– How it all began…

If you’re working within the media industry you will definitely have visited as it is without doubt one of the most influential websites in the Here, owner JOHN THOMPSON tells SellYourStoryUK how its meteoric rise to success has even surprised him…

Where did the idea of come from?

At first wasn’t even a website. It originally started life as a job vacancy summary page on my company website, – which provides news, portrait and conference photography around the UK. At the time I wanted to do less commuting into London and break out of the salary ceiling of fixed freelance day rates. And as a freelance layout/sub-editor, I was looking to build a home-based business commissioning, editing and designing advertising supplements for business-to-business magazines. So I built the site myself and then set up the jobs page on that.

Presumably that jobs page became popular?

Yes it did. The jobs page was intended to drive traffic to my site and hopefully attract publishers who might be interested in my services. But instead it developed a life of its own, attracting a lot of views and interest from recruiters, and so in 1998 I launched the page as a standalone site, The idea was was an online database of current editorial vacancies in the UK. It was free for jobseekers to browse but bona fide journalists could also join the email list to receive a weekly list of vacancies. The website, viewed here as it was back then, covered itself financially as there was a small charge for advertisers and journalists joining the list, which for them was cheaper and more convenient than buying papers or mags every week.

How did you develop the site?

Later that year I added dotJournalism, a news based front end. Incredibly – considering now the website is constantly updated with news – it was only updated monthly. And then we focused our news coverage on online journalism. It was all very new – it was the first UK site of its kind and one of only a handful of sites worldwide to do so.

Did the site grow fast in popularity?

Growth in the early years was actually painfully slow – and in fact over the years I’ve seen many established and similar websites flounder. I did run the site as a sideline to my business in the early years but focused persistence eventually paid off and today it’s a full-time job. I also managed to achieve it without any outside investment or borrowing, managing to keep costs to a minimum. For example, much of the early technology behind the site was either open source or cheap off-the-shelf scripts customised by me. Then, in the early days it was just me with a freelancer writing the news and using some occasional part-time admin support.

And today…

The most dramatic take off for the site in terms of revenue was in 2008 – it was as if the world suddenly woke up to the internet as a major source of information. I do feel proud of the site. Beyond successfully establishing a business to employ me in my home town, my main motivation has been to make a viable business out of the new online model of free-to-read content. It’s been a long journey and it’s still a constant challenge but thanks to a succession of smart people who have passed through our doors over the years, I think we have made a fair fist of it.

Interview with John Thompson, owner of John Thompson, left, is owner of

Vital Statistics: Over 4000 other sites link into the website; 5000 unique visits a day; 13,000 page views (traffic does drop at weekends and in fact actual working day page views regularly hit 20,000 daily.) Twitter (@journalismnews) 45,000 followers.

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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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