As many of you will already know we’ve had funding from Channel 4 (4iP fund) and NI Screen to develop this site. Indeed it has been the subject of speculation in certain quarters of the press. So here, at last I hear some of you say, is an outline of what the deal
By far the largest slice of that funding has been spent on development and a smaller amount has gone to Slugger O’Toole Ltd to cover legal costs, project management costs and a few content generation exercises that we have either completed or will complete.
In order to qualify for the funding, we had to establish Slugger O’Toole Ltd as a limited liability company based in Northern Ireland. 4iP and NI Screen want us to develop into a commercially sustainable news and current affairs website that promotes our particular brand of conversational politics.
Just to be clear, 4iP and NI Screen have no editorial input into the site beyond any advice and suggestions they may provide along the way. We are under no obligation to tailor any of our content to suit them or accept any editorial interference from them.
We have, however, agreed to be more businesslike about how we generate revenues from advertising and sponsorship as we have to pay 4iP and NI Screen back in full in the fullness of time by giving them a percentage of revenues. We have not been co-opted into the public sector
We have also developed a consultancy business – Slugger Consults (you may remember we ran a series of open workshops in March – and it provides help and advice to anyone who hires us, though we reserve the right to choose our clients like any other company. We will always declare our interests in the highly unlikely event that we ever agree to write anything on the site for any clients and our consultancy.
Our main business is social media training, web development, advice on online community building and general web / content strategy. We’ve already done some work for a range of public and voluntary sector clients and our role is always to help them use social media to communicate. We will almost never get involved in what they say and when we do, we will declare this interest. We will always declare an interest in the unlikely event that we publicise the work of these clients, though we will of course urge them to join our list of advertisers paying our standard advertising rates (tba). Our key mission is to promote a more interactive polity – to get public figures and institutions to engage more openly with social media audiences.
We have a very small hosting company (in reality just a reseller) called Slugger Hosts that generates small revenues and we’re open to any other online business reseller ideas that we can use to turn the trickle of web-based income into a small flow. Revenues generated by the site (ads etc) will cover our hosting costs, pay back 4iP and NI Screen and generate some small income to cover the time spent working on site management and editorial tasks. But this is unlikely to ever be a significant revenue stream.
On the consulting side, I’m now working with Paul Evans – who occasionally blogs for us – and our aim is to
build a good and sustainable business. We will still do the Slugger Awards and other activities such as PICamp if we can, though these are largely a cost-covering project rather than a profit-making one.
As a limited company, we continue to behave responsibly towards legal threats. Contrary to mischief in the press, Slugger’s attitude towards the quality and content of comments has not been affected in any way by 4iP / NI Screen involvement and this will continue to be the case.
I hope this answers any questions you may have and I’m more than happy to respond to any reasonable questions arising in the comments zone below.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty