We were set up before the culls in print media, but it was obvious the way the industry was going. We wanted to put the company and those involved with it first, rather than just profit for shareholders or proprietors.
We wanted to create something that would actually generate revenue for journalists, photographers and creatives. From our experience, the pay in media in the South West is/was terrible, the investment in kit and training was minimal.
We wanted our profits to go back into the company in terms of investment or training. Or back into the community.
When we set up our first site back in 2005, the People’s Republic of South Devon, it was something of an experiment. We had a vague idea of what we wanted to achieve in terms of coverage and our own development and what we reckoned we could offer that was a little different in the media landscape.
Needless to say, starting with something called the People’s Republic of South Devon raised a few eyebrows – still does – but it encapsulated the collaborative, defiant approach we were looking for, and we wanted to distinguish ourselves from the *clears throat* usual local coverage.
It quickly became clear that the social enterprise route was the direction we wanted our company to travel. And we set up News and Media Republic Ltd as a social enterprise to cover the business activities of the ventures we were developing, which now include the People’s Republic of South Devon; D+CFilm; ArtsCulture; the Devon Week and SouthWestShows.
Why social enterprise?
The gathering and communication of news is not a purely commercial venture. There are social benefits that derive from sharing information and breaking down barriers to news and knowledge.
Also we wanted to create a platform for people to share their knowledge. An idea was to provide subsidised training for those willing to learn new skills to help them develop journalistic rigour. This could help inform and ultimately help bring confidence to the community, and create a knowledgeable, questioning audience.
The other side of this was that we wanted to provide opportunities for professionals. We wanted to create jobs, not cut them.
And the peer-led features on our arts and film sites were intended to raise profile and support the creative economy, while offering practitioners an opportunity to develop new skills and look at their practice/sector in a new light, which would feed into their ongoing development.
The proposition is an attractive one to advertisers – local for the local markets; and wider for the demographic and more theme-based advertiser. We toyed with subscriptions, and added paid-for sections, but there are so many barriers to information that we wanted to keep the information and stories we provided as accessible as possible – keeping our readership high and being more attractive to advertisers, who were keen to get their message out to our audience.
Using tiered ad rates, we are accessible to small local businesses as well as larger national enterprises. With Addiply we’ve given part of the control of the advertising to the advertiser themselves. And basing our ad rates on views rather than time just seemed fairer.
We’re not confined to websites and are keen to make inroads into the sector of the community that doesn’t like, doesn’t want to or can’t use the internet to get their news. It’s something we’re working on as we pursue our other goals.