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March 11, 2019updated 12 Mar 2019 10:42am

Former City banker wants to ‘reinvent’ local news with ‘low-cost’ platform and is looking to hire journalists

By Freddy Mayhew

An ex-banker left his City job and teamed up with a computer programmer in an attempt to “reinvent” local news and recruit potentially hundreds of journalists.

Karl Hancock spent 25 years working for banks in London, including Goldman Sachs and Berenberg, before computer programmer Dean Waghorn came to him with a business idea.

He pitched a low-cost technology platform that could “put your town in your pocket”. “I absolutely loved it,” said Hancock, who took the idea to City investors to sound it out.

Ten of them backed it and Nub News launched in September last year with enough funding for at least 12 months.

There are 58 Nub News sites up and running across towns in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Lincolnshire, with ambitions for 700 nationwide over the next couple of years.

Nub News aggregates news content from existing local titles and sources such as local emergency services on Twitter and council press releases. It has five sections: classifieds, property, jobs, what’s on and live travel.

The model is similar to the Reach-owned In Your Area hyperlocal websites which launched in 2017.

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Trusted contributors, such as local councillors, can also write for their local Nub News website, such as Nub News Bridgwater, while readers can post their own events and content – or “nub it”, as Hancock hopes they will say.

“If we can turn Nub into a verb we have made it,” he said.

All content is currently checked by a team of six regional editors.

The Nub News platform is geared towards mobile, where more than 90 per cent of its traffic comes from.

“We are trying to reinvent local news,” Hancock told Press Gazette.

“The old business model is broken and we wanted to come up with a sustainable model – providing a low-cost news and features alternative while keeping the quality of news.

“We want to be what the local newspaper was 25 years ago, but on the internet. We want to be in the heart of every town and city in the UK.

“We want to provide everything that a town wants, but get the community talking as well in a much more regulated way – the polar opposite to what you see on Facebook.”

Nub News relies on sponsors to cover its costs, with local businesses targeted to take out one, two or all three banner adverts that scroll across the top of each hyperlocal page.

Other than that, there are no adverts, with Hancock keen to make it a “pleasurable experience” for mobile readers.

“All I care about right now is content,” he said, adding that the next phase is to recruit journalists “to come in and give it the real local touch”.

He said wants to recruit more than 100 “fully-qualified, frontline” journalists to paid full-time roles over the next two years plus more than 100 graduate journalists, who need not have studied journalism (see below for how to apply).

Staff will receive a competitive, full-time salary, Hancock said, plus a performance bonus and shares in the company. As well as writing, they must be able to both market the websites and commission contributors.

He said he is talking to the National Council for the Training of Journalists about training up graduates with no journalism background.

“The only way this business is going to seed is by employing the best talent,” said Hancock.

“The old style journalism from 25 years ago has changed, we all know that now. I think of Nub News as a perfect merge between cutting-edge technology and journalism.”

He added: “Nub News about giving an identity back to towns – what’s going on at the hyperlocal level, supporting local businesses and charities, giving them back their identities.

“I think a lot of towns have lost their identities because of that closure of local newspapers and what’s going on with the internet. We want to give that back to them.”

Email Karl at karl.hancock@nub.news for details on job openings.

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