A major boost for The Tribune — and the future of local journalism
A special editor’s note from Dan and Victoria
We don’t usually email you on a Wednesday, but today we have news so exciting that it can’t wait.
As you know, The Tribune has been a labour of love. It’s been hard, but it’s been worth it. We get so many interesting, thoughtful comments and emails from our readers, and while this might sound sentimental, it feels like a lot more than a local news service. We hate to use the f-bomb, and yet we must: it feels like a family. We would like to be around for a very long time and now it seems not just likely, but a sure thing.
As you may know, together with our sister publications in Manchester and Liverpool, we’re part of a wider company called Mill Media Co, which allows us to share editors between the cities and work together to give each other tips and support. The Tribune started back in 2021 because of a conversation between Dan and Joshi Herrmann, the founder of The Mill in Manchester, and ever since then we have worked closely together. Some of your favourite stories were the result of that collaboration — borrowing colleagues like Sophie, Mollie and Jack from the other side of the Peaks to write about George Orwell or Ethel Haythornthwaite.
Recently Joshi — who used to write for newspapers like The Guardian and The Times — embarked on a mission: he was aiming to generate £200,000 in a fundraising round in order to strengthen our team and expand the model we’ve created to more places. There was no guarantee we would raise this amount — we’re in a cost of living crisis, and paying for local news is considered a luxury add-on to many. Perhaps the investors would find the proposal too risky. In the end, we raised the astonishing sum of £350,000. And it gets better.
Amongst those who backed the future of The Tribune and our sister titles were: Sir Mark Thompson, the former director general of the BBC and the chief executive of the New York Times; Diane Coyle, a leading economist and professor of public policy at Cambridge; Turi Munthe, who co-founded the photo agency Demotix; and Nicholas Johnston, the publisher and former editor-in-chief of the US media company Axios.
The fundraise has just been reported by The Guardian. Thompson is quoted as saying that he is backing the company “because of the exceptional quality of its journalism and because it's such an interesting and encouraging initiative.” He goes on: “Britain's cities need great commercially-sustainable journalism to inform the public and hold powerful institutions to account.”
It’s a point of pride to us here at the Trib that these leading figures across business and media think what we’re doing is worthy of backing financially. Some of the people who have invested have been reading The Tribune and our sister publications for ages and some came across us more recently, but they have all taken a proper look at what we’re doing and decided it’s the future.
As Professor Diane Coyle puts it in her quote, “High quality, deep local reporting is the bedrock of a democratic society, and an essential antidote to the maelstrom of misinformation online. I've been a paying Mill member from very early on, and I'm excited by how it — and its sister publications in Sheffield and Liverpool — have grown since then. I hope the company can make a similar impact in other cities across the country.”
From an entirely pragmatic standpoint, it’s also just wonderful for us to have such interesting and experienced people on board — they have collective decades of media experience under their belt, and it’ll be great to turn to them for guidance if we ever need advice. In terms of what we cover and how we cover it, we’ll still remain the independent news source we’ve always been — no change to our editorial processes whatsoever.
At this point, you are probably wondering what we as a wider company intend on doing with that money. We plan to use most of it to open new publications in other cities, which feels like a good plan — having both worked on understaffed local papers before, we’ve seen what life is like in those kinds of media companies and it’s not great, either for the people working there or the people reading them. We’ll keep you posted once we announce which the first new city will be, but we’re really pleased that the recipe we have developed here in Sheffield is going to inspire a revival in local journalism in other places too.
We’ll also be able to do a bit of hiring to support the underlying company. We’re currently a team that is very writer-heavy, and we need a bit of extra support on the commercial and editing side of things. We’re hoping to bring in a growth and revenue expert, who will be focused on things like marketing and the commercial side of the company, and we’ll be hiring another senior editor too. Both those roles are in our Manchester office, but if you think someone you know might be interested, please send them the jobs link.
As such, things won’t change around here much. Thanks to our paying subscribers, we broke even earlier this year, which was something we are very, very proud of. It means that The Tribune is financially sustainable, and we don’t intend on deviating from this. We’ve always operated on the principle that we want our growth here in Sheffield to be self-sustaining and that will continue: We’ll only hire additional writers and editors when there’s money from subscriptions to do so. This fundraise means that we have greater financial security, and we’ll be able to get a bit more support on the editing and commercial tasks, but beyond that, we’ll keep growing The Tribune as we have been, albeit with some amazing new advisors on board.
Could we have done this without you? We don’t think so — after all, no investor in their right mind would back a media company with a subscriptions-based business model if it didn’t have impressive numbers of subscribers. So really, we’re writing this email to send a huge thank you to each and every one of you.
You can read a bit more about the fundraise in the august pages of the Guardian — where Mill Media Co founder Joshi Herrmann was interviewed about the money and the expansion, and also in Press Gazette, which reports on our “star-studded list of individual investors.”
Hello to all of the new paying subscribers who have found us via that article! Please do email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell us a little bit about yourself.
And if you’re not a member yet, what better moment than this to join? If ever you needed evidence that this publication is onto something — that we’re going places and helping to build the future of high quality local media — then this is surely it.
Dan and Vicky
The Sheffield Tribune