In the second in a series of case studies of commercial hyperlocals, NMJ talks to Media Street Apps founder Jonathan Lloyd
Media Street Apps – formerly known as Cut Media – is going from strength to strength since it was founded by Lloyd and Jack Rutter a year ago.
With several sites around London, including flagship site King’s Road, the startup sells a web application called Media Street – an online marketing package that gives local businesses their own web page combined with a range of social media tools.
The idea found an immediate market. ‘We got a really good response – we found that local businesses were dying to increase their web presence,’ says Lloyd. ‘It’s a no brainer for a business to be on the website, if it’s a King’s Road business.’ To date, the site has 40 paying clients, while 500 hundred businesses have signed up for a web page, paying £359 plus VAT.
The pair were clear from the outset that financing local sites through traditional advertising would not work: ‘We don’t sell advertising because it’s not sustainable as a business,’ says Lloyd, an advocate of the integrated digital marketing approach articulated by the Nieman Lab here.
Getting the business in, though, did take some good old-fashioned marketing techniques: cold calling and knocking on doors – literally – to request pitching meetings. ‘It’s very hard,’ says Lloyd. ‘There is a market, but you really have to pound the streets.’
He says the company is to develop the journalistic scope of its websites, which have so far been unashamedly business-oriented. King’s Road already runs regular unpaid blogs by a local bylining as Chelsea Girl, but the company hopes to employ an experienced journalist to report on local issues in the spring. Lloyd insists he’s got his priorities the right way round.
‘We’ve taken a backward approach. I could have easily launched a blog about King’s Road, but the real question is how do you make online content pay?’
Meanwhile, Media Street Apps lodged its application for a grant from the Knight Foundation, a US grant-making body that supports community-based digital journalism. The company is asking for $90,000 to fund its expansion which, it makes clear in its application, will prove something of a test-case for the viability of the hyperlocal model:
‘With the Kingsroad.co.uk project, we are testing whether Media Street can support a road but there is no reason why is can’t support other communities; from roads and streets to wider areas such as cities and towns – whether they’re in the US or UK. It has the potential to be a global products which runs local sites around the world.’
‘We thought we’d give it a shot and represent the UK’s corner,’ says Lloyd.