Left to right: Jack Dulhanty, Mollie Simpson and Joshi Herrmann of Mill Media

Credit: Dani Cole

Between mass job layoffs and company closures, the UK news industry is in a bind. But Mill Media is bucking the trend.

The Substack newsletter startup launched its first local news site in Manchester, The Mill, during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Other regional sites in Sheffield, The Tribune, and Liverpool, The Post, followed thanks to grants from Substack in 2022. The Dispatch in Birmingham came next, in 2023. And last week (6 June 2024) Mill Media announced that further expansion is on its way in Glasgow this summer, and in London in autumn, following last year's group investment valuing the company at £1.75m. It is hiring for eleven roles in the next six months as well.

The group is profitable, with around 8k paying subscribers and 110k free readers across all the different mailing lists. Advertising and sponsorships make up the rest of the revenue.

But what makes Mill Media so special? Being such a departure from the status quo of local news certainly helps, as does simply being more agile and nimble.

"You have an immediate advantage as a newcomer in that you don't have the same costs and culture associated with previous models," says founder Joshi Hermann, speaking to Journalism.co.uk.

Fewer overheads make the model easier to replicate. But there are disadvantages to being new, he acknowledges: less money, smaller brand and higher stakes to hire well. It means that discipline and focus are two qualities that cannot be underestimated.

"We've resisted the temptation that comes for every media company," he explains.

"It is so tempting when you run a media company to cover everything, make a new series, launch a new podcast, do a specific newsletter, do an event series. These offers and ideas come in all the time from members and partners.

"A lot of media companies in the internet age have been pulled all over the shop, something I would credit us for is being disciplined for knowing what we want to do and what we want to be the best at."

Mill Media has stayed true to what sparked interest in its first brand in Manchester: excellence in original, long-form local journalism, emphasising the author, funded via paying subscribers, delivered through a newsletter platform.

"We can complement it with a little bit of audio or video, but if you look at the era of media we're coming out of now, it led to media companies that tried to do everything, [and as a result] they have an identity crisis and focus crisis."

And why Glasgow and London you might ask? Glasgow is the traditional home of Scottish journalism and there will be a void left in the English capital after The Evening Standard shut down its famous print operation last month. Both areas are ripe for the Mill Media model.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).