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New local newspaper bucks the trend

The circulation statistics for local newspapers are pretty gloomy these days.

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The newspaper has a website but unlike Newsquest and Reach doesn’t attempt to give away breaking news for free on the site

A month doesn’t go by with out another title being closed as circulations plummet. The internet has taken away much of the advertising that made them profitable while the customers have got out of the habit of paying for news, especially local news. In turn that means fewer local reporters and less news in the declining number of newspapers.

However, a new local breed of community paper has been emerging in part driven for a genuine desire for local news amongst residents, entrepreneurs setting up small advertising-based magazines and journalists made redundant realising with desktop publishing they can recreate newspapers for their own areas without the interference of the likes of Trinity Mirror (now Reach).

The BBC’s Ali Vowles interviewed the duo behind the newly launched Wotton Times in Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire which has published its third monthly edition with a print run of 4,000 copies at 50p a copy. Simon Hacker and Matt Bigwood explained they had been overwhelmed by the reaction of the public. Bigwood says: “People still value that it’s a printed publication. You can hold it in your hand, you can read it, you can flick backwards and forwards. So this is just turning the clock back and people seem to love it.”

Hacker said they decided to put their money where their mouth was and publish their own local newspaper which he says has been well received. In her report a vox pop on the streets of the town on the edge of the Cotwolds agreed with one man saying it had local news in it which ‘the Gazette doesn’t’. He would most likely be referring to The Gazette Series owned by Newsquest who have a website called Gazette Live which does carry local news but not as much as the local press used to.

Hold The Front Page also ran the story reporting that the pair had worked for the Bailey Newspaper group in the 1980s and 1990s in the same area and got fed up seeing the collapse in standards of the local press. They said their main tips on starting a local newspaper was to firstly believe in it, use the old standards of journalism such as original reporting and not dumbing down with cut and paste news. Bigwood told Print Monthly: “Our philosophy is ‘print first’ and only have a website as a landing page to provide information to potential advertisers. For fast-breaking news we have a Facebook page where we can host videos and photos that are time-sensitive.”  This is in contrast to Johnson Press, Reach and Newsquest et al who have a policy of ‘web first’ which has destroyed the point of buying a weekly paper for local news.

Our philosophy is ‘print first’ and only have a website as a landing page to provide information to potential advertisers

Manor Printing Services in Wotton-under-Edge is the company charged with printing the newspaper. They use a Heidelberg B2 litho press for the job and print the paper on an uncoated paper rather than the traditional lower quality paper used for newspapers.

There are several examples of community-based newspapers succeeding by staying hyper local, keeping costs down and staying true to traditional values of reporting. If the trend continues its good news for the printing industry.

What do you think? Could local newspapers make a come-back and would you buy one if they did? Is there new local start up newspaper in your area? Let us know. Email your views to Harry - Harry@linkpublishing.co.uk or call me on 0117 9805 040. Or react to the story on Twitter and have your say.

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@printmonthly.co.uk

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