Thursday 28 January 2021

My experience working with a hyperlocal pioneer – Alan Evans

We run 6 news sites, 5 hyperlocals, one national news, and a Talk Radio

I first met Alan Evans (editor of Llanelli Online) in 2018 he was at the time involved in compiling a half-hour video on Jim Griffiths, the former MP for Llanelli and Charter Secretary of State for Wales. He came to my home, full of exuberance and ideas. His journalistic, camera work and broadcasting skills stood out immediately.

He ran the business from a small room adjacent to the kitchen in his then home in Pontyates and I was immediately impressed with his set up and know how the few times I visited him a year later, in the summer of 2019. What was also a surprise to me was that were always two and sometimes three media students helping him and ‘learning the trade’ as it were.

As we talked during the summer months I became more and more interested in his ideas and particularly taken by his determination, work rate, skills, professionalism, and vision for journalism in Wales.

I had run my own business for 20 years and knew full well what it takes and the commitment involved. Come the autumn there was a small office in John Street Llanelli where I started volunteering, not on any significant scale but more as a colleague to assist in the future planning and development of the business. At times he endeavoured to teach me some extra IT skills so that I could be of more help on the journalism and broadcasting side. At my age the lessons were hard but with Alan’s perseverance, I became quite adept and valued as a member of his team.


To cut a long story short since the early spring of 2020 I have become more involved and my contribution has broadened from being of assistance with business development, dealing with press release content, and covering the Welsh language side of the by now six online sites. We also have a partnership agreement, which Alan handed me as a thank you for my contributions.

To be honest I wasn’t too much into ‘community’ news and the term ’hyperlocal’ was new to me – I was familiar with ‘hypermarket’! But by now I fully realise the importance of hyperlocal news and the value of this public news service we now provide.    

Increasingly over the last five years, if not longer, hard copies of weekly local papers have been in serious decline. Indeed many have ceased publishing I daresay that the coronavirus pandemic will add further to that decline. Weekly newspapers, once so dominant in the communities of Wales, have suffered enormously and many are a pale shadow of their former selves and indeed many have gone to the wall. Even daily national and regional papers have seen their print sales significantly decrease and as a result, they have been increasingly switching to online publishing and very recently emulating Alan’s pioneering hyperlocal style.

Increasingly as the ‘bigger boys’ turn to a variant of the hyperlocal and the result is that this development places greater financial pressure and presents a competitive challenge to the original ‘community’ independent groupings. I fear that unless we’re careful it could become the same old story, as in so many other sectors of business, when the bigger companies notice something going well, developing and expanding they then muscle in.

Hyperlocals contribute greatly to community news and participation, they add to the essential task of holding authority to account, encouraging wider involvement and campaigning, giving communities a voice, covering local stories and events, reflecting cultural identity, and promoting civic life and pride. They also fill the gaps in news provision so obviously lacking even from the giant BBC.

I came across that most vividly covering the General Election 2019 from Selwyn Samuel Centre. Llanelli Online and Wales News Online in-depth reporting and live interviews on the night were of a high order. There were candidates interviewed that otherwise would never have received any coverage.

These smaller, independent, entrepreneurial businesses by now play an important part in ensuring a thriving news sector in Wales. It is vital that they are no longer put at a disadvantage because they find it difficult to access the same level of funding and support, as so often is the case when compared to the traditional newspapers and broadcast media, which can dominate and influence too much of the scene in Wales.

We run 6 news sites, 5 hyperlocals, one national news, and a Talk Radio

Our visitor figures at the end of 2020 were as follows:

Llanelli Online: launched July 2016.Total 3,505,506 visitors. 792k in 2020 (68k per month)

Wales News Online: Launched April 2019. Total 1,114,258 visitors. 519k in 2020 (44k per month)

Ceredigion Online: Launched November 2020. Total to date 33,300 visitors

Carmarthenshire Online: Launched November 2020 Total to date 17,000 visitors

Pembrokeshire Online: Launched December 2020 and is slowly gaining a following

Swansea Online: Launched December and attracted 10,000 visitors by mid-January.

Llanelli Talk Radio: Launched mid-2020 120k session listeners in 115 countries

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and video channel with over 25k followers

We have built a very successful news model for Wales and we have advised others in the industry to share our experiences openly. We maintain that Wales needs 4 regional hubs for news production and training and we see ourselves as being able to fulfill the role for a South West Wales hub.

Alan and his wife Angharad have a working day that can be up to 15 hours such is the volume of news we process. My daily input is much less in time than that. We also run a 24/7 online radio station, which has taken off and is gathering a large audience. We promote the Welsh language throughout our service. We do not have any political agenda. We maintain plurality publishing news from all political parties with no preference at all.

We process hundreds of PR’s from sources across Wales but we also actively seek out news from within each of the communities and from organisations embedded in the communities like the NFU, Cylch Meithrin, Schools, colleges, Local Businesses, RNLI stations, RSPCA. We also take content from other news agencies, former journalists, and the BBC Local Democracy Reporters Service.

We have given placements to students from several universities, all of whom have gone on to find work in the industry.

Because of Covid our advertising, which was increasing in 2019, has suffered. We now face an uncertain 2021 unless we can secure some funding.

The pervasive view of businesses and those who wish to advertise or publicise is that the newspaper is the place to do so. They still get public notices, part of the NHS advertising budgets, and other notices we are excluded from They too benefit from the supply from the BBC local democracy service.

