Report by Tim Dawson.
With 27,000 people working in the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, it is easy to see why Brian Pelan thinks there is space for a magazine that addresses their interests. With the first edition of View now available to download, he is about to discover whether his hunch was a good one.
After a newspaper career of more than two decades, Pelan’s job of the past six years on the Belfast Telegraph was outsourced. So, inspired by a friend’s publication, Union Post, which serves Irish trades unionists, the Belfast native set to work creating View – a new free-to-download, digital publication.
The magazine is laid up as though it was a print publication and is them distributed either as a downloadable pdf, or can be viewed on the Yudu site.
After months of meetings with sector representatives, showing them a dummy, the first edition came out last week. Pelan is pleased with the results: “It was on deadline, and I thought that it looked good, and to date the feedback has been fantastic”, he says.
He is running the magazine as a business, but received financial support from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council as well as backing from a Dragon’s Den-style initiative run by Belfast City Council. “I have enough money for three or four issues, but for the magazine to be sustainable in the long term, I will have to find advertising or sponsorship”, he explains.
He continues to receive some ‘pro bono’ support from freelance journalists, but hopes to start paying them as his revenue swells.
He is selling the advertising himself – a wholly new experience having previously worked as a sub-editor and newspaper designer – but he is encouraged by the initial level of support. “If we can get in £2,000 a month, then the magazine is sustainable and will pay me a basic wage. If we can get in £3,000 a month, then we can start paying other people to undertake some of the work”.
Less straightforward, he concedes, is getting the product to the audience and being able to prove that they are reading it. To date Pelan is looking to grow his Facebook page and Twitter stream to show the level of support that he has, and he is also now distributing the download address via bit.ly, which gives him a basic analytic.
He also hopes that by creating a high profile for himself in the voluntary and community sector, View will act as a shop front for other work when organisations are looking for a media professional.
Pelan’s identification of his market looks like a smart move – he is serving a sector that is large, and distinct from its counterparts south of the border and across the Irish sea. Whether he will attract enough readers to be able to stitch up the advertising market, remains to be seen. On the basis of his first edition, he certainly looks like he has a decent chance.