One year ago I launched 5Pillarz with my colleague Dilly Hussain because we spotted a gap in the market, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.
We knew that the British Muslim media which existed was either poor quality or in the pocket of one sectarian/political group or another. Or worse – it was closely aligned to the government.
So we wanted to create a professional online platform that would be reliable, up-to-date, controversial, independent and non-sectarian. Above all, we wanted it to feature different points of views from within the Muslim community and to give a platform to grassroots Muslim opinion rather than just the “usual suspects”.
To be honest it was a bit of a leap in the dark. We had no idea if we would attract any readers or how they would react given the fissures which exist in the Muslim community. Most worryingly of all, we had absolutely no money for the project and wondered how long we could keep it afloat.
But one year on we strongly feel that we have, by and large, achieved most of our editorial goals. On the other hand, we have failed to achieve our financial ones.
The good news
Firstly, the good news. We had around 95,000 unique visitors to the site this month and even though this was slightly down on last month’s figures we are still happy because for much of this month only one person was maintaining the site (the other one was getting married!).
So in a nutshell 3-4,000 people are reading 5Pillarz everyday, most of them from the UK but many from all over the world.
Readers appreciate the readability of our articles, the variety of opinion and analysis pieces that we post, and the fact that we aren’t afraid of challenging our audiences instead of just reinforcing their stereotypes.
Our articles are being widely shared on social media and are generating a lot of chatter. We have also attracted the attention of the national media, although I must emphasize that we do not need validation from them – this site is first and foremost for Muslims and their opinion is the only one that really matters to us.
And although we are happy with our editorial achievements so far we are not complacent. We know that our readers want us to post more stories; they feel that some of our articles fall below our usual standards; and they want to see the comments on our forums better moderated.
The bad news
Now for the bad news – it has to be said that financially we have not met our goals so far.
We were hoping that our readers would fund us better than they have. We are attracting around £400-500 a month in advertising and donations and this is just about enough to cover our costs but not enough to spend any money on journalism.
It’s clear that our readers appreciate what we are doing but that does not mean that they will dig deep and support us financially. Many expect online news to be totally free and are not willing to fork out money on it.
So we clearly have to come up with a strategy to generate more money otherwise ultimately we will never be able to grow the site. But in the meantime please do donate to us if you possibly can:
Moreover, whilst we have many willing writers who contribute to our site we have failed to appoint another voluntary journalist who can help us to select, write and upload stories on a daily basis. But in order to really grow the site this is a must.
Anyhow, one year on our cup is definitely half-full and not half-empty. We are well on our way to becoming Britain’s top Muslim website and we are committed to becoming a permanent fixture on the British Muslim landscape.
Our priorities for the future are to:
1. Post more stories.
2. Appoint another journalist.
3. Generate more income.
4. Continue increasing our reader traffic.
5. Develop a mobile phone app.
Insha’ Allah, with your support we can make this happen.