The team behind a citizen journalism site founded by former Northcliffe editor Marc Astley is poised to launch their first franchise – with the company also in advanced talks in several other regions of the UK.
After just five months of trading in Exeter as theexeterdaily.co.uk, The Daily UK is expanding into Plymouth next month. And founder Astley told Press Gazette that talks are at an advanced stage in a number of other areas across the UK.
Astley, who stood down as editor of Exeter’s Express & Echo shortly after it turned from a daily to weekly, said his user-generated model had captured the imagination of a new generation of local readers.
“Everything we are doing now is six to 12 months ahead of schedule,” Astley told Press Gazette.
“We have already smashed the nine-month target I quoted to my investors both in terms of hits and users.
“Every day seems to bring more good news and further opportunities.”
Analytics seen by Press Gazette show that since it launched on 8 October last year The Exeter Daily has attracted almost 42,500 visitors and recorded 200,000 page impressions.
Astley said the Daily team had spent the Christmas period revamping the site with a new look which was due to be unveiled today.
“We’ve spent a lot of time listening to our users and taking on board their views,” Astley explained.
“Because we are a small organisation we can be extremely agile and that is one of our key strengths.
“If things can be improved, they are improved quickly without having to go through endless sign off procedures which, as we all know, can stifle creativity and sap energy.”
The Daily has been built as a franchise model which can either stand alone or receive support from the head office team.
“Although there are a number of ways you can tailor the overall package, each site will be consistent in terms of branding, look, feel and structure,” said Astley.
“The ultimate goal is for a UK-wide network of sites that can work together to deliver a unique news and information service as well as a cost-effective platform for advertisers, both local and national.”
The Plymouth Daily franchise has been bought by one of the most successful businessmen in the South West.
Rex Rozario (below) owns Graphic PLC, a company which produces high technology printed circuit boards for, among others, the aerospace industry.
Graphic employs 170 people in Devon and a further 400 in China where it has a factory.
Rozario said he was immediately won over by the Daily model in Exeter, which he described as “the future”.
He added: “It’s obvious to me that the migration from print to digital will continue at a rate of knots and what Marc and the team have here is a business that is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this monumental shift.
“I am extremely excited about this project and I’m looking forward to playing my part in helping it grow.”