New Compact out to launch

By Sarah Lagan

An independent weekly newspaper called Compact is being launched in Cheltenham next month with a website at the forefront of a project that aims to combat traditional "defensive local and regional newspaper sites".

The former managing director of Banbury Guardian and Leamington Spa Courier publisher Heart of England Newspapers, Justin Mafham, is to be managing director of Mafham Media, publisher of the free paper. He has spent his time hatching the plan since leaving HEN in November and intends to roll out his business plan in other towns at four-month intervals.

In what Mafham has christened "reverse publishing", no content will be held back from the website for the print version. The planned papers, which Mafham calls "magloids" due to their high-grade paper, vibrant use of colour and tabloid style-content, along with their websites, will link up with local radio stations.

Mafham told Press Gazette: "We are being proactive with the website rather than reactive and defensive, which is the traditional route of local and regional newspapers. In terms of the socio-demographics of areas in which we are producing, not everybody is au fait with the net, so we are producing the paper to capture a total audience.

Then we will be broadcast through radio, so we are a mix."

Mafham is lining up various "experienced and well-known" freelance journalists who have worked throughout the regional and national press, as well as in broadcasting.

His father, Colin, who in his 40-year journalism career has worked as a senior journalist on The Sun, Today, and the London Daily News and is currently a football writer for The Non-League Paper, Daily Express and Daily Star, will be editor-in-chief of Compact.

Justin Mafham has worked in the newspaper industry for 19 years, including in senior management positions for Today, Daily Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Age and the FT.

He believes communities will be better served by independent publishers, rather than by the top four or five publishing groups, which he says are more interested in profits than editorial integrity.

"We are not the monoliths of Johnston or Northcliffe," he said. "We have to maintain our independence. When we are established I would be happy to achieve margins in the high teens or early 20s, rather than the 37 per cent being chased by Johnston. We are also hopeful to pay our staff above the going rate because it is important we get the best possible people."

Compact will be published in a crowded market including the Gloucester Citizen, the Gloucestershire Echo, the Cheltenham News and the Wilts & Glos Standard.

The paper will be up to 44 pages and will aim for a 40/60 editorial/ advertising ratio.

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