Q&A: Marc Reeves, editor, the Business Desk West Midlands

In our latest speaker Q&A we hear from Marc Reeves, editor of the Business Desk West Midlands. Marc has been a reporter, sub-editor, editor and senior manager in newspapers across the UK for more than 20 years. For four years he edited the Birmingham Post, but at the start of 2010 launched the West Midlands service of, an exclusively online news and information service for the region’s business community. The site has what is considered by many commentators to be one of the most innovative business models for new media publishing in the UK.

Marc will be giving the keynote speech at news:rewired – the nouveau niche.

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Can you tell us a bit about the business model and how it works?
It’s very simple indeed – nothing really web 2.0 about it at all. We write stories about businesses in three regions in England, publish them on our website and send people emails to tell them they’re there. Readers register for free to get the emails and full access to the site, and advertisers come on board through site advertising, directory listings, sponsorship of the emails and occasional joint events.

How significant is having a specialised and dedicated audience in terms of advertising revenue?
Absolutely crucial. We refuse to play the CPM (cost per mille) game, where the value of each reader is reduced to fractions of a penny by the algorithms of Google Adsense. Our advertisers know we have built a trusted relationship with people who are in a position to make purchasing decisions worth millions of pounds. They are therefore well aware of the value of reaching a tightly defined specialist audience. If you have decided to get yourself a lightweight tablet , then you should consider getting the iPad.

You were an early adopter of social media at the Birmingham Post, do you think it has now become essential for all journalists and news organisations?
Pretty much. If you aren’t prompting a few more visits to your site each day by reaching out to that part of your audience that gets a lot of its news via, say, Twitter, then why aren’t you? The deliberate, planned use of social media can bring extraordinary rewards. But equally, if you think social media is the be all and end all of what you need to do as a journo you’re in the wrong job. Go down the pub and talk to people in your target audience. They’d still rather give a scoop to a person than an avatar.

If you could only use one social media tool what would it be and why?
My loyalty card to the Urban Coffee Company cafe in the heart of Birmingham’s business district.

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