James Rudd launched his website covering “Towcester and the villages of NN12” after conducting research for a newspaper group. “Their mentality was one of territory and regions,” he explains, and they didn’t listen to his suggestion of a hyperlocal focus – so he went ahead and launched it independently. This is the latest in a series of interviews with hyperlocal publishers.
Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?
I originally worked in the family business of free distribution newspapers in the late 70s early 80s (after that years in the media side of the pre press world mostly working on magazines and catalogues), so the concept was quite clear in my mind.
What made you decide to set up the blog?
I did some research for a newspaper group on the internet and discovered that their mentality was one of territory and regions. This, however, only suited national and large local companies for advertising. I suggested that they produce hyperlocal websites providing advertising opportunities and content in smaller areas.
When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?
The newspaper group didn’t listen, my wife happened on the AboutMyArea.co.uk franchise whilst with our toddler, I thought that would sort out my needs and bought the franchise. I did this at the end of February 2007.
What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?
How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?
I compete on every level with the local newspapers – or attempt to, both on news and of course for advertising.
One has given up and gone away, the other is half-hearted and dependent on dwindling sales and the property section.
Effectively I have become the news organisation for the area, primarily through engaging, but also by being positive about the area, trying to avoid too much bad press and publishing daily throughout the day.
I now supply images to the local daily paper. I also find the BBC, Anglia, local and national newspapers, some press agencies looking at my site most days.
Many local stories have broken with me and then been picked up, usually a week or so afterwards by other organisations.
What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?
All the content comes to me, I only edit it really.
Certainly when the local councils, and major organisations started to take it seriously was important.
The first key moment was when people started to want to be regular correspondents and send me weekly information.
What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?
My business model is content, visitors, content, visitor, then advertising.
I now get around 23,000 visits a week – hits probably 5 times that. Traffic seems to be continuing to grow but I think it will level off soon – which is fine.
What else has been important in the development of the blog?
It is very important to engage properly with the local community, that takes time, probably a couple of years.
I get a high rate of renewal for advertising which means that it works and is a business, my aim is to be the local news organisation that local people can look too and trust – I am very close to doing that now.