Johnston begins roll-out of 170-title relaunch

Johnston Press is pushing ahead with the relaunch of 170 of its paid-for titles with two broadsheet weeklies switching to tabloid later this month.

The company has also announced that North East free weeklies the Peterlee Star, Washington Star and Seaham & Houghton Star are being relaunched as paid-for papers.

150-year-old title the West Sussex County Times makes the switch to a tabloid on Thursday 31 May following a consultation with the local community.

‘Each one demonstrated the enormous affection that residents have for the County Times, but time and again readers said the one change they would welcome would be a new size and shape,’said editor-in-chief Gary Shipton.

‘In each of the three research exercises, 85-90 per cent of readers and non-readers asked us to alter shape.”

Shipton added: ‘As a result, and with the benefit of being part of a major regional newspaper publishing group Johnston Press, we have commissioned some of the world’s top newspaper designers to deliver a look that is both classic and contemporary – and wholly appropriate for the Horsham district.”

The property section will remain broadsheet at the ‘specific request of estate agents and readers”. A new subscription promotion will see readers offered the first three months of the paper for free.

On Wednesday 30 May the Bucks Herald will also switch to tabloid. The paper said it was ‘a sad farewell to 180 years of history it is a big, warm welcome to a new beginning”.

Editor Roger Hawes added: ‘Aylesbury Vale is changing. The town is growing at a very fast rate and modernising. The Bucks Herald needs to recognise and embrace these changes.

‘The new paper will incorporate many of the traditional aspects of the area and remain truly local. But it will also recognise the growth in digital media and advertising and the expansion of online journalism.”

A final souvenir broadsheet edition goes on sale next week featuring a ‘comprehensive look back at the golden years of the Bucks Herald”.

Johnston has also announced that North East free weeklies the Peterlee Star, Washington Star and Seaham & Houghton Star are to be relaunched as paid-for papers.

‘The move comes on the back of numerous requests from readers and advertisers for a paid-for newspaper for these three areas,’said Johnston.

‘The communities of Washington, Peterlee, Seaham and Houghton have all changed considerably since the Star Series was originally launched as a series of free newspapers and the time is now right for fresh new newspapers to reflect and support these increasingly important communities.”

Seperate website for the Washington Star and Seaham & Houghton star are in production.

Johnston announced it was relaunching 170 of its paid-for titles – excluding only The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, The Yorkshire Post and The News Letter – shortly after it emerged that five of its daily papers were switching to weeklies: The Scarborough Evening News, Halifax Courier, Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Peterborough Evening Telegraph and Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph.

Last month Press Gazette revealed that the company plans to create five different design templates to be rolled out across itsportfolio of daily and weekly newspapers.

Renowned international design firm Cases I Associats has been awarded the contract to create the new designs, but some editors are concerned about the new system because it will create strict templates within the Atex content management system which they will have limited ability to alter at a local level.

The company recently told investors that it hopes to grow its digital audience from its current level of 10m to 20m by 2020, and expects print readership will shrink from 11m to 8m over the same period.

It also expects to cut the number of free papers in its portfolio, and for subscriptions sales for to its news titles to rise from 3 per cent in 2011 to 50 per cent within nine years.

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