Notes From The Underground - Now 6 Feet Under...

 It is always sad to see a small start up go south. When it comes to media, it is entirely predictable, but still saddening. Why?

Many of us are conditioned to accept mainstream media, yet it is very much a love-hate relationship. We know that with media outlets such as this, that we will get well researched, current news items. However, we are also aware that these outlets can be beholden to motivating commercial interests..whose agendas don't always align with truth.

So it is that, when a new media company is formed, that we are quick to hope that this will now present contemporary news without serving any particular commercial agenda. One of our sponsors, UK estate agent directory Realtor, is a case in such. But there are many that you could likely also name. This was the case with 'notes from the Underground'.

This media entity was formed to rival bigger corporations, whilst realising the need to fill a 'hole in the market', something that broad stroke media had yet to fill. It is important though, to realise that this new media outlet shares a name with, but is not affiliated with, a literary work of the same name. Despite this, the shared name heralded shared goals, that of targeting an educated, upwardly mobile, audience.

The Background On 'Notes From The Underground'

So, when did this new venture begin? It was way back in December 2007, that Notes from the Underground, realising that commanding a fee for an unheralded paper would not work, or would take too long to establish, began a 'free' distribution outside of more than 30 tube stations together with shops and libraries. Why this location?

Notes from the Underground, as it's name suggests, was targeted at those who, whilst riding London underground, would need some sort of intellectual stimulation. As such, the idea of a free paper for travellers seemed like a sound portal to success. To further inspire it's founders, the paper strove to emulate the success of 'The London Paper', a somewhat similar project that had taken off and enjoyed some success.

Take Notes From 'Notes from the Underground'

What Could Possible Go Wrong?

It was clear that the founders of 'notes from the Underground' had done a reasonable amount of market research. They had identified a key market, seen that the business model had been successful elsewhere, and forged a marketing strategy that would give it the best chance of success.

Whilst all of that is sound planning, there were several uncertain factors in the planning. For instance, could it succeed as a local London business if there was no need in the market? Secondly, would the demographics of it's target audience be sufficient enough to allow the paper momentum? What do we mean by this?

Notes from the Underground, whilst targeting tube travelling workers, was not intended to appeal primarily to all of that sector.  Some outlets, including the BBC, felt that it was pitched 'too highly' in comparison to it's peers. It was said that the paper 'would go over the head' of most of it's target audience. In other words, whilst it was intended to be a niche outlet, it's target was too niche.

Needless to say, we should listen to those with more experience than we have. Notes from the Underground didn't pay sufficient attention...and paid the price for that.

Lessons Learned

There does appear to be a niche in the market for entities such as Notes from the Underground. Today's obsession with Conspiracy related outlets shows that large sections of the public want to hear alternate news and views. So, in this case, starting a paper such as this can, and should succeed.

However, to undertake a project of this type should also be done with a fair sprinkle of humility. Setting targets that are lofty is not a wise move for beginners. It is better to take time, get to know your audience, then expand, invest, and to some degree,  gamble on your future success.

Notes from the Underground was a sound idea, the market research supported this. However, as the saying goes 'Eat an elephant one bite at a time'. Should a similar venture begin, it would be wise to not only attempt to fill a niche, but to do so speculatively, carefully, and with humility. 

If it is your goal to initiate a similar project, take notes from 'notes from the underground' and lay the foundation of your success before you build a tower.