Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do
A New Year’s message from The Tribune
Dear readers — On this, the penultimate day of 2023, I just wanted to send out a quick message to you, our wonderful subscribers, to thank you for your amazing support over the last year. Whether you’ll be bringing in the New Year dancing on a speaker at FØRGE warehouse or, like me, watching Jools’ Annual Hootenanny and then going straight to bed, I hope you all have fun tomorrow night.
It’s now been just over two and a half years since I started The Tribune, which has gone by in the blink of an eye. Back in the late spring of 2021 we were just coming out of the pandemic, and I had just left a secure if uninspiring job at The Star for a startup with just one member of staff — me. At that time there was absolutely no guarantee this new title would make it into our second or even third year. Tomorrow, we’ll be going into our fourth.
As you’ll have seen from our brilliant recap of the year’s best stories on Wednesday, The Tribune has had an unbelievable year. We’ve published more than 200 newsletters and set new standards for local journalism in this city. Our reporting is now regularly read by 20,000 people and we count many of the major movers and shakers in the city among our members. For a new title to do that in such a short period of time is staggering, and was a big reason why our parent company Mill Media won the backing of major media figures including Mark Thompson, the former director general of the BBC and current CEO of CNN.
What those investors have seen is that this model works. People are prepared to pay for local journalism if you give them a good enough product. When we started our initial target was 700 paying members, which we felt was enough to make the idea viable. Fingers crossed, sometime early next year we’ll be on three times that. The Tribune and our sister titles in Manchester, Liverpool and now Birmingham are clearly something people really value.
We got further evidence of this when we opened up gift subscriptions a few weeks ago. We expected maybe 15-20 people would sign up but in the end, 85 of you decided to give the gift of a year’s subscription to The Tribune to a family member or friend. When we dreamt it up, I thought “give the gift of good local journalism” was a nice marketing slogan. But it turns out that lots of you agree.
Of course, while the numbers are important, it’s really all about the journalism. And here we’ve improved hugely in 2023 as well. Thanks to the support of our paying members we’ve managed to employ a new member of staff, Victoria Munro, who has since gone on to produce some of our best stories. The piece she wrote about The Leadmill changed the way that story was seen by many people in Sheffield. A few weeks later she wrote a piece about Kommune which helped bring to light poor management practices at the popular food hall.
At the risk of venturing into dubious territory (energetic self promotion), I’ve written some stories that were worth your time, too. Probably the one I’m proudest of is the piece I wrote in October about Sheffield’s new Heart of the City development. When I started The Tribune I wanted it to be about holding people in power to account, but I also wanted it to be about celebrating all the good things that are happening in the city. Lots of people think Sheffield city centre could be on the cusp of something very exciting in 2024 and I think they are right. We want to say when people are getting things right as well as when they are getting things wrong. I also enjoyed writing about the future of Attercliffe, why Snake Pass is still the main route between Sheffield and Manchester — and the miracle of Hillsborough.
Beyond the core team of me and Victoria, our team of freelancers have contributed a host of great stories as well, including David Bocking’s piece about Graves Park, Rachel Genn’s essay about Occasions nightclub and Rachel Pronger’s article about Sheffield’s 45 minutes at the centre of the universe, in documentary form. Thanks to our paying members we’re putting a team of people together who can provide great writing about the city for years to come.
So, what’s in store for 2024? Well, after the huge success of the first, we’re certainly going to be putting on many more members' events next year. As well as that, we’d also like to start producing a regular podcast as well. But as with everything we do, we’ll only be able to do these things with your help.
Rather than relying on advertising as most typical local papers do, we chose to fund The Tribune differently. Asking people to become paying members allows us to pursue the stories that really matter to people in Sheffield, and in a depth that helps them understand the city better. It also means we’re not forced (as other local news companies pursuing an advertising-friendly amount of traffic are) to cover stories with very little relevance to Sheffield, in order to secure the maximum number of views. One of many blessings I’ll be counting this end of year is that we don’t have to cover every last nuance of I’m A Celeb, grisly murders that happen in London or the latest pair of jeans at M&S that will change your life (and for under £40, to boot).
We only publish articles we truly believe in, because we take our readers seriously. We know your time and attention is valuable and we won’t insult you with dross. In exchange, I’d like to ask you to take The Tribune seriously enough to consider becoming a paid member, if you’re not already one.
As well as helping support the future of high-quality journalism in Sheffield, members get four interesting, thoughtful, well-researched and well-written newsletters every week for just £7 a month or £70 for a full year (the equivalent of just £1.34 a week). We know times are hard, but many of our 1,902 paying subscribers say they see us as an important investment in the future of our great city. In 2024, we hope you will too.
Editor, The Tribune