Substack Local: Murray Bridge News wins investment from US company

Your local, independent news service will still be local and independent, but its future now looks even brighter.

Murray Bridge News has been chosen as one of 12 newsrooms around the world to win financial backing from Substack, the company behind its website and email newsletter.

Under the Substack Local program, the US-based company will distribute the equivalent of $1.3 million among small newsrooms around the globe over the next 12 months.

Basically, Substack will pay Murray Bridge News to be part of a worldwide experiment: can reader subscriptions provide enough revenue to support local news outlets, now and into the future?

“We are strong believers in the importance of local news as a bedrock for healthy communities and societies, and are deeply concerned by the industry’s ongoing collapse,” the company said in a statement.

“However, we are optimistic about the potential of the Substack model for local news and have been encouraged by the success of emerging publications.”

For readers, nothing will really change – with one exception, which I’ll get to below.

Murray Bridge News will still be 100 per cent independent and locally owned, and will still publish the same mix of free and subscriber-only stories from around the Murraylands.

However, the funding agreement will level the playing field – after all, this news service has not been eligible for much of the federal funding or Facebook money which has been thrown around lately.

It will give my family financial security for the next 12 months, not that you’ll see us inspecting houses on Queen Louisa Drive just yet.

Most importantly, I believe it will set Murray Bridge News up for a bright, sustainable future: one in which our community gets more comprehensive and accessible news coverage than it has before.

Over the next few years, I’d like to build a small team, open an office and find new ways of sharing local stories.

Substack’s funding will bring those goals closer.

So what’s the catch?

After this Thursday, June 3, you will notice one difference in your weekly email newsletter.

There will be no advertising or sponsored stories in Murray Bridge News for at least the next 12 months.

Substack wants to see whether subscriptions alone are enough to sustain local news outlets, so it has asked Murray Bridge News to forego any advertising revenue for the duration of the funding deal.

I still look forward to sharing stories from local businesses and organisations, whether they are about award wins, new faces, public consultations, events or anything else of interest to local people.

But if you want to support Murray Bridge News financially, I can only suggest you take out a subscription.

We do offer a 33 per cent discount for groups of four or more, and you can give a subscription as a gift, too.

Thanks to the hundreds of you who have already become paying subscribers – I couldn’t do what I do without your support.

I’d also like to publicly thank Simon Crerar, my mentor, for his help; and the Walkley Foundation for organising his mentorship.

I’m pretty stoked to see some San Francisco venture capital flowing into little old Murray Bridge, and I’m excited to think that that the eyes of the media world will be watching this community-focused enterprise.

Come and say g’day on Thursday afternoon

Want to come and have a chat about what this all means?

As I announced in last week’s email newsletter, I’ll be setting up camp at Murray Bridge Community Centre between 2pm and 4pm every Thursday from now on.

Drop in to shoot the breeze, tell me about a story or ask for help with your subscription.

I work for you, after all!

The community centre is at 18 Beatty Terrace, Murray Bridge.


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