“We’ve set ourselves a big task: to reinvent the industry. That’s not just for the sake of it, it’s because we think it’s broken as it is, and it has a lot more potential. There’s a whole generation that are completely disconnected from the local newspaper, for example.”
Stu Goulden is Founder of One & Other, a social enterprise based in York which aims to tackle problems in local media. York is typical of a small city: there’s one local paper, some BBC News online offerings, and local radio and TV, but it lacks anything like a hyperlocal blog, and there’s been little to no experimentation in local media in the two years I’ve lived in York. As an avid consumer of news and media, I fail to see anything in York that really caters for a younger audience, or an online audience, and nothing has ever really captured me personally.
One & Other currently serves up stories that you wouldn’t expect from the local paper. It’s well presented, and has quickly developed its own style after its public launch last year. Indeed, Goulden tells me that their traffic stats for the site have doubled in just December 2011 to February 2012. Clearly, there’s the potential to capture a new audience and they seem to be doing something right.
It’s hard to nail down what One & Other actually is, simply because it is quite different. I initially mistook it as a hyperlocal blog, but in reality it’s something more akin to a culture blog, like Plastik. Goulden stresses it’s about serving readers with consumable and quality content: “Our model is a hybrid of a few different things, but we’re trying to do something that is more curated. People have a shortage of time, and they want something that speaks to them on a certain level. We need to put something forward that’s of value to them.”
So far, they’ve focussed around issues like entertainment and volunteering, which puts them in competition with the likes of the cinema, and the gaming industry too. It’s not just about the local paper, Goulden recognises. Any new media startup is playing in a bigger landscape, and if you start a blog or publication of any kind, you’re not just competing with established media outlets anymore.
“Some things the local newspaper will be better at, so it could be traffic reports, or petty crimes, it’s just not our focus. We’re trying to do something with a higher purpose. We want to celebrate the region.”
It has to be said, One & Other does boast a very positive vibe, and it plays to their advantage. I think there’s a place for hard-hitting local news stories about car crashes and other tragedies, but unless you’re directly connected to the people involved, it’s hard to relate to it, beyond it being a depressing read. One & Other offers an alternative, and it’s approach to news is generating a community.
Their Twitter mentions, Facebook page, and site’s comments are far more active than I expected for a business of their size and age, partly due to their smart launch methods. They appealed for creative people to join them and help build One & Other from the beginning, and the take up was spectacular. Plenty of people I know as student journalists got on board, along with photographers, marketeers and more, until they boasted a team of around 50 contributors. They were all unpaid, but rallied around the idea of trying something new in local media. The demand exists, that much is clear.
“Community should be at the heart of local media, and we think it’s lost its way. It’s all become about advertising dollars, and that sense of community is so important. If we look back a hundred years, then serving a community was their original purpose, and we need to bring it back to that.”
In part 2, coming soon, I speak to Goulden about how to grow a local media startup, make money, and why they’ve set up as a social enterprise.