Print-only independent weekly turns a profit

Independent weekly the Cleethorpes Chronicle says it has begun making a profit for the first time since its launch four years ago.

The Lincolnshire paper was launched in March 2008 by former Grimsby Telegraph deputy editor Nigel Lowther and ex-Grimsby and Scunthorpe Newspapers managing director Mark Webb, in the midst of the financial crisis.

The arrival of the Chronicle ended a 30-year hiatus where the seaside resort had no paid-for weekly newspaper, and it has since extended its reach beyond the town into Lincolnshire.

In an interview with Press Gazette, Lowther revealed that at the end of its fourth year in business it began making a profit, which was exactly what he and Webb were expecting.

'That's not a surprise, we had planned it that way,'he says. 'When you start a business, because of how the finances are structured, it makes losses and we were counting on that over those first two or three years. In the 4th year we were delighted that the newspaper is now in profit.

'We launched the newspaper in March 2008, it was just before the recession had started so these were difficult times from an economic point of view. We continue to work very hard and hopefully, and because of the support of our readers and advertisers, we'll keep the successful position that we are in today."

While some weekly titles in the UK are increasingly moving toward a 'digital first'model, the Chronicle remains committed solely to print.

The paper, which Lowther says has a readership of 28,000, costs 45p and none of its content is made available online.

'We are a very traditional newspaper and very proud to be a traditional newspaper,'says Lowther.

'It appeals to a very traditional market place that's why we think it has been the success it has been. I can't see a time when it will be only digital.

'We'll continue to print the product for as long as I can see in front of us, but at some point, we will produce an internet version. We've always said that we would do it when the market was there and people would still pay for our work.

He adds: 'When you talk about the internet, it cannot deliver what we produce on a week-to-week basis: good quality and well written local news. It's all about Cleethorpes and the surrounding area. So it's very focused."

 

While the internet is good at delivering breaking news stories, Lowther says that, for the Chronicle, 'a society meeting in Cleethorpes is as important, because that matters to us".

'It might be that only 10 people noticed that meeting, but those 10 people might be interested in that and, so, those 10 people have a reason to buy the paper,'he says.

And like regional newspaper owner Sir Ray Tindle, Lowther believes the key to the paper's success is the fact 'we pack it with names and faces every week".

'We try to get as many names and faces as we possibly can. We think that local newspapers are still number one in publishing media, it's an incredibly powerful tool and, while the internet works well when it comes to particular type of stories, it doesn't deliver for the people of Cleethorpes.

'They want one place where they can get all the local news and read about their friends, their families and people down their street and what they're doing. You just can't get that on the internet.'

Lowther pays tribute to his colleagues on the commercial side, noting that 'without a very good commercial business team, it doesn't matter how good we are editorially".

Asked what the secret to his paper's success is, he replied: 'We've got a very hard working and very loyal team both editorially and commercially. That's been crucial for us.

'Also knowing our readers, knowing what they want and don't want helps our success. For example, they don't want crime and misery stories but positive stories.

'If these happen then they will be covered, but we actually live in a very nice community and we try to reflect that on a week-to-week basis."

It no doubt also helps that Lowther was born and bred in the town.

'I was born in Cleethorpes, I live in Cleethorpes,'he says. 'We've got a young family and we raise them in Cleethorpes, and so I'm very much a local.

'I've been living here since I was born, apart from three years out while away at university. I wasn't expecting to come back here, I have to say, but I've been a journalist in this town for twenty-four years now."

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