New Website For Down News Is a Breathe of Fresh Air

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WELCOME ! Down News will be launching its new news’ website on Friday 8th November.

Down News is launching the new website to mark its first ten years delivering FREE news in County Down.

Jim Masson set up Down News in October 2009 and along with three staff set out to become the first hyperlocal newspaper in Northern Ireland. He opened an office at Down Business Centre and has been there since then.

He said: “I did my market research and found that the existing newspapers had websites but they were pretty inert, so I decided to test the proposition of a hyperlocal blog underpinned by social media as broadband access was improving across the County Down.

“I used Facebook and Twitter as the main pillars and it seemed to work really well. My initial stats on website views showed I was reaching 400 a week then it jumped after a couple of months to 1500 and rose steadily from there to getting several thousand hits a week which was great then.

Jim Masson, who serves up the news, in the Seafish mobile kitchen after his cookery demonstration preparing a seafood provencale to a large crowd of hungry onlookers during Ardglass Festival.

“Initially I set this up as an experiment as I was in the process of developing a photography business, but the news end of it just took my life over. My aim was to be non-political as much as one can be in this country… and I must admit, I’ve struggled with this but I’ve managed to keep that ethos working well and will continue to do so. Down News respects everyone’s views and is happy to engage in the different sides of complex arguments on issues whenever possible. Council meetings are particularly interesting and I do offer a short resume of the full council meeting on SERC radio Down FM 105 with Colm McAlinden on a monthly basis.

“People have really enjoyed the free news concept and my social media expanded enormously. In 2011 I won the former Down District Council Best Use of Social Media spot in the business awards. I among other achievements had reached 570,000 page views on Facebook in my first year. This was a great success for me. And Twitter too proved to be quite popular but certainly more niche.”

But the recession by 2009 really began to bite and like many small businesses, Down News was feeling the pinch. Advertising in the print media had drastically reduced and this has never fully came back to its original level. Jim Masson made an important strategic pivot at this point and re-modelled his business and managed to face the stresses and strains that many small businesses experience and often don’t survive.

Total dedication: in 2017, Jim Masson pictured at the Downe Hospital – he fell at the last hurdle – literally – at Downpatrick racecourse adding a twist to ‘breaking news.’

Jim said: “I’ve never given up. Even when times were very tough and the going was almost brutal, I kept my eye on the vision for the business. With the growth in broadband access to remote areas and more recently the phenomenal growth of 4G in digital and mobile technology, Down News gradually built its audience even further… but was almost hoisted by its own petard.

“While the popularity of Down News increased, the level of technology also rapidly changed and slowly the Down News website was becoming less mobile responsive due to technical limitations. I then recently commissioned a new site which is now mobile friendly, and I know the Down News surfers will enjoy this improvement with increased accessibility. It has taken quite a long time to get the new site to the launch stage as there were a lot of articles and images to move and links to sort out. But I’m confident now the delay was for the better.

“I really enjoy covering community-based and business features as there are so many really interesting people out there across County Down. It is difficult to respond all of the time to all of the requests but I do my very best and stretch myself as far as I can. It never ceases to amaze me some of the trials and tribulations people face in their lives. We are surrounded by nothing short of heroes who really go out of their way to make a difference to other peoples’ lives… they have to be commended for that.”

As a committed life-long learner, Jim has, as a mature student at QUB, Belfast, completed a 2.1 BA Honours and followed this up with a Diploma in Rural development with a distinction, and only last year graduated from Ulster University with an Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise. And also he has been a regular attender of business enterprise seminars, many organised by Newry Mourne and Down District Council and local development agencies such as Down Business Centre and Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency. He has also attended several courses run by Dundalk Chamber of Commerce.

Jim added: “Down News is very much a community project and as such sustainability is important to keep it going. I appreciate every penny I receive from advertising and from my photography services which I also provide, and hopefully from a business perspective the new website will generate more revenue so I can develop Down News to its next level and create a couple of jobs.

“I am enormously grateful to everyone who has sent in articles and photos and helped me on my journey and who has helped make Down News work.

“And now with the new site up and running – after a few tweeks – I hope to literally Get Down To Business!

A breathe of fresh air.

Facebook: @downnews

Twitter #downnewsltd

Instagram: DOWNNEWS

  • jim@downnews.co.uk
  • mob: 07855545873 office: 028 44 615690.