Former Northcliffe editor sets up rival website 'Exeter Daily'

Former Exeter Express & Echo editor Marc Astley, who left the paper three months after it switched from a daily to weekly last year, has set up a new website in the city called The Exeter Daily.

Astley is planning to roll out the network to other towns and cities across the UK, with several locations already earmarked by the team behind The Exeter Daily. 

Natalie Vizard, the former editor of Archant's Somerset Life magazine, is editor of the new website, which is based close to the Echo's offices on the Sowton Industrial Estate in Exeter. 

Astley's ambition is to make the website the "number one news and information provider" in the area, providing a mix of UK, local, sports and business news, with a particular emphasis on charities, students, families, and food and drink. 

He believes that following the Echo's weekly switch there remains a strong appetite for daily news in the region.

"We would like to be able to complement the Echo," Astley told Press Gazette. "The Echo is still first and foremost a print product."

He added: “I’ve got no argument with the Echo. This isn’t setting out to start a fight with the Echo, there is a niche marketplace that exists – if I don’t fill it somebody else will."

Astley said the majority of the content on the website will be "citizen journalism", and "user-generated".

"These are phrases that have been bandied about for the last few years… What makes this site viable compared to any other attempts made at citizen journalism is the functionality of the site, which makes it so easy for people to post information, and the ethos of the team behind it, that this is very much a community, collaborative initiative.

“We’re not proprietorial at all, we will partner within reason with anyone out there. I think what’s stopped a lot of other sites growing and becoming successful is that a lot of the content its still pretty much locked down, and people really don’t feel that they genuinely own this site

"What we’ll be saying to our users is that you own this site. We’ve developed a number of categories that we think you’ll like but if it comes to the majority of our readers wanting something else then well listen to that and give them an opportunity to have that content.

Astley said it "quickly became apparent" when developing the site it was an "easily franchisable model” that could be rolled out to other regions of the UK.

He said: "Once you’ve got the brand and the sales pack then you can very easily transfer that information to a third party.”

The Exeter Daily has the equivalent of 2.5 full-time staff and plans to be advertising funded.

Investment for the launch has come from Astley himself and a number of local business people.

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