Print is the future for local journalism says founder of new weekly newspaper

The backer of a new free weekly newspaper for Macclesfield has ambitions to launch a national network of local titles if the model proves successful.

Martin Regan launched Macclesfield Today this week, having started the Cheshire Today website in April. There is a team of eight journalists, with Regan himself as editor, and Cheshire Today claims to attract some 190,000 web browsers a month.

Regan has backed the new venture himself after selling his 48 per cent stake in business publishing group Excel Publishing earlier this year.

And he believes that the future of local news remains predominately in print.

He told Press Gazette: “There is no money to be made in online general news websites.

“Local newspapers are still quite profitable, they are just not as profitable as they used to be and most of the big newspaper groups are stacked up with debt.”

Macclesfield Today has a print-run of 12,000 delivered to affluent homes and, according to Regan, more than 500 paid-for copies (priced at 50p) have sold-out in local newsagents.

The new title competes with Trinity Mirror’s Macclesfield Express, which has a paid-for circulation of just over 10,000.

Asked why he thinks the area needs another newspaper, Regan said: “If you are interested in benefits cheats and cats stuck up in trees then the Macclesfield Express is the newspaper for you.

“If you are interested in politics, arts and fashion you will read us. If you’ve got brains you will read us.”

He added: “We launched Cheshire Today in April and it is now slightly below 200,000 unique users a month, so there is clearly a market for people who want to read about certain things.

“Most regional newspapers have retreated from the towns they purport to report on. Trinity Mirror’s features are produced in Liverpool and its news journalists are in Oldham. It is the same story at Johnston Press and Newsquest.

“I think you have to have a base in the town you report on.”

Regan said he has been touch with venture capital providers about expanding the business, and said: “They are completely focused on digital media being the way forward but they are going to lose their trousers on every digital newspaper they support.”

He said that advertisers were willing to spend £1,000 for a page in a print publication but only a tiny fraction of that figure on a website advert.

Regan hopes to launch print titles Wilmslow Today and Knutsford Today in May and September respectively next year and  revealed that he has secured the website domain name Lancashire Today and other variants for nearly every other English city and county.

He said: “If it works in Cheshire the obvious next thing is to extend into other areas, but that’s a long way down the line.”

Cheshire Today is the latest in a number of local news websites to expend into print in the last year with others including: The Port Talbot Magnet, Brixton Bugle and the Caerphilly Observer.

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