I find it intriguing that old habits die hard. The 3,000 printed copies of a local newspaper is more often than not the preference of many when it comes to advertising, even though online news outlets such as ours cover well over one hundred thousand visitors a month. What is more, advertisements appear within every news story.

We have had a modest amount of funding from the Welsh Government, which came in two tranches and was greatly appreciated by us all.

The first tranche was in the autumn of 2019 supporting hyperlocals. We used the majority of the money to fund two new members of staff and open an office in the centre of Llanelli. When the funding ended and news of the pandemic emerged it was clear that the office had to close. So using our own resources we set up a very professional studio operating from Alan Evans’s home in Mynydd y Garreg.

Despite all the difficulties the commitment and enthusiasm that we have has resulted in us opening four new online sites in late 2020 for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Swansea/Neath Port Talbot. In two short months, visitors to those sites exceed 60 k. The studio uses cutting edge technology and it could be said that what most are experiencing, having to work from home and interview online is something Alan was trying to persuade the media industry and the offices of public servants to do all those years ago. His operation has been described as a hyperlocal beacon by the Independent Community News Network and was invited to become a board member of that organization.

Despite the setbacks and the far from a level playing field we have stuck with it and adapted to make use of whatever we could to maintain a very valued hyperlocal and national news service for the people of Wales.



Monday 25 January 2021

 Its high time the Welsh Government and Senedd Members step up to the plate

Future generations will not forgive us if we walk away from our heritage.

It is the failure of today’s politicians to appreciate and understand the enormous sacrifices made by generations of working people decades ago that quite frankly appalls me.

It is a travesty that the National Library of Wales is facing cuts to its services and staffing that a previous National Librarian has said could mean the end of the institution.

Anyone that has visited and or used the services of the National Library can but marvel at what a jewel in Wales’ cultural crown the institution is. Set in a commanding site overlooking Aberystwyth with outstanding facilities. It’s a national library, education centre, art gallery, map library, music archive, national archive, photo library and television archive holding the folk memory of Wales on behalf of the people.

The Library budget has been frozen for a decade, which when considering inflation, it has been cut by some 40%. Over the years it has lost 100 staff and now the current round of cuts will see the loss of a further 30 jobs, mainly in curatorial roles and those related to access. This represents 15% of the workforce and comes on top of a reduction of 30% in the last decade

The story of the last decade therefore had been repeated restructuring. Just like other public services staff pay was frozen for 5 years, but it still has managed to keep core services in operation and prioritise acquisition, cataloguing, digitisation and access.

It was established in 1909 thanks to generous contributions from the regular working people of Wales and was given its first government support by David Lloyd George. It is the failure of today’s politicians to appreciate and understand the enormous sacrifices made by generations of working people decades ago that quite frankly appalls me.

It is frankly unbelievable that staffing levels will return to a level even Margaret Thatcher’s government thought unsustainable to run a limited access national library

A report commissioned by the Welsh Government recognised that the Library was underfunded for its present role and needed to invest further to meet the challenges of the digital future

It said that changes would be needed, but what is happening isn’t a restructure to help our National Library serve the people of Wales better, it’s a bonfire of culture and history.

In the last 20 years it has transformed from a closed institution where you needed a letter of recommendation to study to a truly pioneering service with collections and exhibitions open to all, an education service to help support school children and an outreach programme which has taken works of art out to communities across the country. It was a huge cultural change with a massive shake up of the structure and services to meet the demands of the digital age and the agenda of opening the Library and its collections to those who really own them.

It’s digitised millions of items and made them available free of charge for people across Wales and the world to use; photographs of life in Wales during the Second World War letters home from soldiers in the First World War, historic manuscripts, maps, works of art, and a century of Welsh newspapers. This work is now all under threat.

According to Andrew Green, cuts of this nature means that the Library means that there won’t be enough staff left to keep essential services running (

The plan seen by unions shows that there will be no digitization except for broadcast material, a cut of between 20% and 40% in collecting and much more restricted outreach and exhibitions.

The photographs showing the Greenham Common protest, posters, and leaflets from the Miners’ Strike, letters sent home from soldiers in the Second World War, and newspapers detailing life in Wales during the Great Depression will remain locked in their storage.

Even seeing those items in Aberystwyth will be more difficult. The enquiries service and reading room services will be disbanded and replaced with a much more restricted service by appointment only and on a part-time basis.

Without a fair budget, even this sad shell of a national library will only survive another few years until the next inevitable round of cuts. But by then, there may be nothing left to save.

The expert staff will be gone and valuable records of Welsh life will either have been sold overseas or thrown in the bin.

The unions at the Library are asking for the support of the public to show the Welsh Government how much they value the Library.

It’s clear from the response to the campaign that the people of Wales care about their National Library- the petition now has over 10,000 signatures and this means that the Senedd will consider a debate on the issue, but we still need your help.

Future generations will not forgive us if we walk away from our heritage.

Please help in as many ways as you can:

·         Sign and share the petition on the Welsh Parliament website at

·         Write to your Member of the Senedd to ask them to call for fair funding of our National Library. You can find your Senedd Members at

·         Contact the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language (Eluned Morgan and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism (Dafydd Elis-Thomas to ask them to act on the review of the Library that they commissioned and to provide the extra funding


You can follow the campaign on Twitter