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HoldtheFrontPage marks its 10th anniversary

It began, like many other regional press initiatives since those days, as an attempt to harness the growing power of the internet to create new revenue streams away from print.

But unlike many of the business ideas that were around at the turn of the millennium, HoldtheFrontPage survived the so-called ‘dotcom bubble’ and this week marks the 10th anniversary of its February 2000 launch.

Contrary to popular belief, the launch wasn’t originally driven by a desire to save money on job advertising. The initial business model was going to be based on selling niche advertising aimed at a particular user-group, in this case, journalists.

The realisation that it could make money by offering a far cheaper platform for advertising regional press jobs than was previously available at the time came later, although it was this that was eventually to become the site’s main traffic-driver.

Now joint-owned by four regional publishers, HoldtheFrontPage was originally the brainchild of Keith Perch, then the editor of the Derby Evening Telegraph, now editor of the Leicester Mercury, and a key player in Northcliffe’s digital operations for most of the intervening period.

Recalls Keith: “The management team at the DET were looking at new revenue streams and I was keen to try some which were digitally-based.

“The thought-process behind it was that if you could produce something which had a very clearly defined user base, that marketplace could be valuable to particular advertisers.

“It was a question of getting an audience and then trying to sell round it. As it happened, the most successful and most obvious thing to do was jobs.”

The site’s launch editors were two of Keith’s DET colleagues – Pete Pheasant, now running the Northcliffe production hub in Nottingham, and Elaine Pritchard, now managing director of another new media success story, Lasting Tribute.

But much of the work in building up HTFP from its relatively humble beginnings was down to Patrick Astill, who joined the site in May 2000, became its first full-time publisher in 2002, and remained in that role until June 2008.

Said Patrick: “When I first saw HoldtheFrontPage I couldn’t help but be amazed that no one had thought of the idea before. Then once it started to grow it just snowballed and really captured the imagination.

“It’s gone from being a newcomer to part of the trade press establishment and deservedly so. It’s pleasing to see it in good hands and I’m sure it will continue to be a useful tool and a good read well into the future.”

As to what that future may hold…having already survived ten years of ups and downs in the industry including the deepest recession since the 1930s, the site’s prospects remain bright.

No digital business can afford to stand still, and readers will see some significant changes in both design and functionality later this year which will hopefully help equip it for the next ten years of its development.

One thing that won’t alter, though, is that HTFP will remain firmly anchored in the UK regional press as it has throughout its existence thus far.

The industry will continue to change, and HoldtheFrontPage will doubtless change with it, but the site will always stay true to those roots.

  • Paul Linford is Publisher of HoldtheFrontPage.