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April 11, 2013updated 12 Apr 2013 2:50pm

Former Northcliffe editor takes Exeter Daily website model into Plymouth

By William Turvill

The team behind an Exeter-based citizen journalism website founded by former Northcliffe editor Marc Astley has launched its first franchise in Plymouth today.

The Exeter Daily was launched last October and claims to have clocked up 300,000 page impressions and 60,000 unique visitors in total since then.

It has also been shortlisted in the Digital News Service of the Year category of the Newspaper Awards.

Astley was the editor of the Exeter Express & Echo for six years before leaving the paper in December 2011 – three months after it switched from a daily to a weekly.

Plymouth daily newspaper The Herald is also a former Northcliffe title (now part of the Local World group).

Astley said his new site is not set on “picking a fight” with his former employer, saying there is room for both daily UK websites and Local World ones in both Exeter and Plymouth.

He said: “Is what we are doing disruptive? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No. I believe the Echo website is far better now than it was last October because of us. You need competition.”

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Astley told Press Gazette his Exeter team had been working hard to refine the website ahead of making franchise packages.

“Because we are a small and unified team we have been able to move swiftly to make improvements to the site and agree the franchise model,” he said.

“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in the project from journalists and investors alike and we are in negotiations with potential franchisees in a number of UK locations.

“The Exeter site has taken off far better than we could have hoped for, which has allowed us to bring forward our franchising plans and the Plymouth launch.

“Our agenda-free and inclusive model seems to be what people have been waiting for. We have more than 3,000 registered users and an increasing amount of our content comes from citizen journalists.”

Tony Rowe, chairman of rugby club the Exeter Chiefs and owner of South West Commications, is one of the investors in The Daily UK.

Astley said: “Tony is a no-nonsense, results-driven businessman who has brought an awful lot to the table other than his investment.

“I have learned an incredible amount from working with Tony and it’s refreshing to have direct input from someone who hasn’t been influenced by a traditional publishing background.”

Natalie Vizard, the former editor of Archant's Somerset Life magazine, is executive editor of the Exeter and Plymouth websites, and operates from The Daily UK headquarters in Exeter city centre.

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