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February 01 2010

09:22

Former Birmingham Post editor launches West Midlands business news site

As reported ahead of launch by Journalism.co.uk last week, former editor of the Birmingham Post, Marc Reeves, has set up a West Midlands franchise of TheBusinessDesk.com: http://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/.

TheBusinessDesk.com, currently operating in the north-west and Yorkshire, today announced it was continuing its expansion with the launch of a new West Midlands operation. It was set up in 2007 by former Yorkshire Post business editor, David Parkin.

As we reported last week, the West Midlands team will include Duncan Tift, former deputy business editor at the Birmingham Post. Today Lee-J Walker was also announced as business development manager.

Commercial launch partners in the West Midlands site include the international law firm Hammonds, the accountancy firm BDO and property specialists Bruntwood.

“As traditional media has struggled to remain viable, this concept which provides up-to-the-minute, informed regional business news free and direct to the user, is proving extremely popular with professionals and entrepreneurs alike,” said Marc Reeves.

“Having spent more than 25 years in newspapers, this is an exciting new venture for me which fits perfectly with my interest in online journalism and social media networks. I believe that TheBusinessDesk.com will fill a real need here for daily regional business news delivered in a clear and easily accessible format.”

One of the secrets of the TheBusinessDesk.com’s success, said David Parkin, is “bringing on board the very best regional journalists with the experience, real understanding and contacts to work closely with the business community”.

“As one of the best known and most respected journalists in the West Midlands, Marc will play a key part in helping us to replicate the success we have enjoyed elsewhere, helping us to provide a much-needed daily source of trusted business news.”

Full post at this link…

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January 18 2010

08:33

NUJ’s making journalism pay online: five points

NUJ logoThe NUJ’s New Ways to Make Journalism Pay conference on Saturday brought together a group of journalists and entrepreneurs who are making money through online journalism in the UK. Many of the speakers had toiled to build brands online, and those that had were now running sustainable businesses. If the future of journalism is entrepreneurial, then these speakers are evidence of it.

You can read a breakdown of all the speakers’ points at Ian Wylie’s blog and if you scroll back on my twitter account @Coneee. Here are five points from the conference that jumped out at me.

1. Getting to a sustainable position is difficult.

David Parkin, founder of Thebusinessdesk.com, took two years to raise the £300,000 he thought he’d need to survive an estimated 18 months of operating at a loss. In the end it only took 9 months after an expansion into the Northwest, but it was still very “hairy.” He had to “make noise”: put up posters, give away coffee on the street, and branded mints to posh restaurants where businesspeople dined. Daniel Johnston, founder of Indusdelta.co.uk, had to live off his savings for the first 18 months. The site is now profitable, and supports the salary of another staff member.

2. The rules of the journalism game aren’t changed by the internet.

Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog gets up at 6.30AM, and is still up when Newsnight is on in the late evening. He hasn’t got any ins with big politicians, and most of his news comes from disgruntled interns. No wonder! David Parkin found that for him, starting a successful venture was still “very much about contacts.” Daniel Johnston, although professing to not know whether he was a journalist, borrowed the principle of independence from good journalism: providing a counter point to the Government view (which he said was “gospel” before he came along) of the welfare-to-work industry also allowed him to build a sustainable business.

3. Traditional media doesn’t do investigative journalism.

Gavid MacFadyean, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, said 75% of investigative journalism is now done by foundations or NGOs. This is because of cost cutting at newspapers and in TV, but also because foundations offer a far more effective environment for investigative journalism. Gavid said: “Foundations say just do your worst, and we’re trying! It’s no strings attached money,” which seems to be bliss compared to less independent advertising-supported models.

4. Email is important.

Many of the speakers had collected the email addresses of their readers in the tens or hundreds of thousands, allowing them to quickly notify readers of news, while also opening up possibilities for making money. David Parkin recalled success with sending emails when the interest rates changed. By providing this information within 2-3 minutes (speed which the BBC and “big media” don’t bother with) after it had happened, businesspeople could be more informed. Angie Sammons of Liverpool Confidential said having an email list of interested individuals means you can directly provide them with sponsored offers, making you money and also helping your readers.

5. Local freelance journalism is dying.

Since this was an NUJ conference organised by the London freelance branch, it’s not surprising that the room was full of freelance writers, many of them used to pitching stories to editors of local newspapers. Note that many seemed to be “used to” doing this. A combination of a crash in rates, an unwillingness for local editors to commission work and the virtual impossibility for newcomers to get their first (paid) start gave me the impression that it’s never been harder to get work as a freelance local journalist. Fortunately, the overriding message from the day was it’s never been easier to make it online.

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