An independent newspaper publisher has plans to add up to 10,000 copies to its monthly circulation by the end of the year.
Wiltshire-based Kingsley House Publishers has been producing monthly title the Valley News since 2007 and launched its sister-title the Salisbury News in April.
The newspapers’ owner David Parker said their combined circulation of around 20,000 is set to rise to around 30,000 to meet reader demand later this year.
The Valley News was initially set up as the result of a government subsidy and, according to Parker, has filled a void in local newspaper reporting in the region.
The papers are filled with the kind of hyper-local news that Parker claims its competitors often relegate to the ‘community news’ section at the back of the newspaper.
And while local Newsquest and Trinity Mirror-owned titles have closed district offices and laid off reporters, the majority of content comes from citizen journalists – regular contributors spread across the villages and towns of Wiltshire.
Parker and his team then rewrite, sub-edit and design the two full-colour, 64-page titles, both of which are distributed for free.
While hyper-local news websites have sprung up across the UK following the closure of regional and local titles, Kingsley House is considering whether to launch a third title this year.
Unsurprisingly, Parker is confident about the future of print (and points out: ‘you can’t take a laptop into the loo”).
‘This is real localism,’said Parker, who’s been a journalist for 40 years.
‘It’s written for the community by the community. We’re not going to start taking on the big publishers, but we do think we can help improve the standard of local journalism.”
He continued: ‘We’re trying to rebuild a community. In my village we’ve lost our pub, our school, our post office – and it’s the same picture in other villages.”
Parker believes it’s this sense that ‘communities have lost touch with each other’that has fuelled the growth of the newspapers, and said the company was practically ‘pushed’into Salisbury News as a result of reader demand in villages where the Valley News was not circulated.
He said: ‘We had to be sure of where we were going, but could see there was demand in Salisbury not just from readers but from advertisers.”
The support from advertisers is understandable – ads in the Salisbury News begin from as low as £22, while a full page costs between £180-£200.
It has helped producing a publishing model that is entirely self-sustaining – Kingsley House Publishers, which also prints music title the Beat Magazine, does not borrow money from the banks and has no loans.
Parker, who cut his teeth on Fleet Street, said that everything grew from that initial government subsidy back in 2007.
Neither are the newspapers entirely filled with stories about carnivals and fetes.
Last year the newspaper was banned from council buildings by Wiltshire Council after it was accused of repeatedly ‘disrespecting’it.
The council was later forced to issue an apology Valley News and its editor after Parker complained to the Government Ombudsman.
As if things weren’t local enough, Parker’s latest plan is to change the way the paper is distributed.
Parker is worried that handing out the newspapers in shops and supermarkets means they could be ‘losing sight of our audience”.
Instead, he wants every copy to be delivered door-to-door.