On 1 September 2015, The Early Hour launched: a digital lifestyle and parenting magazine for night-feeders and early risers. Since then, it has been viewed nearly 1 million times. The editor, Annie Ridout, shares her learnings…
I cannot quite believe that The Early Hour has been up and publishing for two whole years. That is two thirds of my daughter’s life. My seven-month-old son has had to share me with my laptop since his birth – he has never known me without this third ‘baby’.
It launched on 1 September – after a summer of planning and building the website – because this time of the year always feels like the ‘start’ of something. It must be left over from returning to school after the summer holidays, as a child.
September also signals the start of autumn. The weather is cooler, summer holidays peter out, people return to work. Barbecue parties and garden gatherings come to an end. We start planning for Bonfire Night and (dare I say it) Christmas.
The Early Hour, to me, is about new beginnings. It was the start of me committing to working from home, so that I could be around for our daughter (and now our son, too). It’s about the beginning of the day: the early morning, 5am – when the articles are published.
But most importantly, it launched after I embarked on my motherhood journey. Without the birth of my daughter, it wouldn’t have ever come into fruition. The birth of my son enabled me to see motherhood in a new light again.
If I hadn’t become a mother, I’d probably have created something feminist; just for women. But I’m delighted that one third of The Early Hour’s readers are men (dads). And I hope that my strong sexual equality beliefs do still come through in the content.
Now, briefly, a bit about what I’ve learned in the past two years. This is divided into sections: parenting, people, publishing, PR…
It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your position in life is (rich, poor; single, married, separated; from the UK or abroad; gay, straight, bi; of any race or religion) – you will find parenting challenging at times.
Growing, birthing and raising a child is a mammoth task. You will probably have little idea about the magnanimity of it until you actually embark on it. Hopefully, you’ll also get some enjoyment from it – it really can be joyful, at times.
But for some people it is, of course, harder. Those people need support, not judgement. They need their stories to be heard. I do my best to seek out those who might not usually be given a platform; and to give them one…
Everyone has a story to tell.
The Muslim mother from Pakistan who migrated to America and is excluded from playdates, as no one wants their children to mix with her son. The father of four daughters (including twins) whose candid take on parenting has gained him over 600k Instagram followers.
The woman whose husband died from alcoholism, leaving her with two sons to raise – who can’t work out if she’s sad or relieved. The same-sex couple who conceived their son via surrogacy. The woman who carried their baby.
Celebrity chef Anna Jones, Guardian columnist Tim Dowling, dance music group Rudimental’s DJ Locksmith, the poet Hollie McNish, footballer Jack Collison, Arianna Huffington, kids’ book author Dame Jacqueline Wilson.
I’m on a mission to tell as many stories as I can.
When I started out, I was thinking about viewing figures a lot. I still am. But there came the realisation, early on, that focusing only on people with celebrity status or a large following on Instagram was not only a bit boring, but actually quite pointless as they rarely share it with their audience.
Instead, I decided to interview people that I found interesting. I then narrowed this down to (mostly) parents, as The Early Hour’s readers are 90% mums and dads. And it’s about reading something you can relate to, or want to better understand…
The interesting and adventurous parenting experiences that make you feel inspired. The devastating situations people find themselves in, that perhaps a friend or family member is also experiencing. The stories of succeeding when faced with adversity.
If readers find it interesting, illuminating, shocking, funny or scary – they will share it. This is how content goes viral. Not by you securing a big name. You want loads of people sharing it with everyone – not one person sharing it with their limited fans.
Lastly, if you want to make money from publishing content, it’s totally possible through advertising. Find the brands you like, contact them, offer them custom content and see who bites. Most won’t, some will. Stay true to your values in terms of who you promote. In time, brands will come looking for you.
There is no easy way to get the word out or promote your magazine, blog or website. It involves hard work and continuously trying new things – many of your ‘amazing’ ideas will fail, some will succeed.
Work out what your ‘story’ is – what makes you, as the owner/founder/CEO, intriguing? Decide which other magazines, newspapers, websites will be interested in your story. And pitch it to the right person, in the right section. Get their email address, use their first name.
Doing this got me coverage in The Sunday Times, an article in The Guardian, and mentions and Q&As on lots of other smaller blogs and websites. Also, tell your story on social media then others will pick it up. Be honest, be real… that’s what people like best.
That’s it from me. But first, I’d like to say a big, fat THANK YOU for supporting me and The Early Hour. I’ve had countless beautiful emails and messages on social media from you lovely lot (and a few not so lovely ones – but these are, thankfully, rare).
You, the readers, are what keeps me doing this. If there were no readers, there would be no point. It would just be an online diary. Though this is also helped by an ever-growing pool of brilliant contributors who provide loads of great content. For this, I’m extremely grateful.
There are lots of exciting projects in the pipeline: a podcast, a book, a series of coffee mornings, some big changes to the website. But other than that, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing (not sleeping, eating or engaging with my kids so that I can provide articles)… And I hope you’ll continue reading.
If you ever fancy a chat about mornings or parenting, to collaborate, would like a consultation on something business or PR-related, or to tell me what you love or hate about The Early Hour – get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to another two years, and the next 1 million views…
Photo credit: the two images of Annie Ridout are by Emily Gray Photography