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Newsmakers with Broadsheet's Nick Shelton

He's behind Australia's go-to city guide, and we talk to him about why he did it...

Getting to know our Newsmakers…

G’day, and welcome to our first series of interviews that we’re calling Newsmakers.

Since launching News Club in February, we’ve had terrific feedback about the content you’ve found useful and interesting. The focus on one big news topic each week via our Club Picks that points you to the best journalism we’ve found has gone down well with Squizers. We hope you’re one of them, and we’ll keep doing that each Monday.

Today’s newsletter is a little different… Drumroll please - this is the first of our limited series called Newsmakers.

Just on our thinking behind it. You’re a Squizer so you know that quality journalism is essential - but it’s a challenging time, so this series is about the people behind the news you consume to bring you closer to the action. From journalists to editors to media entrepreneurs to producers, I talk to them about their approach and what makes them so committed to what they do.

This week, we start with Nick Shelton, the publisher and CEO of Broadsheet

Your friend in news

Kate Watson

Introducing this week’s Newsmaker: Nick Shelton from Broadsheet

If you want to know where to eat, see the latest exhibition, do something great - basically have a great experience in any of our cities - Broadsheet is the place to find it.

Here at The Squiz, we’ve got to know Nick Shelton as a fellow Digital Publishers Alliance (DPA) member and through his advocacy for independent media in Australia.

Nick is an impressive entrepreneur and leader, but he has his concerns… In my chat with Nick, we discuss how he goes about his beat - culture, hospitality, community and events - and the lingering impact the pandemic has had on the sector and Australians’ behaviour. 

We also talk about the significant challenges his business faces with the threat that Meta could remove news from their platforms - a significant source of traffic and revenue for Broadsheet. And he’s worried about big tech and its impact on our society more broadly.

I was buoyed by his honesty and vulnerability and his unwavering commitment to the importance of getting out and about and having great experiences as an antidote to loneliness. 

But for me, the most exciting thing my chat with Nick offers is that his concerns are relatable - going out, buying things, being on social media, and ‘googling’ information.

This stuff affects all of us. 

You can watch the video of our conversation below, listen to the full podcast interview, or keep going to read some interview highlights.

Nick Shelton on…

How he got started and the Broadsheet approach

Nick Shelton: So I guess as a sort of a plucky naive 25yo, I just started this brand. I borrowed $20,000 from the bank, which was enough to build a website and get a logo and an identity made, and I went for it. I just started very slowly, and I'd write some content, and then some friends would write some content. We got an audience. We finally got a little bit of advertising that allowed me to hire an editor. We had more audience, then I hired an ad sales guy. And then it sort of snowballed from there, and 15 years later, it's still snowballing.

Kate Watson: I mean, you're in every city now across Australia. I'm interested in the way that you talked about the fact that most of the reviews and most of the work the old media were doing in culture and in hospitality was paid. How does Broadsheet approach that?

NS: So we, when we're covering the city, we take our credibility very seriously. So we don't take money from restaurants or from the sort of the cultural world in, in any sense … we don't take money for comment.

On the impact of the pandemic and the tricky economic times that have followed

KW: Initially, we were thinking COVID would be maybe a few months than we thought, maybe a year and then it ended up being 2 years. And I mean, you really were in the thick of it in Melbourne. Do you feel like it's recovered?

NS: No, I think we had the actual, you know, quote-unquote ‘official period’. Then there was this spike of optimism and excitement, and everyone was out spending all the money they'd saved up. But then, the hospitality and cultural industries ride on the consumer confidence was curtailed by the amount of money that people feel like they can spend … So we're seeing business do it really tough out there, and I hope that turns around really quickly.

KW: What are you seeing the first thing to go from your audience? What is the first thing they don't do anymore?

NS: Well, what we're hearing is it's probably less frequency in terms of their going out, whether it's a restaurant or the theater. Instead of going to the theatre 3 times a year, they go twice a year or once a year.

On loneliness and social media

NS: I was reading an article in The Economist about why Southern Europeans live longer, and one of the hypotheses in this piece was that they all live around piazzas and squares, and it's that social interaction and community cohesion that actually leads to longer life expectancy. And I was thinking about that through the lens of we now have food delivery services where you eat your noodles or curry or whatever it is in front of the TV. I think about how sad that is. Go out and have a bowl of pasta even if you're by yourself, and talk to the waiter - just interact and engage with your community. It's really a sort of core tenant of everything I believe in and certainly Broadsheet is about just getting out and about and spending time amongst it.

KW: How big of a contributor do you think social media is to that? There's so much around, about people being lonely. issues around mental health…

NS: It's not my theory, it's just what the data is telling us really clearly. I think social media has a lot to answer for … If we're glued to our phones the whole time and we think we're interacting with our community and our social group through the phones … but it's so different to sitting down and having a cup of coffee with a friend.

Tell us what you think…

Have you cut back on going out in the last couple of years?

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PS: Got questions? Just hit reply. You can also DM us on Insta @thesquiz.

Why we’re doing this Newsmaker series

It's a tricky time for news publishers… We’re a proudly independent media business that values news - so we want to showcase people and businesses to bring you closer to the discussion about why supporting professionally produced content matters.

And while we have you, there’s one way you can support us - and that’s by getting your people on board the Squiz train. It can be as simple as forwarding this newsletter on to someone who might enjoy it - and given we're talking about hospitality and culture maybe it's your wine club, dinner crew or even your local barista.

Or, if you know someone who's interested more broadly in the media and news, get them to sign up for the News Club newsletter; that way, they won’t miss a thing. By sharing your unique link, we'll know you sent 'em our way. Merci buckets.

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