Sir Ray Tindle has urged editors in his regional newspaper group to launch their way out of the 'ghastly recession", after revealing that two of his newspapers have seen revenues more than halved since the beginning of the downturn.
Addressing senior staff today, Tindle also revealed revenue at one of his newspaper centres was down from £7m to £4m, and that two others were down by more than £3m.
'Some of our papers are suffering losses but the Tindle Group as a whole is still as solid as a rock, our figures are sound, our reserves are secure so we're absolutely sure that the group will live through this downturn,'he said.
'Of course many of us thought we would see a turn for the better in newspaper fortunes during 2011. That, I'm afraid, has so far proved no to be so."
Tindle's titles in London have been hit particularly hard and revenues are down by more than £1m.
'It's our responsibility and we must grasp the nettle,'he continued. 'Yes, I am fully aware that many here present still have good revenues for one reason or another. Thank goodness that is so and well done all of you.
'But the recession is spreading out from London to the big cities. Not everyone will continue to escape the ravages of this downturn.'
Ten out of 40 centres were concerned about advertising revenues but the remaining 30 were 'reasonably healthy and still viable", though they were urged to 'slim ourselves'by the non-replacement of staff.
'Names, faces and places'
Tindle's solution for turning around his group's fortunes is to focus on 'hyper-local'content.
He said: 'It is your responsibility to see that it is strictly local, hyper local... what do I mean by hyper-local? I didn't invent the phrase. I learned it and a great deal more at the Press Gazette conference in Kingston last May... success is based on names, faces and places – but strictly local names, faces and places."
He cited two recently launched newspapers: the Chingford Times in Greater London and Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Observer in West Wales, with the former going into profit from its first week.
Now, he wants to see other parts of the group following their lead.
'If you have lost revenue, is there somewhere that you can start a new paper in order to archive new revenue to replace it?'he said.
'Make it a really good paper and you'll find people will pay for it.'But he added: 'Forget going free."
Papers will come through downturn
Despite announcing losses in some parts of the group, Tindle remains optimistic about the future of the industry.
'So how do I see the future? Well I am quite sure the local weekly press has a long and viable life ahead. I am certain of it.
'The whole local and regional press will come through this downturn and thrive again."
Commenting on the recent closure of the News of the World, he said: 'Whatever the caus,e whatever the reason, the loss of any newspaper inevitably brings feelings of regret and sorrow to a gathering such as this.'