Cafe Vertue. Photography by Kristoffer Paulsen.
Stumbled across a hidden, happening haunt recently? You can bet your bottom dollar it’s in Broadsheet. Chances are the online city guide and quarterly rag even made it ‘happen’. This culture bible is the harbinger of queues, the bringer of buzz, and the reason Collective HQ’s post-deadline drinks are now all the cosier (in the wake of announcing our favourite Japanese cocktail bar, the tiny Tokyo Bird, had “landed”).
“What’s really important to us is authenticity – places that are original and aren’t trying to be anything else,” says Sydney editor, Sophie McComas. “Trends come and go, but we really want to support the people that are at the front of those trends, who are setting the trends, who are not just following the pack and creating a bar-by-numbers kind of thing.”
And because of this, Broadsheet has built a reputation on being ‘in the know’… but not ‘know-it-alls’. “We don’t cover everything,” Sophie continues. “Just the best of what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne. We don’t want to blast you with 100 given events on every night, we just want to show you the good ones.”
Tokyo Bird. Photography by Alana Dimou.
Founded by Nick Shelton in 2009, Broadsheet’s readership grew by more than 15 per cent per month in its first year-and-a-half, before expanding coverage to Sydney in 2011 – the same year Bank of Melbourne signed on as their first major advertiser. “The entire thing was a huge challenge,” Nick maintains, despite the speedy success. “It was a challenge to grow an audience, it was a challenge for advertisers to take us seriously and for them to realise that we could deliver value, [and] it was a challenge for the industry to take us seriously… We were kind of occupying our own space at the time.”
It was during his post-graduation stint in the UK that Nick spawned the idea of an “independent and authoritative” online city guide. “I was in London as a 21-year-old thinking, ‘how am I going to get the most out of this city?’ Because there was no online guide, really no publication at all, other than TimeOut, talking about it. When I got back to Australia a few years later, everyone was talking about what cafès they were going to, and restaurants were opening every second week… the city was really vibrant in Melbourne. I thought, ‘there needs to be a publication online that covers this – that speaks about it, and lets people know what’s happening’. So that was it.”
What he lacked in industry experience Nick made up for in chat – talking to as many people as possible and banding together a talented troupe. “My role as a publisher has never been about my skillset,” he says, “it’s always been about recognising and pulling together a team, setting a shared vision and having those people work towards it.”
Broadsheet depends on a network of “plugged-in” contributors. “And we have very very experienced bartenders, designers and artists that write for us,” Sophie chimes in, “People that have a lot to say and are experts in their field, to give a bit more weight to what we’re writing about.”
And the team call it as they see it, cutting through the sometimes overexcited noise of PR spin. “I think that’s something we try to weed out of our writers,” she laughs, before adding that they’re only allowed one exclamation point per 500 words. “We just want to cut the bullsh*t, you know? And get straight to the point. Not every place is the best place in town, it is what it is. We just want to keep it clear, and keep it cool.”
The Powder Keg. Photography by Mitch Lui.
Broadsheet’s aesthetic also sets the publication apart, serving up a veritable feast for the eyes. “We only shoot places when they’re full of people, buzzing and really atmospheric,” says Sophie. “We represent the place at its peak, [using] beautiful imagery, which I think we’ve really led the field in.”
And while a picture may say a thousand words, Broadsheet’s tone manages to strike a healthy balance between informative and fun. Two tones, at that. “Sydney Broadsheet has a different feel through its content than Melbourne does,” says Nick, “and it’s not because we approach it differently, it’s just because we’ve allowed the cities to speak, and have their own personality and character.”
Last year also saw the arrival of Scout, a jobs site servicing the hospitality, retail and creative industries, launched in response to their community. “We’d be talking to our industry friends in restaurants, cafès and bars, asking them things like, ‘what’s the biggest challenge you have?’, and time and time again we kept hearing that finding good staff was really difficult. The existing jobs platforms weren’t working for them… and I would say, ‘well, would you pay to advertise, or introduce your job to our audience?’ And they would say, ‘Yes! The chef that I’m looking for, of course they’re reading Broadsheet!’”
As for what’s next, Nick assures that launching in other states is “always a possibility”, also hinting at digital features, events, pop-ups and printed books. On his success, he responds with true, Broadsheet candour: “Persistence, of course, helps. Taking the risk in the first place helps. But I would say it’s more about having a clear vision… and putting together a great team of people that know their sh*t.”
Minamishima. Photography by Peter Tarasiuk.
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