In today’s world of fake news and ‘alternative facts’ independent journalism is becoming ever-more important, especially given the influence of ‘media barons’ over life-changing decisions like Brexit. So it was great to hear that Nottingham’s very own West Bridgford Wire has grown dramatically over the past year, winning recognition from the BBC and almost a million hits a month on its online news service. We went along to meet The Wire’s founder, Patrick Gamble, to find out more…
How did West Bridgford Wire get started?
I began to realise I never really knew what was going on in West Bridgford and there seemed to be a lack of local news here – especially when it came to things like planning applications. A lot of Nottingham’s local news seemed to be more focused on the city. So, I spent two years exploring and researching the idea of starting a local online news service, before I built my website. The Wire started off very much as an ‘over the garden fence’ type project – bringing hyper-local news to people living in West Bridgford, but it’s grown beyond that now, to become a local news service for the whole of Nottingham and beyond.
What made you leave your job to run the Wire full-time?
The Wire is something I feel really passionate about so as soon as I felt like I could go it alone, I left my job around 18 months ago and started running it full-time. It meant I could grow from publishing 6-7 stories a week to 15-20 a day, which secured the Wire’s spot as a trusted news site in Nottingham. It takes a lot of work though – 365 days a year!
What’s made you so successful?
It’s a combination of things I think. For one, I’ve put a lot into learning my craft. As an online news service, I had to learn about things like Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and social media inside out and I still do it all myself, rather than relying on apps like Hootsuite. I think that’s made me really responsive to things and gives the Wire a personal, independent feel, rather than being too corporate. It’s paid off, as the Wire is now right up there on Google. 30% of our website traffic comes from Google, so I don’t leave it to chance. I’ve also cultivated genuine relationships with local businesses, with advertising helping to fund the Wire. It’s paid off for businesses as they get to reach really targeted, relevant audiences, and it’s allowed me to run the Wire full time, which is great. Only around 5% of news sites like the Wire are sustainable in this way, so I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.
How has Nottingham’s mainstream local media responded to you?
They’ve been very supportive – especially the Nottingham Post and the BBC. I’m on the spot, so content and pictures are often shared on a mutual basis with the Post. Similarly, the Wire’s stories are often featured on the BBC Nottingham news page, under ‘From other local news sites’. I’m also involved in a BBC initiative to encourage more public service journalism, and was invited to take part in an editorial trial as part of their Local Democracy scheme.
What makes the Wire different?
I designed the Wire around our audience and it’s grown naturally from a community website to a fast, independent, contemporary news service. I think that’s one of its strengths, as I’ve never tried to second guess what people want. I also aim to share a wide variety of stories – in a way that’s easy for people to follow and digest. A lot of people consume news on the go these days, so we work hard to be truly mobile-friendly and use a lot of video and pictures, as well as bite-sized chunks of content. In addition to news, we aim to cover the creative and cultural sector in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, and I think that’s one area we’re becoming well known known for. A lot of news services simply don’t have the resources to cover everything that’s happening, but as an independent, I can choose where to spend my time – another reason why we’re able to be responsive.
What do you think about journalism today?
I think good journalism often gets lost in the click-bait climate, but hopefully that’s on its way out now. The rise of independent sites like the Wire show that ultimately, people want well-researched, well-written stories that are relevant to them.
Do you offer opportunities for anyone wanting to break into journalism?
I worked with a great intern recently and it definitely brought a new dimension to the Wire and helped me out considerably, so yes, it’s definitely something I’m looking into. Watch this space!