Building a media company from scratch


The past 12 months have been up and down, left and right. In this article, I go through the highs and lows of Construction Wave in 2023.

newspaper printing
Credit: Unsplash

Construction Wave launched in May 2022. The first five months were hacked together, I was doing everything myself (and FYI I’m not a journalist). The product was bad, initially…but hey, better to get moving than to stand still, right?

In this article, I’m going to break down what it has been like operating a media company in the construction industry for the last 12 months. If the article does well then I may do it once every quarter. If you enjoy what I have to say, please tell me by email (andrew@wavenews.co.uk). Or, better yet, share it on LinkedIn!

The good

Since January, Construction Wave has gone from 300 website visitors a month to tens of thousands. This is in part due to proper listing on Google. And while web traffic isn’t necessarily our main focus (the newsletter is), most of that growth has happened in the last six months (and it is doubling every month). This is common for a media business – slow audience growth at the start, then it begins to snowball. A combination of great stories we broke, social media sharing campaigns, and word of mouth helped to raise our profile in the industry.

But readership figure growth is somewhat overrated, I think. See, trade publications don’t need huge numbers – they just need the right numbers! I’m proud to say that 75 per cent of our newsletter subscribers are c-suite executives from large infrastructure, housebuilding, and commercial construction companies. We write specifically for this demographic. Everyone is welcome, of course, but just saying.

Granted, we’re still in our infancy, 1.7 years old, and media is a tough business. Nevertheless it’s nice to see that we’re starting to compete with our main industry colleagues and rivals such as Construction News, the Enquirer, Building, and Index. A big shoutout to those companies by the way, they’ve been going for years and a lot of credit is due to them.

The second interesting tidbit is that we are really beginning to pick up steam on LinkedIn. We are literally going viral every week through what we term “champion content”, as part of our marketing and social media strategy. This is where we tell community stories about inspiring leaders across the UK construction industry. Here is our latest viral post about Sir Robert McAlpine. The construction industry needs more of this, and it helps us build audience, so you’ll see a lot more in 2024.

And finally, the crucial point is that we’ve achieved all of this effectively with a one-person editorial team – editor, Rory Butler. Rory is hiring for more reporters at the moment to help us expand our editorial team in 2024. I expect we will have a team of three journalists by mid-2024.

Once our editorial team is fully resourced, I expect traffic, as well as our email list size, to increase significantly.

The challenges  

Now that I’ve gotten all my praise out of the way, let’s talk about the things that haven’t worked so well. The list could go on for a while, I’ve personally made hundreds of errors, but I’ll be brief…

The first thing is that we should’ve started doing events from day one. We are a bootstrapped media business and it’s hard to get digital advertising money for a new media company when your audience is literally zero. Events on the other hand can be monetised instantly through ticket sales and sponsorships. You don’t need to have a big email list or web traffic. You just need to know how to get the right people into a room and offer them value.

The money we could’ve generated from hosting events would’ve been our VC funding and would have allowed us to have grown quicker. However, it’s better to be late than never. And next year we will be hosting the following events:

These won’t be large 10,000-person events. They will be small, intimate, and highly focused. We want to hear what people really have to say.

Another thing that has been challenging is recruitment. We are trying to find the right reporters to join the team to help us grow our editorial output. The construction industry is probably not at the top of the list for a young reporter, but we’ll get there eventually.

So, what’s next? 

Our overall, long-term goal is to become the biggest and best construction media company in the world. The construction industry is one of, if not the biggest industry in the world. But the media side of it is fragmented and we’d like to fix that.

There are millions of construction professionals who want better information to help their careers, and we want to be the place they turn to for news, knowledge, expertise, entertainment, and of course inspiration. That means more industry publications, live and virtual events, web content, and more besides.

In the short-term, our goal is to have 30,000 c-suite execs reading our daily newsletter by June 2024, or (hopefully) much sooner. To get there we’ll continue to improve our daily newsletter, keep building buzz on social media, and driving deeper engagements with our readers (which is you, yes you, the person reading this).

You don’t know what you don’t know

Before I finish, I want to make something clear: I’ve never worked for a newspaper, trade publication or events company before. I’ve a masters in marketing and have worked on advertising campaigns before, but that’s a completely different ball game. It’s like the construction and energy industries – similar but very different ways of operating.

I am looking forward to 2024. We are picking up more and more advertising contracts as the weeks pass and our journalism is going from strength to strength. We hope you feel the same way!

If you want to come on the journey with us, make sure to enter your email on this page and like us on LinkedIn. And if you really like this type of post, please drop me an email (andrew@wavenews.co.uk).

Take care.

Andrew, CEO and founder

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