The story of The West Londoner
Here's the story of The West Londoner, extracted from their successful pitch to win a print run for a newspaper-version of their site
The West Londoner (http://www.thewestlondoner.com) is a news website focused on hard news from West London.
Founded by Gareth “Gaz” Corfield, who was then a Brunel University journalism student, the site received 1 million pageviews in 24 hours at the height of the London riots of August 2011, with a total of 1.9 million pageviews during that week.
Since those halcyon days, the West Londoner has settled down to reporting local news from West London, with the odd snippet of news from around the capital as well. We have a loyal social media following of 6,000 Facebook fans and just under 4,000 Twitter followers.
Who’s behind The West Londoner?
Gareth Corfield is the owner and editor of the site. After dabbling briefly in B2B journalism Gareth decided he much preferred local news and so reactivated the old Wordpress blog, later upgrading it to a fully-fledged website once it became clear that the readership were remaining loyal.
As time went on, Gareth realised that one man cannot build, maintain, and write for a news website, and so he gathered a small team of volunteer contributors together. These include journalism graduates, students from a variety of disciplines and others who contribute content for the sheer enjoyment of writing.
We want to expand our operation into delivering news for which there is a demand. Our online experience tells us that there is a demand for fast and accurate reporting on the local level and we want to tap into this market. Instead of imitating our competitors – Trinity Mirror and Newsquest – and producing a general newspaper, we want to focus on crime reporting and issues of specific local interest. Experience tells us there is always a demand for crime reporting and we feel that we can add value to previous reportage through our low-key, fact-focused reportage.
So how would winning this competition benefit us?
We don’t have any external financial backing at present. The website hosting fees are paid by Gareth out of his own pocket and what little advertising income there has been to date has only just covered that expense. This means we have little scope to try out new ideas unless they can be done for no upfront cost.
While our online operation has attracted a solid readership, gained mostly through word of mouth and recommendations on social media, our demographic statistics suggest that we aren’t attracting many older readers. With a print edition, we could focus on traditional newspaper reporting in such a way that would engage the older, less tech-savvy demographic. In addition, a print product would also offer us potentially greater advertising revenues than the online product and would have a greater enduring value for readers.
Do we have the skills to use this opportunity to its full effect?
Yes. Gareth edited Brunel University’s student newspaper, learning how to lay out and dispatch pages to print. Anna Maysey, one of WL’s contributors, was the chairwoman of InQuire media group at the University of Kent and has similar experience of laying out publications for print and generating content for them.
Having honed our online skills in reporting, we believe that a print product carrying long-form journalism which goes into depth on issues affecting our readers – to name two examples, the impact of the High Speed Two railway line and the London Mayor election in May – could have a slightly different market appeal, thus broadening our readership.