We started Newspaper Club a year ago. What have we learned?
The slog is longer and sloggier than we could ever have known. It’s truly true that the ideas are the easy bit. The hard bit is fixing all the details, tidying up the edges, building, then rebuilding, then rebuilding again. Hitting a deadline, then the next one, then the next one. (Fortunately it’s made worthwhile by the papers that people make. That’s been the most satisfying thing – the lovely papers people have made.)
It helps a lot to have some pictures. We got pictures of papers properly shot by a proper photographer. It makes a difference.
ARTHR isn’t just a means to an end, it’s a marvellous invention that’s genuinely made new things possible – and we could do more with it than just newspapers.
The internet makes lots of things easier, but as soon as you have customers you’re dealing with people. And people have strange questions, interesting ideas and unpredictable problems. So you need someone nice to talk to them. Similarly, you end up talking to people at other businesses and they need someone who speaks their language. So getting Gary and Anne on board was a very good idea.
We’ve been incredibly lucky. If we succeed in any way it won’t be because of hard work and talent it’ll be because we were lucky. We’re lucky to have generous friends who’ve helped us a lot, we’re lucky to have met just the right backers early on. We’re lucky to have enthusiastic and understanding customers. Many other people could have done this, there’s nothing special about us. We’ve met quite a few start-up people in this process, the best ones seem to recognise the importance of luck and have read The Black Swan, the worst ones seem to think it was all down to them. We’d beg to differ. Making something that people want to buy and selling it to them for a more than it costs to make. That seems to be a good basis for a business. More internet businesses should try that. It means that we’ve been making cash since Week One. Actual cash money. Multiples of thousands of pounds. That’s helpful.
We don’t explain ourselves well enough. Lots of the bits of the business are obvious to us, because we’re involved every day. So we get surprised when people ask how many pages there are in a 12-page newspaper, but it’s not necessarily obvious. We’re going to be rolling more explanations out on the site. Give people more help. Explain the process differences between black and white and colour more clearly. All that.
And, overall, we’re glad we started. We’re not at a point, yet, where we can retire and live off Newspaper Club, but we’ve put it in the world and it works. If we all fell under a bus it would still work, still keep going and people would get to make their own newspapers. That’s a nice feeling.