London is considered to be by far the toughest market in the UK to sell local newspapers.
This makes it all the more remarkable that the fastest-growing paid-for local paper in Great Britain is a London title – the Hounslow Borough Chronicle series – rebranded now as the Middlesex Chronicle.
Despite stripping out many of its bulk giveaway copies, the Chronicle managed a year-on-year circulation rise of 7.9 per cent to 4,861.
This was achieved, according to editor Janice Raycroft, by an “Ashes to Ashes” approach to local journalism – going back to basics.
She said: “We ran a project in Trinity Mirror Southern called Retro – which has brought back the finely detailed news local people like. We’ve gone back and taken the paper ultra-local.”
This involves an approach which ensures that all print news stories are “tagged” with the name of the district in which they happen in the headline and intro. It has also involved ensuring that the paper’s three district reporters closely cover a local patch each.
Raycroft said: “They are going out to very, very small parts of the community – spending time with the WI. We’ve done a sort of Ashes to Ashes with the Middlesex Chronicle. It seems to be working.”
The new approach has seen the paper abandon some areas where it was getting few sales in favour of others.
When asked for her advice to other editors, Raycroft said: “You need at look in very fine detais at the parts of your circulation area where Retro people live – people who live organised regular lives and who pass that on down through their families. Then concentrate on covering those areas, if neccessary to the exclusion of other areas.
“We’ve dumped some areas where we were only selling 20 copies but in other places turned 50 copies into 120.”
The Middlesex Chronicle runs to 40 pages, sells for 50p and is published out of Trinity Mirror’s Hounslow centre.