Roman Road LDN’s publisher, Social Streets CIC, released its 2018/19 report last week, detailing the successes of the year and the challenges ahead. From supporting local businesses to reader donation milestones, we’ve broken down the main takeaways that we thought would be of interest to our readers.
An online presence for Roman Road
The report has again confirmed the hunger for our community-led model of local journalism. Over the course of the reported year (which runs from June 2018 to May 2019) Roman Road LDN’s traffic increased by 95%, with over 30,000 unique page views a month last May.
Our most visited page was Roman Road Market, which provides information on local stalls and how people can visit. Over 17,000 people found their way to the page, mostly through Google and other search engines.
Features on local businesses like Lofty’s Furniture have also been viewed thousands of times. Staples of the area like Sweet Treats, Cafe East, and Hackney Wick Life Drawing use Roman Road LDN content in lieu of websites, giving them an online presence that they would not have otherwise.
Journalism by and for the community
Subscribers to our weekly newsletter increased from 2,209 to 3,072. Most of them are based right here in East London, with an unlikely smattering of followers in the United States and across Europe. The percentage of people who read our newsletters regularly is far above the industry average, a testament to our readers’ interest in local life.
The community mindedness of the magazine has also had clear impacts on the area. When Bethnal Green coffee vendor was at risk of losing his stall, it was our readers who pushed his fundraising campaign over the line. Without donations from Roman Road LDN readers Wang would not have reached his target. More donors came from us than from any other source.
In a similar spirit, Roman Road LDN launched a monthly donations programme at the start of 2019. It’s early days, but we already earn over £100 a month from reader contributions. That’s not enough to fund a magazine, but it’s a start. We are grateful for every penny received, and are honoured by the trust that comes with it. If you would like to become a patron, or make a one-off donation, click here.
The growth of the Roman Road LDN family has been its own success story. We had several homes during the year, starting in a windowless room in Mulberry UTC, moving on to the Co-Lab work space experiment at 365 Roman Road, before finally ending up at, of all places, Abbott’s. You can find us in the curtain department.
Four magnificent interns have cut their teeth here. Megan Agnew now works for the Sunday Times Magazine. Dominika Kubinyova is a copywriter at Harrods. Natasha Forrest is an Editorial intern at IFLR1000. And Anna Lezard is still with us, having stayed on in a marketing role. Former Editorial Assistant April Kosky is now Marketing Director at Jam Flicks. As well as providing desperately needed local news, Roman Road LDN has helped graduate journalists make their start in a competitive industry.
We also worked with 16 citizen journalists who produced 35 features or projects for the website. All of them live locally, volunteering their time and talents to support local journalism. We are enormously grateful to all of them, and look forward to working with many more in the coming months. Get in touch if you’d like to be one of them.
This is a turbulent time for journalism. Old financial models aren’t working any more, trust in the media is low, and local news especially is suffering. Social Streets’ 18/19 report shows the demand for local media is as strong as it has ever been, maybe stronger. The challenge is making it sustainable. We look forward to tackling that one in the coming year, with your help.
If you enjoyed this piece you might like reading about the magazine’s first birthday
Can you help us?
As a not-for-profit media organisation using ethical journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or membership scheme as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
If a fraction of the local 40,000 residents donated two pounds a month to Roman Road LDN it would be enough for our editorial team to serve the area full time and be beholden only to the community. Media is accountable to those who finance it. We want to be accountable to readers. Not to corporate sponsors, not to local government. To you. A pound at a time, we believe we can get there.