An expanding stable of regional mastheads is proving the value of long-format journalism, with media benefactors putting their money behind it.
Latest of these, The Dispatch brings the name back to Birmingham (although it was historically spelled with an ‘e’) and expands a local journalism gaining popularity in some of the UK’s larger cities.
Delivered by newsletter, The Dispatch joins The Mill in Manchester – launched during the 2020 pandemic – as well as profitable mastheads in Liverpool and Sheffield.
According to media columnist Ian Burrell, Joshi Herrmann’s Mill Media Co has accumulated almost 6000 members across three titles, paying about £7 (A$13.36) a month for subscriptions delivered via Substack.
Among promotions is a leaderboard which offers perks – from a month’s subscription to “coffee and cake with the team” – in exchange for referrals.
The concept provides “three heavily researched pieces a week on local matters of political and cultural importance”. And as Burrell says, “in an epoch where so much local ‘news’ takes the form of celebrity clickbait, salacious crime round-ups and video clips repurposed from social media… is surely meeting a need”.
A group of benefactors led by former BBC director-general and new chief executive of CNN Sir Mark Thompson, have put £350,000 (A$668,000) into the project.
Interestingly, the 34-year-old entrepreneur isn’t frightened of assuming the mantle of newspapers of the past, not only with The Dispatch, but as in The Post in Liverpool, onetime stablemate of Trinity Mirror’s (Daily) Echo, which is still alive and well. Herrmann’s Sheffield masthead is The Tribune.