“We sent our reporter down to a trendy cafe in Dublin’s city centre to meet Leo Sherlock, the Director of TheLiberal.ie”
Sherlock, a 33-yr-old online entrepreneur, has spearheaded The Liberal, a news website that has garnered over 200,000 Facebook followers quicker than any other Irish website has ever done before! They’ve over 1.5 million readers a month, a strong team, nationally recognised brand and very active public forums on their website and social media pages.
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Our reporter put the businessman through his paces to find out exactly how he managed such a feat.”

The Liberal is Irelands fastest growing news websites in Ireland and we had some time to chat to Leo Sherlock so here is a tell all about the Liberal.ie sit back and enjoy the read.

1: What is TheLiberal.ie – what’s the vision/ambition for it?
The Liberal is the newest, fastest growing and one of the biggest news websites in Ireland. I’ve always been interested in the media world – how it operates, the way in which the media can help to shine a light on particular topics of concern, encourage people to express themselves and really take an interest in the type of society they want to live in.

With the advent of the internet, and the decline of traditional media, an online publication was the obvious step.  I like the idea of being able to reflect what’s happening in the country at a given moment without having to wait for tomorrow’s headlines.  For example, The Liberal has been very involved in providing reports and opinions on the ongoing crisis at Irish Water, and it’s been very encouraging to see how eager people are to get involved in a debate like that.

The Liberal is made up of a fusion of technology, media and politics/current affairs. I’ve always loved technology, and always knew that’s what I wanted to be involved in. From an early age, I knew I wanted to be self-employed. When I got my first computer at 13, I spent hours teaching myself how to program and master various computer languages, from there, I moved on to Web Design in college and instantly connected best with it.

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2: How is it different from other online news sites?
The site takes its name from the true meaning of classical liberalism. It’s a news, discussion, and opinion site that offers news analysis of current affairs in Ireland and abroad. It tackles contentious subjects and enables a platform for people to voice their opinion on controversial topics that were not previously being covered in the media. Its aim is to bring to the fore topics that either weren’t being discussed or were too unbalanced, without being chastised or branded in doing so.

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4: You have great traction on social media, how was this achieved?
There are obviously some strategies that all new entities use to establish their place in the market – some initial investment in publicity, making use of promotional tools on Facebook and other online platforms. That has helped us certainly. But I think the real reason The Liberal has grown so quickly in such a short period of time is that it really is something new. For a long time, the Irish media world has been sorely lacking a place where different opinions can be aired.  We’ve heard people talking about “groupthink” – where every publication gives the same opinion, almost as if they’re afraid to say something that might be considered mildly controversial or even different. I think that’s really contributed to the decline of the public’s interest in some regard – there’s a sense that if you know what certain commentators are going to say, there’s really no need to read their article or buy their publication. The Liberal isn’t like that. We’re not afraid to post opinions that will generate real debate and the public respect us for it. I’ve always felt that the Irish public are extremely intelligent, but they’re often not credited with that intelligence by the rest of the media. They have a whole range of opinions on every subject under the sun, and The Liberal gives them a place to really get involved, listen to some new thoughts on old subjects, and then make up their own mind on how they feel.

5: Who are the people behind the venture?
Right from the beginning, we’ve had no problem getting people involved with The Liberal.  There’s been huge interest and we’re literally inundated with people who want to write for us.  I’m more inclined to let things develop organically at the moment because that suits the nature of the site. It’s something which has really grown out of a public interest for a different way of doing things.  So we welcome contributions from writers who have something to say.  At the same time, we have a number of reporters who keep us up to the minute with current news stories from Ireland and around the world.

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6: Do you accept contributions from other writers, and if so, what topics would be of interest?

We welcome contributions from writers, particularly opinion pieces. The Liberal has rapidly become acknowledged as the go-to publication for alternative views. We offer our readers something that wasn’t on the table before, a different angle, a different vision, and interesting opinions with compelling arguments.

