In the week that Tindle Newspapers launched its second new title in Wales this year the company has insisted its local newspapers are not under threat from the internet.
The first edition of the Chepstow Review went live this week four months after the launch of the Pembroke Dock Observer in West Wales.
Beverly Thomas, the managing editor of Tindle’s Cambrian News – Wales’ biggest-selling weekly newspaper – said that in Wales its strategy has been ‘to make sure that our websites do not steal the thunder of our weekly newspapers”, adding that “tasters of stories are included, but readers must go to the papers to get the full story.”
Thomas said that Tindle’s paid-for e-editions have also been a success, particularly in mid and north Wales as has its Welsh language weekly Y Cymro.
‘Of course, the print media has to evolve, to continue to embrace the digital age – but with careful management and balance, newspapers have an increasing role to play, especially in Wales, where a sense of community and belonging is perhaps more in evidence than in other more industrialised areas,’she said.
Tindle’s newspapers in Wales have a total circulation of almost 105,000, a readership of around 216,000 and employ more than 200 staff, according to the company.
It has six centres in Wales producing the Abergavenny Chronicle, Brecon and Radnor Express, Cambrian News, County Echo, Glamorgan Gem Series, Monmouthshire Beacon, Tenby Observer, Y Cymro and Y Dydd.
The company has a further three centres just over the border which produce the Ross Gazette, The Forester and the Forest of Dean Review, papers which also circulate in Wales.
Tindle’s involvement in Wales began 33 years ago when Sir Ray Tindle, the founder and sole shareholder, rescued the Tenby Observer after it went into administration.
In 2005 he acquired two Welsh language publications: Y Cymro, Wales’ only Welsh language weekly newspaper, and Y Dydd, a monthly publication in Meirionnydd.
‘Less dominance of the regional dailies’
Despite the strength of Tindle portfolio in Wales, Thomas said the company would nonetheless welcome ‘more structured support from the government and public bodies”.
‘What must be borne in mind are the particular difficulties that papers in rural Welsh areas face, with the problems of the transport network and the huge distribution and operational costs,’she said in evidence to the Welsh National Assembly’s inquiry into the country’s media.
‘In particular, we would like to see less dominance of the regional dailies in the public notices market,’she continued.
‘A commitment by public bodies to giving more public notice business to weekly papers spread across Wales could lead to a link-up between independent publishers, giving advertisers greater penetration.”
Thomas also called for tighter regulation of local council publications which ‘carry censored news and threaten the viability of commercial newspapers”.
‘Local newspapers are vital in Wales to give local communities a voice and to hold public bodies to account,’she said.
‘In the main, websites and national papers do not get down to a local enough level to do this.
‘What councils spend on their own publications could be ploughed into advertising features and supplements in their local papers to the benefit of both.”
Thomas said it was also now ‘imperative’to change the way Welsh language media is supported to ensure the survival of the ‘few Welsh-language publications which remain”.
‘Plurality is vital but these are challenging times for Welsh publications like Y Cymro,’she said.
‘More government subsidies and grant-aid, and more advertising support from public bodies would be welcomed.”