Michael Smith and from her equally entrepreneurial brother Ben Way, as well as Paul Walsh, founder and CEO of Segala.
Way now has a team of 16-17 staff working remotely, part-time, using their own equipment. While they start on a relatively low rate (equivalent to what they might otherwise earn for bar work, for example), as they gain experience they can earn a lot more and will gain enough experience to eventually gain full-time broadcast jobs elsewhere.
She did sacrifice some equity in her company early, but remains a majority stakeholder and has no regrets about it. “It’s definitely worth it. You need a big name behind you and, in an increasingly noisy online world, you need to be making the biggest noise.”
- Rick Waghorn, myfootballwriter.com
For 13 years I was the football writer on the Evening News, Norwich, and on my 40th birthday – 16 January 2006 – had my ‘Road to Damascus moment’ when I read a piece in MediaGuardian with Clay Shirky. He drew the analogy between the record industry and the newspaper business that just as people still want to listen to good music, but not on a CD, by the same token people still want a good read, just not on a newspaper.
On that basis, we launched www.rickwaghorn.co.uk in the summer of 2006; this then became a generic network model in 2007 with the launch of www.myfootballwriter.com. Having earned the princely sum of $140 for 400,000 page impressions out of Google AdSense, in the summer of 2007 we built and launched www.addiply.com – a simple, open, transparent DIY advertising system that rewards the publisher for his/her efforts by giving them 90 per cent revenue return.
It empowers publishers to set their own advertising rates, be it pay-per-week, pay-per-month, pay-per-click. And, equally, it empowers the local/niche advertiser to place an advert themselves in three clicks. And where they want to place it, not where Google thinks they should place it. Adopted by Trinity Mirror this winter to help monetise its micro-local sites in the north east; a dollar version has been trialled out of the University of Berkeley’s J-School. Right under Google’s nose.
- Sally Whittle, Getting Ink, Who’s the Mummy?, The Great Toy Guide Sally Whittle’s entrepreneurial journalism differs slightly from the other examples above, in that her blogs mostly act as shopfronts for her PR training and consultancy services.
I started blogging in 2004 at Getting Ink which is a platform for discussing media, PR and journalism. It serves as a shop window for my training workshops, which I run for PR agencies, looking at how to work more effectively with the media. I then set up Getting Ink Requests, a media request service, again this puts me in touch with small businesses who may go on to buy my media training or copywriting services.
In 2009, I set up the Great Toy Guide, a collaborative toy review website written by 25 parent bloggers. I edit the site, which will be moving to an affiliate model in early 2010. I also blog at Who’s the Mummy which has provided a home for my training workshops on how to pitch to bloggers, as well as being the home for the MADs, a major award scheme which will launch next month.
After five years of blogging, I’ve now reached a point where the majority of my work comes via the blogs. But I’m not specifically selling content or products online.
Are you a journalism entrepreneur? Tell us your story in the comments below.