7: What is the site’s business model?
The site is quite unique in the sense that we revolutionised the growing stage of a website. We strategically used social media to quickly grow our readership and thus became a nationally known entity within 6 months. Our Facebook page currently stands at 180,000 and rising weekly. We paved our own way rather than follow suit. So far – so good!
A combination of things has helped us get to where we are. Our team, our articles and our strategy have ensured we feature daily on NewsWhip.com – the website that shows the most read and shared articles in the country.
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8. You say you’re a “social media newswire” – explain?
The Liberal prides itself on being the first of its kind to be such a newswire in Ireland. I realised a few years ago that the trend for websites, but specifically for online newspapers in America, that people were flocking in their droves to the news site via a link presented to them on social media. Twitter remains part of this game, but Facebook really is and will always be the King. Again, I realised that people wanted to be part of a public forum, a group, not only to voice their own opinion, but to see what others thought too.
The Liberal has managed to successfully cover all these quarters. People see a news story or article in their newsfeed; they tap into it, read the article and comment about it on the website itself, Facebook or Twitter page. It’s an efficient, perfect formula and it works brilliantly.

 

9: You “come from a right-of-centre/libertarian standpoint”. Do you think the libertarian view of things is under represented in Ireland?

Yes, before TheLiberal.ie was launched, there really was no publication offering the views we espouse. The media in Ireland, generally speaking, stems from a leftist position – which is fine, only that we rightly felt it didn’t encompass many people’s views. The Liberal has filled the void. We are officially the fastest growing website in the country and have a range of ideas and avenues which we’re currently developing.
10: What are your own favourite sites and platforms, and what kind of people/writers inform your thinking on matters?
Obviously Facebook is the most extraordinary platform of my generation. It is arguably the most dramatic development in communications since the printing press. It has superseded any previous or subsequent social media platform. The ability to ‘like’ a page and potentially become friends with somebody on that page, perhaps from a remote place on the other side of the world, is fascinating. People also tend to use Facebook under their own identity, where Twitter has a tendency to be ruined by a growing minority of trolls. I find the sharing nature of Facebook to be quite infectious, and we have used this to great benefit with The Liberal.

11. What locations does your business operate out of? 
Although we meet every week, the beauty of an online business is that can virtually be just as much part of the team and have just as big of an input from a virtual terminal. It is a modern day phenomenon and it works perfectly for the type of industry TheLiberal.ie is part of.

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12. Describe yourself and your definition of success:
I’m a self-starter,  I’m blessed with great self-belief and that stems from constantly looking at a positive scenario, even if that means to move on if necessary from one project to the next. I don’t give up on things; it goes against my way of thinking, my nature.
I qualified in Software Development from DKIT, and for my final year, I was elected as head of the Students’ Union. That sabbatical year was really great for developing my business to business skills and getting thrown into the corporate world at a young age. It was a perfect learning curve for business deals, meetings, schedules and generally self-starting and making things happen.
13. What’s your definition of success?
I believe life throws adversity at you every single day – but being successful in life and indeed in business, depends entirely on how you deal with that adversity. If the idea is good, stick with it, drive yourself on, deal with the problems and keep pushing through all the unforeseen issues. You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start, to create something great.

14. What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

I think there are two types of people in corporate world. Those who want to direct and those who want direction. There are great assets and traits to both types of people, and the trick to success for either person is to realise which category they fall into. Both can strive on success, enjoy goals and challenges, but if you’re an entrepreneur – you must be willing to go the extra step, accept that the buck lies with you, and realise early on that for your business to be a success – it really is whether you’re willing to do what it takes. There’s no real way around it, it takes a lot of work, long arduous but rewarding days, be able to work under immense pressure and be willing to accept that you’ll juggle 10 or more things at once every single day.
There’s no 5pm finish – you clock off when the job’s done. You must be willing to accept defeat as much as you expect success. The person who can take or leave their business will always be the winner. Drive, passion, determination mixed with a great knowledge of your chosen business – all those traits and characteristics are what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

15. What’s the future for The Liberal?
Solidifying The Liberal’s position in its marketplace is top priority at the moment. We’re also putting the finishing touches to our new Business Directory section called “TheLiberal.ie Business Directory”. It’s an exciting time for The Liberal team and I’m very much looking forward to the future.

We would like to thank Leo for having a chat about The Liberal.ie and we wish them all the success they deserve in the future.

Written by Jim O Brien/CEO

CEO in the transport industry, mobile tech fan 20 years, mobile consultant, Nokia/Microsoft VIP, HTC Specialist, Multiple forum supporter with worldwide top rankings, I also work in the background in the mobile technology sector, weekly radio show, Featured on the RTE consumer show and Cavan TV. Technology reviewer and blogger.Part time actor and security professional and brutally honest when it comes to opinions.