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City news title reveals closure fears in plea for financial support

Martin BoothA city news title has warned it faces closure by the end of the year without further financial backing.

Bristol 24/7 has launched an appeal for support after revealing it “will not continue to exist in our current form” by the end of 2022 without an injection of cash.

The website, which employs 10 full-time staff, says it is currently in a “financially precarious position” after advertising revenue “dropped off entirely” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the site has set itself the “ambitious, and highly necessary” target of securing 1,000 paying supporters for its membership scheme by 14 March.

Bristol 24/7, founded in 2009, claims 250,000 unique monthly users and currently has 750 members, who pay either £5 a month or £45 a year for benefits including deals, discounts, free gifts and competitions with local businesses in Bristol.

But it faces growing competition in the city from Reach plc daily the Bristol Post and other independent outlets including the Bristol Cable.

In November, Reach revealed the Post’s Bristol Live sister website would be its first title to implement a new content strategy focusing on digital newsletters.

The strategy encourages each journalist at the Post to launch their own newsletter on a dedicated topic – with examples so far including the daily Bristol Briefing, climate change newsletter Planet Bristol and Bristol Voices, which is dedicated to coverage of different communities across the city.

Editor Martin Booth, a former Bristol Post journalist,wrote in an editorial: “If you’re already a member of Bristol 24/7, thank you. We’re honoured that you have chosen to support us.

“We are in a financially precarious position and without growing our membership we will not continue to exist in our current form by the end of the year. This is why we have launched a campaign today to grow our community to 1,000 supporter members.”

“I would not be writing to you today if all was rosy at Bristol 24/7 HQ. We are hanging on by the skin of our teeth right now so we need your support more than ever to continue punching well above our weight and to ensure that our city has a strong independent media not afraid to ruffle feathers.

“So, if you can, please think about becoming a member of Bristol 24/7 for just £5 per month. For less than that lunch from Pret, you can help Bristol 24/7 continue for many years to come.”

Martin said increased income from new members would allow B24/7 to employ more reporters “within communities most often forgotten about by the media” and pay transport costs for those it offers work experience placements for – two young people each week on average.

Community and memberships manager Meg Houghton Gilmour added: “We’ve got some big ambitions for 2022. We want to increase our climate coverage; we think that the best role we can play to combat the climate collapse is to hold our local government to account, connect people and businesses with solutions and inform our community.

“We’re also recognising the incredibly adverse effect that Covid-19 has had on young people around Bristol and we don’t think enough is being done to rectify this. We can only play a small part, but this year we’d like to hire a youth editor to give the young people of Bristol an opportunity to have their voices, experiences and opinions heard.

“We will continue to work with charities and community groups across Bristol, and we are currently in the process of hiring new community reporters.”