New monthly newspaper covering Gloucestershire towns is 'turning profit' with 'print-first' approach

Two former colleagues have reunited to launch a local newspaper with a print-first strategy that has already turned a profit two issues in.

Simon Hacker, who has written for the Times, Guardian and Autocar, and photographer Matt Bigwood, launched the Wotton Times last month.

Both men began their careers at Bailey Newspaper Group and decided to launch the new weekly title because of their belief that “local news is the bedrock of a community”.

The paper, which covers Wotton, Charfield, Wickwar, Kingswood and the surrounding areas in Gloucestershire, sells for 50p an issue and has a print run of 4,000 copies.

The pair say it will tackle the “neglect” in coverage of the area from the likes of the Newsquest-owned Gloucestershire Gazette, which Hacker said said had “arranged their own funeral”.

Talking to Press Gazette, Hacker added: “There is a malaise for what was previously being offered as in the local paper.

“The business model of these bigger publishers involves stripping everything back and the editor of the local paper here edits three other newspapers, which is insane.

“I wouldn’t want Newsquest to feel we’ve aggressed them, all we’ve done in advertising terms is pick the low-hanging fruit.”

Hacker is editorial director of the Wotton Times while Bigwood serves as its creative director. Both are publishing the paper alongside holding down their freelance news careers.

The first issue of the Wotton Times went on sale on 4 May, with the second edition printed earlier this month.

Hacker said launching the newspaper had been “quite frazzling”, adding: “I think we had an inkling that it was going to be quite a gargantuan project when we started it.”

Despite the difficulties in launching a new title and juggling both editorial and commercial elements, he said: “The buzz from this is incredible.

“I’ve felt more excited about working on this than I have writing for any of the nationals in the last ten years.”

Despite having an online presence, The Wotton Times has made print its principal medium – bucking the “digital-first” trend of most modern newsrooms.

Its website claims: “The web has had it all its own way for too long – the newest news from The Wotton Times will always be in print.”

But, Hacker admits they have had to embrace social media all the same.

He said: “Competitors often are anyone with a Facebook page, so we do have to keep up with that, but we use it as a bit of a tease for the paper and what we can do.”

The majority of revenue comes from advertising, said Hacker, however the cover price helps towards print and distribution costs, with the paper already having turned a small profit in its first two issues, he said.

“We thought we’d be brave and have decided just to sell it from this month on and that’s working,” Hacker said. “I’ve just had a call from one of our outlets saying that it’s their second time running out in the past week.”

Due to the success of the first two editions they have decided to increase the pagination from 20 to 24 with plans to raise this further in the future.

Hacker said: “We thought we’ve had such a warm reception from advertisers that we could definitely go up in pages and still preserve the right editorial-advert balance.

“One shop keeper even bought 100 copies of the paper from us that he says he’s going to save and sell on Ebay in years to come as he thinks it’s going to be famous one day.”

He added: “If you can put in the effort to create a paper full of local stories and, as far as possible those proper, gritty news stories, I think people will like it and they will respond to it.”

There are already plans to launch a sister publication covering a neighbouring area, but Hacker added: “I think we have to walk more confidently first before we start to run.”

Wotton Times, issue two

Comments

3 thoughts on “New monthly newspaper covering Gloucestershire towns is 'turning profit' with 'print-first' approach”

  1. June 19, 2018 at 9:45 am
    As a 61-year-old hack who, like most of my generation, began my career in local weekly newspapers, this is a refreshingly welcome change from the usual tale of papers closing or ‘centralising’.
    All power to Simon and Co, and I hope they will be able to bring back coverage of real news such as court and council reporting, police calls etc. Plus, of course, off-diary stories sniffed out by real reporters out in the town, not trawling through the web.
    Most of the local papers I see now have just the same dreary mix of charity events , advertising puffs and the occasional council press release.

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