Influx of outsiders makes Archant scrap Herts & Cambs cover prices

By Sarah Lagan

Four paid-for Archant Herts & Cambs titles have been relaunched
as free newspapers in the hope that newcomers to their circulation
areas will read them.

Development in the two counties, including housing and commuter
belts, has seen an influx of new residents and at the same time the
Cambs Times, Wisbech Standard, Ely Standard and Royston Crow suffered
year-on-year salesslumps in the last ABC figures of -5.6, -6.8, -0.3
and -8.6 per cent, respectively.

Scrapping the cover price is
seen as the most efficient way to reach a new readership, although each
paper will still have a paid-for circulation of a few thousand.

Herts
& Cambs managing director Stuart McCreery said: “We have bigger
communities, but the people coming in have no historical link to the
towns they’re coming into or the traditional newspaper that serves the
area.

“Clearly that was something we were concerned about. One of
the obvious solutions was to get a wider audience by giving it to more
people and the free distribution route is the easiest way to go forward
there.

“It was a huge risk, what with losing our circulation
revenue and the fear of the editorial teams turning from a paidfor to a
free and the cultural change with what they thought is a free newspaper.

He
added: “The free will have as much independent editorial as is seen
fit, there’s no compromise from that point of view. We will remain a
localcampaigning product and we will be questioning what’s going on in
market places, council decisions, NHS decisions.

Editors will have the exact same agenda as when we were paid for.

Hopefully we will build a product that will have a longer life than the paid-for product looked like it had.

“Staff
internally are really pleasedand editors are enthused. It’s a difficult
climate in terms of trading terms within the whole industry, but we are
investing in our future even though the market has changed.”

Core
staff will remain the same on the titles, although freelances will be
used less, and extra investment has been dedicated to use of colour.

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