Island hyperlocal launches new website paid for entirely by its readers

By Matt Abbott | 30th Oct 2018

When it comes to independent community news publications, they don’t come more northerly than Shetland News.

Affectionately dubbed Shet News by the small subarctic island community of just over 23,000, it is the island’s best source of reliable local news and has been for two decades.

Attracting around 80,000 unique users per month, Shetland News has just launched a brand new website paid for entirely by its readers.

Financed mainly by local advertising, the website at www.shetnews.co.uk  provides a full local reporting service and publishes between five and eight original news stories a day.

“A major upgrade of our website was essential to keep up with what is expected of a modern website design,” managing editor Hans J Marter said.

“Yet investing around £20,000 is a major challenge for a small company such as ours. There was no public funding available to help with such a venture, so we decided to ask our readers.”

Old website (left) and new website (right)

The Shetland News supporters’ scheme at https://supporters.shetnews.co.uk was launched in August 2016, and became an instant success with more than 300 people supporting the website either with a small monthly ‘subscription’ or by one off donations.

Marter said: “We are committed to keeping Shetland News a free resource, however the reality is that we can’t develop the news service any further without readers being willing to pay for their daily news.

“So the supporters’ scheme is a compromise between keeping the site free to access and giving those who feel passionate enough about our work a chance to contribute financially.

“I would like to express my gratitude to everybody who has helped us achieving this major milestone. Without your help this would not have been possible.”

Developed by York based web designer Clement Duncan, the new site has a modern look and incorporates all the functionality one has come to expect from a contemporary news website, including displaying perfectly on all mobile devices.

The website is tailor-made for the local market with Shetland based companies as well as the public sector advertising their goods and services to an audience relevant to their needs.

“There are no annoying video adverts popping up in the middle of a news story and no links to spurious website offering PPI checks and worse,” Marter said.

Managing editor Hans J Marter

Shetland News currently employs two journalists, Chris Cope, who is also a part-time local democracy reporter – a national scheme paid for by the BBC which aims to increase coverage of councils and other public bodies – and Peter Johnson, who currently works three days a week.

“And in order to keep the momentum going, we would be grateful if more people would feel passionate enough about supporting local journalism and sign up at https://supporters.shetnews.co.uk,” Marter added.

Shetland News is a member of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) and is regulated by IMPRESS.

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