It’s probably no secret that I set up and run The Beestonian magazine: the lack of originality in the naming is a give-away. It sprang from this blog, after all: it became clear there was an audience for local independent journalism, both in the consuming of and the production of, so it seemed a natural next step when a friend offered me a few quid to set it up.
The subsequent ten years are worthy of a blog post in its own right, and I am sure that will be done in Autumn 2021, when we celebrate a decade of publishing. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do, and proud to have such an excellent bunch of writers, illustrators and webby tech people join in the fun along the way. I’m very proud we’ve also managed to retain absolute independence throughout.
It is, of course, against the grain. Journalism, especially local journalism, has been facing huge challenges over the years, as physical sales dry up and consumers become used to consuming for free. There are many models to challenge this – I personally subscribe physically and /or digitally to around a dozen publications – but its never easy. We previously used advertising to fund the Beestonian: a model that shows its flaws when a crisis such as lockdown hits. No ads > no money to pay printing > no mag. We still put out a digital version, but it wasn’t the same.
When we were eventually able to take in ads again, it was clear we had to diversify to survive. Our distribution model also seemed flawed: people who wanted the magazine simply couldn’t find a copy, and unless you regularly visited a pub or cafe it could be hard to track down a copy, despite our 30+ distributors.
We have long pledged to keep it free, so couldn’t use a scatter-gun approach of delivering to everyone in Beeston: the costs would be exorbitant and only met by plastering ads on every surface, leaving little space for content, which was the point of the whole magazine. There are mags like these you’ll find regularly pushed through your letterbox, and good luck to them, but they’re not what we want to be doing.
We instead looked at a donation system, where for a nominal donation you received a copy of the mag: a simple system easily facilitated online. I’d tried this for this site in the past, when we’ve had massive stories to work on and asked for a little help in funding the hours we spent on it: the money we received helped immensely, mainly to fund our staggering coffee bills!
With The Beestonian it worked well, and we received a decent amount of money allowing me to give all of our writers a cash bonus after running up a surplus (I pledged sometime ago I would only get paid from the mag once everyone working on it has been paid: I still hold by this).
There was a problem though: we only received about 70p of every pound received, and the faff of having to set up a new donation each issue was one people don’t like having to do. So instead, we have set up a subscription system where a one-off payment of £15 readers with NG9 addresses can receive the mag directly, hand-delivered by our cherubic-cheeked paper-lad. Areas outside NG9 we will post to, albeit for a slightly increased cost. We also can throw in the imminent Christmas Issue, and a free badge to say thank you.
Of course, the mag is free to pick up where we do distribute, so if you can find it, please do. But for those who can’t, or would prefer some convenience, please do set up a subscription: you can do so here: https://ko-fi.com/s/63eebc89e2.
If you’d like to simply help local journalism, then you can make a simple one off donation instead, or buy something from our shop: https://ko-fi.com/thebeestonian . In these days where it seems Westminster and the national media is increasingly disinterested in what cracks-off in the parts of the country that don’t have a London postcode, we need a media fit to face the challenges. I hope we can be a part of that, and with your help, we can.