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Mar 7, 2012

New Kid on the Block: a Broadsheet approach to lifestyle online

Broadsheet aims to be THE guide to "where to go out on a date, where to buy a pair of jeans, where to eat well and have good coffee" in Sydney and Melbourne. It's another media New Kid on the Block.


There is money, and profitability, in new media start-ups. Or at least that is the message from one such — city guide site Broadsheet, which aims to be, in the words of founder and publisher Nick Shelton, THE guide to “where to go out on a date, where to buy a pair of jeans, where to eat well and have good coffee” in Sydney and Melbourne.

Broadsheet is a good news story for those who want to know if journalists will ever get paid for online publication, though it is probably fair to say contributors to Broadsheet will not get rich.

It is this week’s entrant in the ongoing Crikey series New Kid on the Block, profiling new media and indie start-ups.

Broadsheet launched 2½ years ago, and covers Sydney and Melbourne, mainly online but also with quarterly print editions that are given away for free in cafes.

Perhaps significantly, Shelton’s background was not in publishing but in the hospitality industry, and it was while spending time in London and New York that he developed a desire for a comprehensive city guide to Australia’s largest urban centres.

Today the site, which is audited by Neilson, has 100,000 unique browsers a month. The hard copy version has print runs of 20,000 in each city.

According to Shelton, the business is “doing very well”, and profitable, although he declines to give the figures.

Broadsheet employs an editor, Caroline Clements, and three other full-time staff including Shelton, an editorial assistant and an advertising director. It also offers internships to journalism students.

In recent months the site has increased its stable of contributing writers and photographers — 34 are listed on the site. Shelton says they are paid around $30 for a short review article (and no expenses) and up to a maximum of $600 for longer articles.

Advertisers, he says, have been enthusiastic about the offerings — and there are banner ads for bikes and cars presently on the site.

But Broadsheet assures its readers the advertising does not affect editorial content. The website states: “You can rest assured that what you read on Broadsheet is what we honestly believe, and not there becasue someone’s paid us to put it there.”

So what about the content? The Sydney version of the site presently has articles profiling a barber shop, Sterling Hairdressing Parlour and Barber, which is, according to author Michelle Gore, “retro themed with a rockabilly vibe that mixes s-xy with a rock’n’roll edge”. There is a piece on where to get steamed Chinese buns, which includes a brief history of the treat, and on the Melbourne version of the site a piece about the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, of which Broadsheet is a supporter. There is also a nice photo gallery of the St Kilda Festival, held last month.

The writing doesn’t hit any high spots in terms of prose, but the guide is pretty comprehensive, and there is lots of content. I found out a few things about my city from trawling the site that I can’t imagine having found elsewhere. Broadsheet would seem well placed to give the lifestyle sections of metro daily newspapers a run for their money.

Shelton says he expects to employ more journalists, and that he regards it as “hugely important” to do so. He believes in quality lifestyle journalism.


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