A lot of discussion has been sparked this week by Richard Jones’ article for the BBC Journalism College ‘Why I couldn’t make a living from my successful hyperlocal’ which looks at the reasons he felt the excellent Saddleworth News wouldn’t give him a livelihood.
Predictably it is being seized upon by those looking for evidence of hyperlocal’s doomed nature in the UK but can you actually draw that conclusion from Richard’s well-articulated post?
If we look at the figures first. £150 a month income.
Two hours a weekday day output – that’s 10 hrs a week or 45 a month.
An hourly rate of £3.30 – not really what you’d call a wage!
Would putting in a 40 hour week have resulted in a scaled up £132 a week income or £570 plus a month? Quite probably not if all the effort was focussed on the content production rather than the business.
But equating the work involved in setting up a business with being employed and receiving a wage is like comparing space shuttles to a hatchback and, as Richard says, he’s a journalist not a salesman.
Many people involved in business start ups don’t expect to take a wage in the early days despite back-breakingly long hours, just one of many reasons start-ups are not recommended lifestyle choice for people with family work-life balance aspirations.
And let’s not forget that many hyperlocal publishers have no intention of generating income from their activities and measure success in lots of different ways, as Talk About Local’s William points out in the comments on the post.
Rick Waghorn of Addiply often says, getting to a not-for-loss situation is the first goal for those hyperlocals who are looking to turn their enterprises into a business. And Richard will have achieved that with the figures he’s published.
The next stage would entail some hard work, not around the journalism aspect, which Richard is so talented in, but around the business model, hiring staff, putting finances in place etc. Whether you sell news or newts, that bit’s the same hardwork for every trader.
Richard’s personal decision to go back into work was just that, a personal decision, and reflects the fact he has highly employable skills – skills that establishing the Saddleworth News actually enhanced rather than detracted from.
In fact he’s told me that some, not all, but some of his new employment wouldn’t have come about had it not been for the Saddleworth News.
Which is why I’m cheekily changing the headline on this story. In the hyperlocal interconnected world, success can come in many shapes and isn’t necessarily measured in ad revenues.