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A Shropshire media start-up launched in 2009 offering local news, features and entertainment has become a county favourite after hitting 47,000 unique users and serving up 140,000 page views.
Shropshire, as well as being known for its picturesque countryside and emerald green hills, is also a very busy county, bustling with news, entertainment and events. The team behind shropshirelive.com has made it their aim to engage the Shropshire community, which has a population of around 450,000, using the tagline Share it…with Shropshire.
The website is edited by business partners Chris Pritchard and Martin Childs, along with community contributions, and actively encourages the submission of community driven local news, articles, reviews and events.
By sharing news and information, the aim of shropshirelive.com is to promote and highlight what is happening in Shropshire, giving a collaborative and independent platform for the previously unheard voice. The website tries to open up discussions and encourages users to comment on local topics. The ethos is that by sharing information we help one another and ultimately strengthen the community.
Chris and Martin met whilst working at a local radio station and came up with the idea for the website after finding a gap in the media market.
Talking with Shropshire people, they realised that whilst Facebook and Twitter (which were in their infancy) were good for sharing basic information, there was not one website in the county covering everything from news to events along with local content articles. The existing local media had website offerings, but the radio concentrated on audio content and the press held back stories for the printed editions.
Chris had already created an award-winning website in his spare time covering the town of Shrewsbury, but it had only been a hobby. The pair knew a Shropshire-wide website would involve a lot of work and would need their full commitment, it was a big decision, but they decided to leave their full time jobs and work on the project full time.
Setting up a new business is no easy task for anyone, but trying to get a format that challenged the existing local media was something the pair thought about in detail.
“I was sceptical at first,” says Martin, “I had never run a business before and I was going to invest my own money into the project and treat it as a full time job. I knew it was going to be hard but the more we looked into the idea the more exciting it became.”
The website launched in August 2009 and local contributors and PR companies soon submitted articles. The website had to pay for itself and let the business partners draw a wage. Advertising opportunities in the form of display advertising along with advertorials and a business directory were on offer to businesses. After its first month, nearly 2,000 unique users had logged on.
Chris says this format has worked well: “We have tried hard to encourage the community to create news articles, for example they might write about something that’s happening locally or submit a photo or video clip of an event. We want to be the friendly face of media and not just push out news and information to be consumed and so the format lets everyone be a part of their local media and not just a consumer.”
“I look at shropshirelive.com as an online newspaper or magazine which everyone has the opportunity to contribute to, while editors check content and facts. My vision is to keep expanding and become the number one hub in the area.”
Creating and running the website is just one side of the challenge, engaging with the community and local business is key to success. A good example of this is teaming up with ‘Get Shropshire Online’ a project aimed at getting everyone familiar with using the internet.
Renee Wallace, from Shropshire Community Council, explains how Chris and Martin helped: “Having shropshirelive.com as a media partner has helped us push this campaign to the people of Shropshire, they supported the project by helping set up and hosting the campaign website for free, and promoted our activities both on and offline. Having a local website like this for the county has been a real asset.”
Almost three years after launching the website it remains a small operation manned by just two people. The visitor numbers and support from advertisers has led to a slow but steady growth.
The website has adapted and changed to financially support itself and keep the users coming back. Every penny made is carefully reinvested to promote and push the site forward, but at its heart is the passion for news and media and wanting to bring something different and refreshing to the media industry.
Martin Childs is the Editor of Shropshire Live