One platform which has grown rapidly in its popularity among journalists looking to shake up the industry's business model is Substack, an online platform that allows readers to pay to subscribe for newsletter content. It has enabled many journalists to start up their own independent ventures because it gives them full control over output, pricing and analytics. Some have proved particularly successful. Now, some entire independent news publications are relying on it as their primary form of revenue.
The Mill is one such example. It was founded by Joshi Hermann in June 2020 to steer away from page view-driven local journalism, and focus on deep-dive features on community members. That model has so far compelled 1,250 people to pay £7 a month for the premium newsletter. Its success has also allowed two sister titles to branch out (The Tribune in Sheffield and The Post in Liverpool) thanks to Substack's local news fund. All said and done, this newsletter venture has created five full-time paid positions across the various titles.
It is a refreshing alternative to the well-worn path that aspiring reporters are used to; getting a job in a local news publication to climb the career ladder. Such is its departure from the status quo, that it has caught the attention of its nearest competitors. Last month, it emerged that Reach plc, the regional news group that owns flagship title the Manchester Evening News, launched a 12-person newsletter team to rival The Mill, funded by the Google News Initiative.
In this week's podcast, Hermann sheds light on The Mill's journey so far, why they have experienced a breakthrough with local audiences and responds to the challenges for independent titles to compete with the big players in spite of their funding and editorial innovations.
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