Case study: alderleyedge.com (UK)

The name of the publication and / or company

alderleyedge.com

Established

2008

Web Address

alderleyedge.com

Form of the company

Ltd company

Describe your site or business in few words.

Alderleyedge.com was launched in 2008 and since then three hyperlocal sites have been set up: knutsford.com, wilmslow.co.uk and prestbury.com. These are hyperlocal news sites offering original news and views from the community in an affluent area. All the content and advertisers are focused within a five mile radius. The sites are run by a husband and wife team, who live in the area which they are serving journalistically. Together they divide the technology and design from the editorial and site management into two roles.

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

1

Are some of the content creators citizen contributors or interns?

No. On rare occasions licensed content from the Press Association is purchased when it is essential editorially. The editorial team can not get involved in covering court cases so there are a few gaps in the coverage when local court cases from Alderly edge go national. It doesn’t make commercial sense to sacrifice exposure in exchange for £40 for the story.

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

“Advertising sells itself now. The site is at a point now when the advertising is sold out on the website and has been for months so the business team is now working on looking at additional revenue streams. One full time post (and beyond) is dedicated entirely to editorial: covering parish council, writing, interviewing with nothing automated drawn in from RSS. Some press releases are used as a base but they are not cut and pasted. This work facilitates a unique perspective which allows the site to compete with traditional local press. One full time post is used for technical and platform support, as well as business development.”

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time

1

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

The hyperlocal sites have deliberately been proposed in quite an affluent area which, from an advertising perspective, is desirable.

“Is this business model sustainable in its current form? No but we believe it will be. However the business plan is to grow the portfolio in several ways. AlderlyEdge has a population of 5,000 people but it is the flagship project with 12.000 unique users a month. That does not count mobile – there are iPhone applications for each of the sites. In mobile, there are fewer people using them at the moment but they are using them more frequently. The Knutsford site is six months old. Here, there is a population of 20.000 there is currently an audience of 4-5.000. Based on the alderleyedge.com, the site could potentially grow the audience and achieve a similar saturation domination.”

Current priorities are on: building the brand and audience. “Many local sites don’t take into consideration that what ever the area you are targeting you have a huge additional audience of people who come to socialize and work in that area or people who have lived away – the numbers can be far bigger than simply those who actually reside there.”

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

Aprox £20-30,000 a year (31.000-47.000 USD)

Where does your revenue go?

“The outgoings are minimal. The way the operation was set up was based on a complement of skills and sales from the pair.”

What about profit?

On developing the sites and expanding readership.

What kind of advertising you sell?

CPM ads. The display advertising is selling out at good rates that reflect that it is highly targeted. It is selling between £10 and 15 per CPM. The site runs in the region of 12 campaigns at a time. Some clients who are buying 6-12 months campaigns are for example eye laser surgery wanting to reach the south Manchester area.

Do you see your publication as your main product?

“Websites is the main product. The sites will be moving to mobile increasingly over the next few years. It sets the potential for additional location-based advertising, which will be especially exciting for us.”

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability or not being sustainable?

Relationships. That is between the audience and the local community which incorporates both editorial and advertising.

“People advertise with us because they know we have people in the area and they trust us. We are very much a business in a community not reporting on it and we are involved in a community and we participate. It is essential for our business model that we are the first port of call when people want to get something out there.”

“To make it sustainable we have to do several things. We have to get the audience bigger which we are doing by broadening the area we cover. When we have saturated the audience we have to give people reasons to visit more often and more frequently. The more they visit the more page views the more revenue we can offer. So we have to incorporate new revenue streams beyond display and they demand bigger audiences.”

“We need to achieve larger scale and that justifies further investment. For example, the property market locally was worth £60m with another £10 million not reported on so if we look to tap into the property market whether it is estate agents as local newspaper traditionally did or private individuals selling houses then the numbers are huge. It is an example of being a potential revenue bridge between the reader and a transaction. There are a lot of other avenues to consider in active classified and promotion of events.”

“The difficult part is to change the perception of what a local site is to people who still see a local newspaper as the local supplier of news so we are having to work to change perceptions all the time. We are breaking news way before anyone else. We are head and shoulders above them in terms of that area but it takes time to get people into the mindset that they bring news to us instead of the local newspapers. but that is changing .”

“It is also an issue that a lot of advertisers are much more comfortable with print advertising than they are with online. A lot fo the advertisers are located within a five mile radius and a lot are only just setting up their own websites so we are having to do a lot more hand holding.”