TWO former directors from publishers Newsquest have launched a news website based on ‘trustworthy content’ claiming other media models are ‘unfit for the modern world we now live in’.
Primarily that will see AI summarising and repurposing existing news content, while their own journalists fact check that output and prepare their own original stories. Audio format via an on-page audio player will also feature.
Beastall, was until fairly recently Newsquest’s Regional Finance Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland while Stevenson, is a former Business Events Host and Digital Transformation Director.
Both helped oversee The Herald stable of news sites and print editions and believe that experience will stand their new project in good stead.
Beastall outlines the financial challenges faced by former colleagues in a podcast about the launch and his own business model including a call for volunteers to produce content and sharing profits with staff and community.
In a news release today, they say their new platform – marketed as ‘The future of news delivered today – Independent, Trustworthy, Accessible, Sustainable’ has been pulled together on ‘a shoestring’ budget and are calling for ‘volunteers’ to help produce content.
The company said: “Our leadership team offer a departure from the usual faces responsible for delivering much of our news. Our message is one of greater diversity, inclusivity and social responsibility.
“We believe every citizen’s right to access reliable news is under significant threat. We launch today with the single aim of ensuring trustworthy content will always be available and accessible.
“The harsh reality is the way people consume news has changed forever.
“This seismic shift makes existing business models unfit for the world we now live in. We live in a time when society understandably demands more of our businesses and their leaders.”
Their mission statement reads:
- We exist to ensure trustworthy local news is always available and accessible
- We believe in diversity, integrity, ethical behaviour and building a more connected world
- Our journalists will represent the communities we serve, and provide them with a balanced view on the issues that matter to them
- We will share our financial success with our employees and the communities they represent
Beastall also recorded a video (above) for the launch where he appealed for people to give it a chance.
The release expands: “We combine the best in emerging technologies with human storytelling skills.
“This approach allows journalists to spend time researching, writing and breaking the news. Our solution produces a greater volume of unique content and costs less.
“We will publish this news on fresh and clean platforms to deliver greater audience engagement.
“Our articles are available in audio format via an on-page audio player, that also works after the window has been closed.
“We’ve developed and tested a UK news site. The next stage for us is to roll this model out, starting with larger population centres.
“We’ve got this far on a shoestring, and our content can still improve.
“The investment we now seek to launch and market our business will change this immediately.”
In terms of content gathering, they appealed for people to volunteer.
“As we start the funding process, we invite those who share our vision to volunteer to write for us,” they said.
“By providing us with unique content, you can help us attract visitors to our platforms. Demonstrable reader growth will reassure potential investors that we have a business model that will succeed.
“We will also provide you with a place to publish your stories that is actively marketing to new readers.”
The website itself has been designed in partnership with Labb on WordPress and currently features a home page with tabs for Coronavirus, News, Sport, Entertainment, Business and Politics.
A Twitter feed and facebook page are also available as well as a podcast which includes this introductory interview with Beastall.
In a wide ranging interview conducted by their own journalist, Beastall goes in depth about his passion for the project and vision for its outcomes.
Among the staff listed on the company’s Linked In page are Editor in Chief Blaise Hope, Editor Sam Hodgson, a recent graduate from Bournemouth University and content writer Kayleigh Heckford, also a student at the same university.
It comes as Scotland’s biggest media players including National World/JPIMedia, DC Thomson, Reach and others are advancing their own plans.
Stevenson began his media career as a graphic designer with Kall-Kwik Printing before moving onto become Assistant Production Manager with Scottish Auto Trader in 1990.
He later carved out a 21 year career in digital at the Daily Record stable, becoming Head of Digital (Scotland) for Reach plc, moving to Newsquest in 2017 as Digital Transformation Manager focused on increasing digital reach and revenues.
He also works full time as Marketing Communication Manager at charity Erskine and is Honorary President of Cue and Review Recording Service, a transcription service for the visually impaired.
Beastall was Finance Manager with HF Developments and then Head of Finance and Admin with Frame before being named Group Finance Director with 3DReid in 2007, before moving to Cello Health as Group Finance Director, Scotland, eight years later.
He joined Newsquest’s owners Gannett a little over four years ago as Regional Finance Director – Scotland and Ireland with a team of 20 staff, as well as a role as Finance Director with its sibling brand S1.
As CEO of Tickir, he describes himself on Linked In as Media entrepreneur and Business Leader.
Last month he published a Linked In post ‘My Story – Why I’m launching a digital news business from my spare room in the middle of a crisis’.
In it he admitted the pressure of balancing profitability for media businesses with the impact on quality journalism had affected him.
He wrote: “I was the Finance Director, and it was my job to safeguard profitability. This often meant tough decisions were made which impacted the quality of the products produced.
“I was indirectly contributing to the systemic decline of quality and trustworthy news, and that never sat well with me.
“That this was ultimately a consequence of a shift in the business models of publishers was not lost on me. Something had to give. I made the bold decision to walk away from a highly-paid job.
“I wanted to work on my dream to change the way news is created and shared.”
He added: “Our model puts content at its heart. What is a news media without journalists or stories? Our business is quite simple: less (or no) adverts, and a greater volume of unique high-value content.”
The NewsInNetwork site can be viewed in full here.