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October 19, 2017updated 20 Oct 2017 12:42pm

Oldham Chronicle’s relaunch delayed as new owner says former daily could return as twice-weekly in New Year

By Freddy Mayhew

The Oldham Evening Chronicle’s new owner has said it is unlikely the newspaper will publish again this year and that the former daily title could return as a twice-weekly publication.

The 163-year-old Chronicle closed suddenly in August, with the majority of its 49 staff made redundant, after then publisher Hirst, Kidd and Rennie went into administration.

Last week it was announced that local Oldham radio station Revolution 96.2 had bought the title, and a handful of its associated newsbrands and magazines, out of administration.

Plans to return the paper to newsagents’ shelves “as soon as possible” have since cooled after a number of rival titles sprang up in its absence.

Both Newsquest and Quest Media have launched weekly newspapers serving the town in Greater Manchester, while daily the Manchester Evening News has created a new Oldham edition.

Revolution’s managing editor Matt Ramsbottom told Press Gazette: “The original plan to print as soon as we could – which would have been about now – we on purpose and very definitively changed that plan because we felt we were under pressure, really more from ourselves, thinking that the speed of getting a newspaper out there was more important than getting it right.

“It was a kind of a ‘eureka’ moment as opposed to anything else when we thought, actually the last thing we want to do was print a newspaper that we didn’t believe we had put time and preparation into the operation of and also the time and effort into what makes up a newspaper, which is the people that create it.”

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He said the team needed to give it their “best shot”, adding: “We might have tripped ourselves up if we had just rushed in. We want to review the situation and to make sure that everybody we get involved is for the right reasons and that it was thought through – and so that’s where we are.”

He said of the Chronicle’s new rivals: “Everybody knows it is going to be a four-horse race and they have chosen sprint as a method, while we have chosen marathon. They might have run out of energy before we get out of the trap.”

Ramsbottom also said he believed it was unlikely that all four titles would be able to survive together in the marketplace.

He said his preference for the Chronicle, if it was “financially sustainable”, would be to make the paper twice weekly, although weekly is also an option. But he is reluctant to offer a possible relaunch date.

Three former Chronicle commercial staff have already joined Revolution’s team and the company is currently looking to publish an edition of quarterly education magazine The Knowledge and quarterly business magazine Oldham Business Edge before Christmas.

He added that a new lifestyle magazine, which currently has the working title One Oldham, would also publish before the end of the year using content generated by freelances.

Ramsbottom told Press Gazette that Revolution had been in talks with the Chronicle’s former publisher prior to it going into administration, but the rescue bid had been unsuccessful. Although he said there had “not been a bidding war” to buy the paper once it went into administration.

Revolution is understood to be facing difficulties in acquiring data and information relating to the Chronicle, everything from invoicing to archive pictures, that are stored on cloud-based servers.

He described the process as like rebuilding a “skeleton” bone by bone, adding that it was taking “a considerable amount of time”.

Ramsbottom said he was speaking regularly with former Chronicle staff, including ex editor Dave Whaley, adding: “The thing we believe in is that experience and local knowledge is valuable in newspapers. Our starting point will be to recruit from former staff.”

He said he thought print was still sustainable in local newspapers, but added: “They have got to be run extremely well and efficiently and they need support and good reputations, but I think with all those things in place we would rise to the challenge of being there.”

He said he would be keeping an advertising and cover price funding model on the Chronicle with the radio station’s expertise able to boost digital output for the paper.

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