A new wave of local news building a sustainable model for independent journalism on Substack. Michael MacLeod of The Edinburgh Guardian shares insights re-engaging citizens with their city, designing a payment model which rewards support, and ultimately quitting his job to focus on running the newsletter part-time.
"People tell me they wanted to stay off social media for their mental health and find this daily email is a perfect solution to stay in the loop locally."
It's just like having a real local morning newspaper over the coffee. I like Michael's approach to a focus on local news without the clickbait and irrelevance.
This is one of my all-time fav newsletters and as an Edinburgh local, SUCH an amazing source of local and relevant info
Maybe I'm a little skeptical, but 300+ paying subscribers in just 4 months?
He also doesn't really explain how exactly he 'monetised' his Substack or what exactly motivated his readers to become paying subscribers.
This part also bothered me: " I saw 50 new paying subscribers and a lot of kind words on social media supporting my decision"
In one day? That's incredible, but admittedly hard for me to believe. I don't have 3k free subscribers, but I do have 1.6k free subscribers, and I don't even have 1/20th the number of paying Subscribers. A 1 in 10 paying subscriber conversion rate is genuinely pretty impressive, but it is unclear to me... how he achieve such success in such an overwhelmingly short space of time?
Were they prior conversions from his previous journalism work, perhaps?
How exactly did he compel people to pay if everything is free?
"I also launched The Culture Minute newsletter that week and was fortunate enough to be featured on Substack that week."
If you were already featured by Substack back in 2023, why are you being featured again?
Shouldn't some of the feature sets go to, you know, other writers?
Feels kinda nepotism-ish to me.
Excited to see the growth in the local news scene on Substack in the UK over the past year or so, and a big thanks to Substack for the shout out above!
Only just came across the Edinburgh Guardian, but given I'm right at the other end of the country, I'd like to think that's understandable.
We launched in our corner of the country a couple of years ago and while we're no means the biggest, we've definitely proved there is an appetite for local news in a way that's different from the pretty grim local news websites we're all used to now. More importantly, people are willing to pay for it. We're running at a 19% conversion rate to paid on Local Authority, and have no idea where the ceiling is.
So many great writers and journalists are covering local journalism beats that have long since been abandoned by traditional outlets, and I can't wait to see where all of this goes.
Very encouraging. Thank you Michael, and best of luck with your publication.
This is so awesome! As a former journalist who has worked in both local and global news and witnessed the changes that many of my colleagues and friends endured, it's so energizing and inspiring to see journalists being valued for their hard work and commitment. Onward, Michael!
This is so awesome! As a former journalist who has worked in both local news and global news and witnessed the changes that many of my colleagues and friends endured, it's so energizing and inspiring to see journalists being valued for their hard work and commitment. Onward,Michael!
I love this a local journalism model, a professional journalist focused on local content partnering with his audience of locals to create the content they want, need and enjoy without ads and bloody headlines.
The numbers are incredible. I recently had a coaching session about writing here on Substack. One of the questions asked involved how many paid subscribers I wanted. My number was 300. I'm a (new) writer, not a journalist. That being said, someone like Michael has a drilled-down niche with contacts, he brought with him as an audience. He "is" a journalist and (for me) it's fascinating he writes on Substack about local events. This tells me there are unexplored avenues I can explore to gain subscribers, and more importantly helping me cultivate paid subscribers. The local scene is something I never thought about. Thanks for such an inspiring deep-dive into success on Substack.
Stayed local with mine too at Hidden Japan
I'd love to have the guts to quit a job to focus on Substack, very inspiring
What an inspiring story!
Very encouraging. Has Substack rounded up its successful local news case studies anywhere?
How to get featured:
1. Be woke / commie / progressive
2. Act as an aggregator for local propaganda outlets, censoring anything the ideology disagrees with.
3. Use commie dog whistles and fake like you care about society and not advancing your degenerate, destructive marxist inspired ideology
This seems like a great opportunity for a person to serve his local city or county. Mr. MacLeod’s history offered him skills and advantages most people would lack. However, even to put together a once-per-week publication would be a benefit to people who miss their local newspaper.
Well done Michael on creating excellent curated news on Edinburgh. Local newspapers have been ruined in the past 10-15 years by being bought and owned by country wide or global companies. Their model is outdated and all they have is dwindling numbers of advertisers with adverts ruining the reader experience as well as the depth of local news reporting is poor. All the best going forward