Woking weekly written off by Guardian Media Group proves there is life after corporate ownership

A local weekly newspaper which was written off  by Guardian Media Group in 2011 has found a profitable future as an independent title in private ownership.

The Woking News & Mail was first published in 1894 but  ceased publication in March 2011 alongside free sister paper the Woking Review after being closed by Guardian Media Group.

The two titles were reported to have been losing up to £500,000 a year between them.

Local businessman Philip Davies brought News and Mail back from the dead in May in 2011 with the help of editor Hilary Gavin. It now employs eight part-time staff, is in profit and is currently carrying out an extensive reader survey to help it plan for the future.

After relaunching initially as a monthly, it went fornightly and then back to weekly distribution.

Managing director Terry Tidbury said the title had taken a “completely different approach” since being taken over by Davies.

He said: “We’re not corporate, we’re family owned and we look at the paper as a hyperlocal news source.”

The title claims a paid-for circulation of 2,500, at 50p, but makes most of its money from advertising.

Tidbury said: “Most newspapers won’t make a lot of money from print sales alone – advertising is the only reason why we’re profitable. Without this there’d be no paper, that’s probably the answer from virtually every paper.”

He added: “We concentrate very much on what the people of Woking want, not necessarily what an editor sat in an office in London decides that particular newspaper is going to produce.

“We do things on a very small scale; after all we are a small newspaper. It’s something which, for me, clearly didn’t fit in with what the Guardian’s concept was. I see it as their loss.”

Press Gazette reported in February that local weekly newspapers lost print circulation by an average of 11.2 per cent year on year in the second half of 2016.

The News and Mail said it has received financial support from a local brewery Thurstons to extend the deadline of a survey concerning the future of the title until 31 May.

Tidbury said: “The fact that both businesses have Woking very much at the heart of our work has given us common ground.

“We want to know what our readers, retailers and advertisers have to say because we believe that interest in local news is stronger than ever and we’re confident that the results of this survey will help us to enhance our offer to the community.”

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