I started a student newspaper

Overview

When I arrived at Royal Holloway I wanted to get involved in the Students' Union magazine but was very disappointed with what was being produced. Having suggested a number of changes and improvements, I proposed that the Students' Union set up a newspaper. This proposal was rejected and so I went about setting up my own independent student newspaper. Three months later, 4,000 copies of The Founder arrived at Royal Holloway and it was warmly welcomed by the vast majority of students and staff at the College.

The challenge

In a word, sustaining the effort. Setting up the newspaper wasn't as difficult as some people might think. Having spent some time Googling and calling round printers, I got some good quotes and worked out what I needed financially. Accompanied by a couple of friends from my halls, I headed into Egham to scope out the advertising potential of a newspaper at Royal Holloway. This went very well and we found a key ally in a local estate agent. Having secured almost £1,000 of advertising, I booked in the first printing slot, got all of my friends in my halls to write articles and started laying out the first edition.

The first edition arrived and it was wonderful - we had the Christmas break to recover but having planned to be a weekly newspaper, returning to Royal Holloway in January was incredibly stressful and intense. We essentially we had to repeat the start-up process every week. Fortunately I secured a small loan from a family friend to act as a float for the paper and this greatly helped but it was still a very stressful time getting everything done on such a tight schedule. I was missing most of my lectures and simply didn't have enough hours in the week.

The solution

Going fortnightly and establishing package deals with advertisers. The paper was so frequent that people often didn't realise that the new one was out so soon after the previous edition. I also realised that the vast majority of student newspapers are fortnightly.

This halved our outgoings while keeping income more or less the same. A year's worth of advertising only actually amounts to 11 or 12 editions of the newspaper. Five or six in the first term, five or six in the second and then one or two in the third term either side of the exam period. This also allowed me to scrape through and pass my first year!

Now The Founder, which in many ways is more of a social enterprise, makes a small profit each year which is reinvested into equipment for the following year's board, and a party for the outgoing board!

Key lesson

Allowing plans to change and not being too stubborn about trying to do exactly what you set out to do. Be realistic and if the circumstances don't pan out quite as you expect them, adapt to fit the circumstances. They'll never adapt to fit you!

Top tip

Persist, persist, persist. The Students' Union thought it was a bad idea, many advertisers said it wouldn't be sustainable and Theo Paphitis himself told me that he couldn't see how it makes any money. I took this as a compliment as, unlike many freesheets, The Founder is not the wall of adverts people have come to expect. We charge a premium for advertising as we have a very targeted and very captive audience. The newspaper is self-sustaining and I've seen it make its way onto hundreds of the CVs of my peers so I can't help but think that it's a very good thing!

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