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The Early Hour founder Annie Ridout
25th October 2016

Q&A: The Early Hour founder Annie Ridout

The result of an intense and increasing online “content” saturation, there’s a perpetual discussion among brilliantly vocal communities of writers and editors that questions the rapidly-changing relevance and role of online output. In a world where anyone with an internet connection can publish an uninhibited stream of consciousness and effortlessly access a global audience, the pressure to justify your narrative is higher than ever.

Annie Ridout had been working as a freelance copywriter before she fell pregnant, and suddenly found herself with an automatically-terminated contract 40 weeks into her pregnancy. Overcoming any sense of fear, Annie embraced the sudden liberation. Founding The Early Hour - a digital culture and lifestyle magazine for nocturnal parents - shortly after the birth of her child, she immediately recognised the potential of strategically-timed online content being used to connect the vast network of sleep-deprived mums and dads up at silly hours of the night tending to their children.

Having read about Annie’s journey in an article for The Guardian’s Women in Leadership, we wanted to ask the inspiring journalist, editor and mother a few questions of our own. 

So what exactly made you start this amazing project, and when?
 I was working as a copywriter and journalist before having kids but my bread and butter contract - writing for a film company - was terminated when I had my daughter Joni. It was a bit of a shock, but I went with it and enjoyed eight months of maternity leave before seeking new roles.
 
It then dawned on me that I didn't want to return to full-time work, outside of the home. I'd always liked the idea of starting my own business (I'm from a family of entrepreneurs/freelancers) so I decided to launch an online culture and lifestyle magazine. 
 
At the time, I was up early in the morning, feeding my baby, and constantly searching for good articles to read. There was no single site that offered fresh content, daily, at the crack of dawn. So I decided to set one up. I wanted it to fill those early morning hours for other new mums and dads, and to make them feel connected to all the other early risers. 
 
How has it gone so far? Any major hiccups or high-points?
I've been amazed by the reception. It launched last September and had been viewed over 250,000 times. The social networks are growing, advertisers are paying for sponsored posts and it's all running pretty smoothly. Well, I say that - but in reality, I never stop thinking/planning/panicking/seeking guidance. It's bloody hard work but when you really believe in something and work your arse off, it tends to come together. The Early Hour is supported by the Prince's Trust and they've offered me so much in the way of training, guidance and mentoring.
 
Being featured in The Sunday Times (three times) was exciting, also - writing about my journey for the Guardian. Low points come if traffic drops lower than the previous day. But it's momentary - and then I focus on increasing it. There are days when a post reaches tens of thousands of people, and that's always rather thrilling.
 
Another low: being tricked by a journalist who twisted my words for a Daily Mail article. I felt like an idiot for trusting her. BUT it led to me speaking live on radio, more traffic and I made some new connections through it. I'm a die-hard optimist and believe there's always a silver lining.
 
What has been your favourite thing about it so far? 
Becoming part of the vast, incredibly supportive online parenting community has been ace. Instagram, in particular, is such a great space for “meeting” other mums and dads who are in the same boat. This is beneficial for me as a mother, as well as for The Early Hour.
 
Families of Instagram #12: HeyBPresto
Your team consists of several parents and a whole range of talents, how did you get your team together?
I started out brainstorming with my sister and husband. We came up with the name and concept. Then a good friend (and amazing graphic designer) Matt Bucknall designed the logo and website. Another friend built it. My journalist friends hopped on board and started writing brilliant articles - and it grew from there. So mostly friends and family, but it is constantly expanding and evolving
 
What do you hope other parents find and feel when they discover The Early Hour? 
 My hope is that they find the content uplifting, enlightening, thought-provoking, or that it awakens something in them. I want them to feel moved in some way, and as if they've learned something. I'm working on building a brand that people trust and respect, and a supportive online community of parents. So I hope that's what people see/feel when they visit the site.
 
What does the future hold for The Early Hour?
I recently met with my new mentor. He's incredibly inspiring - he's invested in some of the most successful tech companies so he knows a thing or two about the online world. Together, we're gonna grow The Early Hour into something very big. Well, that's the plan. But right this second, I'm off to Bloomberg to meet a journalist friend who works there, as we may be working on a new project together…

Follow Annie on Twitter. www.theearlyhour.com

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