Local news is turning back to print to get closer to its readers, with national newspaper consumption seeing a slight increase last month.
The latest newspaper ABCs for March showed a marginal month-on-month circulation growth of 0.1%, although the market is down by 8.5% year-on-year.
Free papers in London saw a drop of 2.2% over the month, but prospects appear better for hyper-local titles around the UK. In February, for example, it was reported by Hold The Front Page that Newsquest would launch the Harlow Guardian, a new weekly in its East London & West Essex Guardian series priced at 70p.
March also saw the launch of a new free monthly paper serving the Cheshire village of Bunbury. Established by former Knutsford Guardian editor Sue Briggs, The Paper for Bunbury saw a run of 2,000 copies distributed across the village for its April 2019 edition.
“I have always loved newspapers, having worked at them since I was 16,” said Briggs. “I took my redundancy from Newsquest and decided to start the new paper because I felt that local newspapers were retreating away from the places they serve and have been reporting on them with no reference to their localities.
“People were amazed by the quality of The Paper because they are so used to local news coming from blogs or the nearby local newspaper only covering their village for major stories and not the bread-and-butter of local life.
“It is not an eight-page freebie, but a full, traditional 24-page newspaper and people love to hold it and leaf through rather than scrolling and clicking. I am not losing any money on this, producing a newspaper is relatively affordable, and people want to get involved so I think there is a real future for this model, and I hope to grow a group of papers in the area.”
The Paper’s first edition was printed by newspaper specialist Mortons of Horncastle in Lincolnshire, and delivered to Briggs’ home from which she personally distributed editions to cafes, pubs, doctors’ surgeries and other public spaces.
She described the first edition as “flying out of the Co-op” due to its popularity.
In a similar vein, Bailiwick Express, a digital news and classifieds company covering the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, launched its new print edition at the start of this month.
With a circulation of 26,000 in Guernsey soon to be followed by a 42,000 run in Jersey, the Bailiwick Express’ weekly newspaper is printed in Portsmouth by JPI Media.
Editor James Filleul said: “Over the last few years we have built up a substantial audience for our news and classifieds website amongst islanders who want the latest local stories, set up in an authoritative and accessible way.
“It is very difficult to beat online as a format to deliver accurate and up-to-minute daily news stories, but we soon realised that there was also an appetite for deeper features, analysis, commentary and investigations. All work online, but lend themselves to a print format, which readers could return to over the course of a week.
“As well as breaking new local stories, the paper gives readers the deeper context which sits behind the daily news stories.”