Case Study: Hackney Citizen (UK)

The name of the publication and / or company

Hackney Citizen

Established

2007

Web Address

hackneycitizen.co.uk

Form of the company

2 limited companies: the publisher is Citizen Media Ltd and the trader is Hackney Citizen Ltd

Describe your site or business in few words.

Keith Magnum, editor-in-chief: “We publish an independent free monthly newspaper called Hackney Citizen and run a website by the same name. We distribute 10 000 copies around Hackney, a borough of North East London, in shops and cafés.

We’ve been monthly since July 2010. Before that we published quarterly, since July 2008. Initially, the website was just a holding page, probably for the first year, until about 2009 when we begun doing more frequent news online. Before that, we didn’t know about WordPress or the whole online hyperlocal scene in the UK. So it was a bit weird to suddenly find ourselves a part of it!

In terms of our business model, most of our revenue comes from print, but we also sell advertising online. We found quarterly wasn’t very effective, but we couldn’t afford to go monthly in the beginning of the recession. But then we got a sales person on board, on a commission basis. He managed to take us monthly, and, not into profit exactly, but we were able to pay him and myself a bit.

Our print revenue is over ten times the web revenue per month. Where the print is making thousands, the web is making hundreds. At the moment, we wouldn’t be able to exist online only. The local advertisers don’t really get it – they like to see their big ad printed on paper. The few who do understand online, they want residency, not CPM, they just want to know how long it’s going to be up there and what it’s going to cost. We see growth potential in the web, but not in the short term. We actually began doing that digital first thing last year (2011), like The Guardian does, but we found that it’s extremely difficult to monetize the extra traffic. You can spend a lot of time doing lots of stories online but not bring in any extra revenue from it. So we moved from a web first strategy to a business first strategy. Because we’re monthly, we don’t really do breaking news, not even online so much anymore. The business side – selling advertising and creating other revenue sources, such as our journalism course – have to come first. Otherwise the business can’t survive.

The idea of the Hackney Citizen came from pub talk. People were saying that Hackney needs a publication that covers the area in-depth and is a bit more serious about its coverage of arts and culture. So it’s a high quality local paper, which is quite unusual. But there seems to be some appetite for it.”

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

1

Content creators, paid freelancers

1

Business, marketing & sales, revenue share

1

Are some of the content creators citizen contributors or interns?

Originally it was just me and my business partner Sara, and our friends. Now most of our articles are written by student journalists who want to build a portfolio of published work. Sometimes we also get a little bit of help from freelance journalists. Also some of the people who attend our journalism courses want to write for us. They are all unpaid. Every month we pay for a couple days of work for a freelance sub-editor. We also pay the distributors of the paper, but just for one day a month.

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

At the moment it’s about 70–80 percent business. I don’t write anything really, not even the leaders. I just commission the stories, and I also have to check them for legal reasons.

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

Yes is the short answer. Our sales are growing, we’re getting new advertisers in. I make a small salary, but it has tripled in about a year.

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

It varies, but around 4500 pounds a month

Where does your revenue go?

Printing is around 1200, distribution 300, and my salary is 1200. Anything else goes to sub-editing and bits and bobs.

How much do you pay to your contributors?

Nothing.

What about profit?

Eventually we want to move to a model where we have a paid editor, a journalist and a sales person. I think that’s about all you can do, there’s no room for anyone else really.

What kind of advertising you sell?

Pay Per Post, Job Boards or Classifieds, Banner ads by residency, print ads, print supplements

Do you sell services?

Training

Other revenue sources

Membership or subscription fees (Continuity Programs), Donations

Do you see your publication as your main product?

I am now thinking more about the Citizen as a brand rather than just a product. So we are thinking about what we can do with the newspaper to build the brand, rather than just what we can do with the company to grow the newspaper.

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability?

“Sales and reputation. “