An independent publisher in Essex is to launch a new version of its free weekly newspaper after winning a contract to host all Thurrock Council’s advertising.
Gateway Newspapers’ Enquirer Series, which currently publishes Essex and East London versions, will this week add a Thurrock edition to its roster after cutting a one-year deal with the local authority.
The Enquirer, which isn’t ABC audited, currently distributes around 60,000 copies of its 48-page newspaper at stations, newsagents and libraries in Essex each week.
More than 25,000 copies of the new Thurrock Enquirer will be made available for collection in the town from Thursday, with total circulation rising to around 75,000.
Thurrock Council said it aimed to save around £60,000 by tendering out all its ads to the Thurrock Enquirer and would save additional funds by scrapping its own publication.
Enquirer editor Neil Speight told Press Gazette the new edition of the paper would include seven or eight ‘change’pages of news specific to Thurrock and could eventually lead to an increase in the paper’s editorial team of five.
Speight, formerly editor of Newsquest‘s Thurrock Gazette, said the £130,000 worth of council advertising won would be provide ‘skeleton’funding for the new paper, which he hoped would then benefit from a higher ad yield from increased circulation.
The Enquirer Series, Speight added, would approach other local authorities across Essex in a bid to secure similar deals which would help it roll out further editions across Essex.
Despite the reliance on council funding for the new edition and his proposed new business model, Speight told Press Gazette his paper remained ‘fiercely independent’and highlighted four stories it would carry this week about allegations of corruption at local authorities.
A Thurrock Council spokesman told Press Gazette this was the first time the unitary authority had made arrangements to ‘bundle’its advertising, previously separate departments placed notices with the Thurrock Gazette, which is understood to have failed with its bid for the new contract.
Cllr John Kent, leader of Thurrock Council, said: “The council has to continue making significant spending cuts over the next few years.
“By packaging up the amount we spend on advertising – such as statutory public notices – and putting this out to competitive tender, we have been able to reduce costs by more than £60,000.
“We are very lucky in the borough to have an active and vibrant media, both in print and online, and we are proud of the role they play in helping the council communicate with residents as well as holding us to account.
“We therefore welcome the Thurrock Enquirer to the mix, providing additional space for all Thurrock news, and will be working closely with them and the other media to get our message to local people.
He added: “We are also announcing the scrapping of our residents’ magazine; another saving.”