View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. News
May 16, 2018updated 17 May 2018 12:20pm

Former regional newspaper editor launches paid-for title with hopes of providing local news to Devon town

By Charlotte Tobitt

A former regional newspaper editor who has launched his own community title has said there is still room for “local and longer” reads in print that would not work online.

Tim Dixon, former Western Gazette and Western Daily Press editor, has launched the Paper for Honiton, a print-only weekly title covering the Devon town where he lives.

He told Press Gazette he launched the paper to give the local community a “proper traditional newspaper” with all the news and sport.

“I am a big advocate of print, I always have been,” he said.

“It isn’t that I don’t understand the internet, but I think there is room for print. It’s a completely different beast to news online. Local and longer – there is still an appetite for that.”

After a free launch edition on 3 May, Dixon officially put the newspaper on sale for 50p on Thursday last week. By Monday afternoon, 700 copies had been sold, he said.

Honiton is already served by the Archant-owned free newspaper the Midweek Herald, which also covers Axminster, Seaton and surrounding areas in east Devon.

Content from our partners
Free journalism awards for journalists under 30: Deadline today
MHP Group's 30 To Watch awards for young journalists open for entries
How PA Media is helping newspapers make the digital transition

Before most of the View From series of newspapers closed in January it too had a Honiton edition, although it still publishes the View From Blackdown Hills which takes advertising covering the town.

But Dixon said: “People in Honiton, and it’s quite normal, they feel like [the newspapers] don’t specifically cater for them.”

Dixon said he met various groups, businesses, councillors and other individuals in the town before launching the newspaper to see whether there was an appetite for it.

He described it as a “very different proposition” from a normal local newspaper, saying it was “very much something that has come from the grassroots upwards”.

As well as covering typical local news subjects such as council reporting, Dixon said he has seen a huge level of interest from community contributors. Among them are a retired sergeant major who writes poetry and a retired policeman who writes nature notes accompanied by watercolour paintings.

Dixon said: “It’s just been quite extraordinary and what seems to have happened – this is only week two and we are about to publish the third edition so I mustn’t get carried away here – but I think there is a real appetite for the newspaper.

“It disputes the idea that newspapers are past it and nobody is interested in them anymore. I honestly think in the industry that we just didn’t do those newspapers particularly well – I think particularly in the last ten years when the drive for cuts and economies has absolutely decimated newsrooms.”

He added: “With sufficient content that’s interesting and unique… we will drive the sale of the paper and become sustainable.”

The newspaper needs to earn £750 in advertising revenue each week or sell 1,000 copies – which Dixon hopes will happen within six months – to be sustainable. That would be equal to about a 10 per cent penetration of Honiton’s 7,752 households.

Dixon, who launched the project himself with help from upfront investment from advertisers, said: “They are very modest figures but that’s what’s quite good about it – it doesn’t need a big investor.”

When he first met potential advertisers, Dixon told them: “The paper isn’t going to deliver a massive, massive audience but you might like to be seen supporting something that’s considered to be a community asset.”

Dixon estimates the newspaper cost around £3,000 to launch, excluding any cost attached to his time. He spent two months working solidly on the project before its launch.

In the first week Dixon’s advertising colleague, one of a small number of part-time colleagues supporting his “one-man band”, sold £2,000 worth of advertising space.

However he said: “I don’t think we can do this in a conventional way by trying to squeeze huge amounts of print advertising from the town when print advertising is disappearing out of print and going online.

“So this would have to be a different model and it would have to be a model which is essentially driven by its circulation, by people paying for it again.”

Email to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network