1997 October: Swindon Link launches online

By Roger Ogle - 30 November 2018

Photo ArchiveCommunity

Town Crier calls Link magazine to the internet on 11 October 1997. Pictured with Fred Ferris waving his bell, from left, website designer Mark Yerbury-Hodgeson, the mayoress and mayor of Swindon Sheila and Maurice Fanning, Paul Dunn, web developer, and Roger Ogle, Link magazine publisher

2017 was a year of anniversaries for Link magazine. The March edition reported the thirtieth anniversary of the magazine as a business, launched to coincide with the official opening of Greendown Community School in Grange Park by Princess Anne.

October 2017 marked twenty years since www.swindonlink.com went live. Swindon's town crier the late Fred Ferris announced the event in the traditional way: "Oyez, oyez, oyez, I am called upon to announce the launch of a new world wide web site for Swindon on the internet."

The mayor and mayoress Maurice and Sheila Fanning had their picture taken on one of the first affordable digital cameras which was uploaded before they clicked a button to make the site live.

Since then the digital space has expanded to dominate all forms of communication and commerce. I certainly didn't understand the impact it would have, delivering positive information to all, as well as being exploited for horror and hate.

In 1997 I thought the website would just be another way to access stories from the magazine and that the paper product would continue to be central to the business. Although traditional newspapers have seen their readership greatly diminish and their business model shaken to the core, Link magazine has been sustained through truely disruptive times.

The reason is that the publication has always been free to every home in its target distribution area. And over many years it infiltrated the community to establish a close rapport with organisations, local groups and schools, building a relationship that readers trust. That, in turn, encouraged advertisers to remain with the brand. It's a responsibility to help businesses grow, The Link being the only advertising vehicle for some.

Now, a third edition covering the east side of Swindon will soon be launched, following the second covering Old Town and Wichelstowe which started in 2016.

Success on paper was not replicated online because the possibilities of what could be achieved was not fully understood in the early days. Yet it would have meant major investment of time and money in building online news delivery, diverting attention away from the magazine. Very few have seen a serious return to their online investment, other than the very big players like Google and Facebook which have become vast empires     dominating the media market and indeed influencing how we behave.

However in October 2018, this current iteration of swindonlink.com was launched following a complete, modern redesign to establish the site as a major online force in Swindon.

Read the digitised magazine from 1997 featuring this story

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