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Award winner who quit regional daily hails ‘exciting’ hyperlocal future

joe-willisAn award-winning journalist who quit a regional daily to found his own hyperlocal website has hailed a “bright and exciting future” for independent online news.

Joe Willis, left, former social media editor at The Northern Echo, launched Richmondshire Today in July, with the site receiving more than 300,000 page views and 130,000 unique users since then.

The former North-East Journalist of the Year has funded the site solely by selling advertising space to local businesses.

It covers only local news from the Richmondshire area of Yorkshire, which is also part of the Darlington-based Echo’s circulation area.

Said Joe: “After several years of feeling down about the state of local newspapers and watching as the numbers all fell, it’s good to see something grow and feel like you’re at the forefront of something new and exciting.

“Social media very much levels the playing field when it comes to getting people to read on-line content and gives small operations like us a fighting chance,”

He added: “The numbers we are getting and the cheap rates we can offer on advertising mean it’s proving quite an attractive proposition for advertisers.

“Local business owners are also our readers – they see what we are doing and are interested in getting involved.”

Joe says he is “confident” websites such as Richmondshire Today can be sustainable.

He added: “There are plenty of challenges but the skills every reporter develops persuading people to appear in stories and newsdesks to print them really help with selling advertising. And our site doesn’t look as beautiful as it could and our bounce rate is too high – but at least we now know what a bounce rate is and how we might reduce it.

“Tools such as Google Analytics give us fantastic information on what, how and when people like to read.

“Thankfully, all the stats tell us that people want to read exactly the kind of community-focussed stories that good local papers have been producing for centuries.”


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  • October 10, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Independent publishers producing quality content online or via localised free publications or those aiming at a higher end quality market are the way to go, look at the successful newspapers and magazines being produced in the eastern region taking readers and ad revenues off the once big boy in the area so all good wishes to joe and co on his new venture

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  • October 10, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Joe’s local website is the way ahead for many a journalist frustrated by the takeover and destruction of the regional press by the big boys. I know from personal experience of launching and running a monthly rural free in the eighties it is a hell of a lot of work, But I know he will find a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I sold out after 20 years to a group and it was eventually closed – but, even now, many of our readers and former advertisers say how they miss the paper, but I am afraid I am now too long in the tooth to re-launch as a website, however tempted I feel! Anyone looking at the website can only be impressed, and I think to run it on Facebook as well is a good move to boost the readership.Nice, too, to see some real pictures.

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  • October 10, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Well done Joe. More power to your elbow. I’ve considered this a few times for my hometown of Hartlepool. I know it would be a winner as the Hartlepool Mail is so embarrassingly bad. Sadly, I’m in the same boat as Old Hack – too old.

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  • October 12, 2016 at 11:06 am

    You have to admire anyone prepared to have a go at producing the kind of publication or news platform they feel passionately about as is being demonstrated to great success by people like joe across the country. Ex regional press folk,both editorial and commercial, producing credible quality publications covering the communities by getting the basics right,focusing on the readers and advertisers rather than feathering the nests of the self important people running ( or should that be ‘ruining’ ) the local press in this country.
    The blueprint is there for all to follow, look st what the big boys in your areas are doing and do the opposite
    Good luck to joe and his team

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