Credit: Courtesy of SoGlos founders James Fryne (left) and Michelle Fryne (right)

SoGlos, the flagship business and lifestyle title of SoPublishing, started life 15 years ago by spotlighting the best local attractions. It could be considered 'the Time Out of Gloucestershire' - after all, its founders previously worked for Time Out Dubai and the UAE’s What’s On magazine.

Over time, SoGlos has refined its editorial model to produce timely news articles, like new restaurants in the area, or evergreen listicles (known internally as hotlists), like the best places to talk a walk. On the business side, local theatres, hotels and sporting venues have become trusted advertising partners.

It was thanks to these connections that when the pandemic ground local events to a halt (and journalists were panicking over what stories to write), the business still managed to have its best financial year and record-breaking advertising revenue.

News publishers are being warned, however, not to be too reliant on advertising revenue. Instead, they should consider creating other revenue streams to future-proof their businesses.

Currently, SoGlos has three main streams of funding: display advertisement, sponsored events and awards, and content marketing. All three of those require strong relationships with local and national companies. But especially when it comes to advertising.

The year 2020 bucked regional media trends, admits Michelle Fyrne, group editor of SoGlos, speaking on the Journalism.co.uk podcast. But the publisher knows it has to adapt its model and has made a six-figure investment to revamp its website and business model, working with a local digital agency called 16i.

This will push its membership much harder from this point onwards, which will remain free for readers because the owners felt there was not enough expectation within local news to pay for news. has managed to get 22k people to sign up just by making it a requirement to vote in its lifestyle awards.

The new website and membership will offer some enticing new features, like the ability to save articles to read later or an Financial Times-inspired function to create their own lists of content - like local businesses they want to work for or restaurants to dine at. Fyrne identified this gap in regional media for this type of feature.

It now wants to grow the membership to 50k by the end of 2022 and 100k by the end of 2023. The reason behind this push is partly a response to the phase-out of Google’s third-party cookies, set to happen next year. This will fundamentally change how media publications work with advertisers, as it cuts out the middle-man and allows publishers to develop their own first-party strategies.

Fyrne believes that this change - perhaps unnerving for many in the media - will help publications come out the other side stronger. But only if they can cultivate a trusting relationship with their readers over how they handle their data. The latest Reuters Digital News Report 2022 revealed this as a key concern as just a third of people say they trust news websites enough to use their personal data responsibly.

If they are able to collect their own first-party data, that puts news organisations in a strong position to work out bespoke deals with advertisers to target specific interest groups and demographics. For example, food and drink content is some of the most sought-after content on SoGlos, meaning new restaurants and bars that have opened in the area can advertise to the most relevant readers.

To get this position, news organisations must demonstrate that they were worthy of being trusted though. In reality, that means strict policies on the types of advertisers and businesses they will work with.

"Your reader's trust is something money cannot buy and I am obsessed with that," says Fyrne.

Historically SoGlos has had a lot of success with advertising on a targeted, “tenancy” basis in particular. That means their ads are tailored to their position on the website. For example, a local theatre can feature specifically in the entertainment section. The new website will double-down on this offering with a whole host of new attractive propositions for advertisements of this sort both on desktop and mobile.

Three stakeholders

The new website was built with three stakeholders in mind. The reader (benefitting from a free membership that encourages repeat visits), the advertiser (with more adaptable advertising options) and the journalists who uploads all the content to the website.

Courtesy of SoGlos

The CMS of SoGlos

Fyrne estimates that under a slicker content management system, journalists will save a day a week because it will automate many tasks previously done by humans, like adding articles to calendars or guides, or rekeying information.

"You'll never see outdated content on SoGlos because all the data that is applied to every article we're producing means that our CMS is doing tonnes of clever things in the backgrounds that as humans we would have had to do.

"It's the most modern CMS you can get. I think the reason for that is because it's been built by journalists."

SoGlos is now planning to roll out other titles in Bristol, Oxford and Cardiff with this model as its blueprint. These plans to scale the business would require local journalists who have personal knowledge of the cities' local gems that a distant and general content writer might miss. It is a refreshing change of narrative from the gradual decline in regional journalism opportunities often spoken about.

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