Newry Times: Paul Malone
The co-founder on launching a new, free online newspaper with two fellow unemployed graduates, and inspiring other young entrepreneurs
Company name: Newry Times Website: www.newrytimes.com Founders: Paul Malone (centre), Declan McAteer (right) and Emma Taylor (left) Age: 25, 23 and 24 respectively Based: Newry City, Northern Ireland Staff numbers: Three founders and several contributors Date started: 30 November 2011
Tell us what your business does:
Newry Times is Newry City’s first-ever online newspaper. It is free to read, updated daily and covers everything from the latest news to sports, business to politics.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Our inspiration for starting the Newry Times came from a number of different factors. Firstly, I have worked in local newspapers for several years and recently lost my job because the newspaper could no longer afford to pay me.
I knew Newry was crying out for a free, online newspaper with no subscription fees or hidden charges. Emma had a chance meeting with a Derry-based journalist, who told her about his own news site. We’d all graduated with good degrees and we all have talent in different areas, so we decided to make a website and try to engage the local community again.
What’s your unique selling point?
Our unique selling point is definitely the fact that all our content is free to the public and updated daily. Our competitors release weekly print newspapers, so if a big story breaks after they go to print, local people would have to wait another six days to find out exactly what happened.
Additionally, the other local newspapers have their own websites but they charge local people a subscription fee to access the news content. It is updated sporadically (in some cases weeks can go by without updates) and we knew this wasn’t what the people in the area wanted.
We also created Newry’s first-ever smartphone app, so wherever they are, the local community can find out what is happening.
What were you doing before starting up?
My background is in journalism and I have a 2:1 in politics and criminology from the University of Ulster. I’ve actually completed work experience for the Newry Reporter, and was previously employed by the Crossmaglen Examiner. I’m now editor of the website.
Declan is our IT specialist. He studied interactive multimedia design at the same university, and Emma was there too, gaining a first in international politics. Emma now works on the sales and advertising aspect of the Newry Times, in line with her previous experience.
Prior to launch, the three of us were unemployed graduates (Emma had a 20-hour per week retail job) but with our complementary skills, we knew we’d make a perfect team.
What appealed most about being your own boss?
Speaking personally, I have always wanted to run my own business. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the idea that I would work 40 hours a week for a set wage and somebody else would be making decisions which could impact on my own financial security.
Also, I think the current economic climate has shown how easy it is to lose your career, so I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. The tedious life of filling in application forms for jobs that I didn’t even want (and never heard back from) made my desire to run my own business even more urgent!
What planning did you do before you started up?
We did a lot of market research before we officially launched Newry Times. This consisted of speaking with members of the local community, asking them what they felt was missing in the local media industry and what could be improved on.
Our research suggested that the overwhelming majority of local people were desperate for more information, news and sport from their local newspaper and – most importantly – it had to be free to access.
We created a business plan, which we hope has mapped out our short and long-term targets. We also sought advice from others in the media industry, and prominent businesspeople, who offered invaluable guidance and support.
How did you raise the money?
Incredibly, I actually paid for Newry Times through my Jobseekers’ Allowance. We have no real overheads because we all work from home at the moment, so our only start-up costs were buying the website, business cards and internet packages.
We are very lucky in that respect, because I am fully aware how hard it must be for new businesses nowadays to secure any funding or loans.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge has been the response of our competitors. Some tried to intimidate us in the early days!
How have you promoted your business?
We have not spent a penny on PR or marketing. Instead, we have told our story to relevant websites. We also recently appeared on a BBC Spotlight documentary about unemployed graduates.
This has proved highly successful, and not only does it promote Newry Times, we’ve found it also provides inspiration to other young graduates who are in a similar situation.
How much do you charge?
As the website is free to access, our main source of income is advertising revenue. There are different prices for the different areas of the website, with the homepage being premium. However our prices start from as little as £3.60 per day – which simply cannot be matched by any other media outlet in the local area.
We also offer advertising features for a one-off fee of £85.
What has your growth been like?
We found that within a few days of launch, people were coming to our website in their thousands. It is growing incredibly fast and by February we were on 400,000 website hits and 95,000 unique visitors, which is absolutely amazing.
We’re way ahead of our business plan forecasts already and we expect to grow rapidly in the coming months and years. Where we are at right now has exceeded our wildest dreams!
The response to Newry Times by the local community has been incredibly humbling. People get in touch with us every day from the city and further afield, telling us how much they love the website and that they’re recommending it to friends and family. That, to us, is priceless.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
It is extremely difficult to balance our work and home lives, but we really enjoy what we do so we don’t see Newry Times as a job per se.
It has been fantastic for me. Instead of sitting in the house all day applying for jobs, I now dedicate my time to making the business a success. It is extremely rewarding and exciting!
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Trying to get good business advice was hard at the start. We met with several ‘experts’ – and I use that word loosely – who each told us totally different things.
They dismissed our big idea and patronised us. However, once we got talking to a few more astute businesspeople, it was great.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our first major breakthrough was signing a six-month advertising contract with one of the major local shopping centres. It proved to us that what we were offering was unique – and worth a lot of money!
To us, it vindicated all our hard work and effort, and proved the doubters wrong.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Go for it! If you have an idea then do the research and try your best. If you’re an unemployed graduate or on the dole, what have you got to lose?
I think, for us, it was all about bringing together skills to make Newry Times work. We certainly couldn’t have created our business without three people involved.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
In five years’ time we hope to be the biggest newspaper in the whole county (but hopefully it won’t take five years).
We have a lot of exciting ideas that will be explored over the coming months, so we definitely hope Newry Times will be the main news outlet very soon.