Entrepreneur and Broadsheet Director Nick Shelton speaks with the Plato Project as part of an ongoing ‘Ask me anything’ series on The Dialogue.
Shelton launched Broadsheet at a time when the media industry was undergoing massive transformation. Since then, Australia’s go-to city guide has expanded from Melbourne to Sydney as well as launching pop-up restaurants, cook books and diversifying into the job-search market with Scout.
The man behind, arguably, “the most powerful magazine in Australia” fields our questions.
What was the commercial environment Broadsheet faced when you launched in 2009?
Broadsheet launched in a pretty different commercial environment to the one we operate in today. In 2009 the media space was in the processes of being flipped on its head and nobody had really figured out how to make a digital business model stack up yet.
The market consisted mostly of, on the one side, large established media players such as Fairfax and News, who were still very print-centric, and on the other side, a plethora of blogs, mostly run by hobbyists.
If you were an existing media company, with existing cost structures, it was a very difficult time. If you were entering the market, like we were, it was an opportunity to build a business model from the ground up.
The opportunity was to enter the market as a commercial independent, who could deliver professional level content, build a scale audience and provide value to commercial partners. All while remaining small and nimble enough to manage costs, innovate and respond quickly to the shifting market.
Seven years later it’s a much more competitive market segment and the barriers to entry are building up again.
How did you carve a niche, and what did you do differently?
Broadsheet was a response to what I saw as a gap in the market. People in Melbourne were interested in life in their city – restaurants and cafes, art and design, entertainment and fashion – but nobody was really covering this thriving culture, especially online. So we started by just doing that and people reacted very positively.
We succeeded because we understood digital better than the established media players and we were able to build an audience, a brand and a strong commercial offering before they were able to try and respond.