Tabloid relaunch for Highlands weekly success story

A weekly newspaper in the Scottish Highlands boasting one of the most stable print circulations in the UK is switching from broadsheet to tabloid format tomorrow.

Circulation of the The Straphspey and Badenoch Herald, which has served some of the most remote communities in Britain for more than century, has barely changed over the last thirteen years, dropping just 2 per cent from 4,676 to 4,565.

On Thursday the paper unveils a new chapter in its history when its first tabloid edition hits the newsstands.

The relaunch of the 110-year-old paper, known locally as the ‘The Strathy”, is the latest investment by Inverness-based independent owners Scottish Provincial Press in its 13-title stable.

Editor Gavin Musgrove said the switch was a chance to ‘freshen up the product’and build sales.

‘The idea is that we don’t want this to be a desperate move when circulation is in freefall,’he told Press Gazette.

‘We’re hoping that, with our figures being stable, we can take the product forward and build upon good, solid foundations.”

The relaunch is also a response to production issues that were holding the paper back.

As a broadsheet its presses could only publish a maximum of 20 pages, which meant the paper was produced in two 12-page sections along with several supplements on top.

The new tabloid edition will run to 60 pages and promises to offer more news, sport, columnists and photographs.

‘Our readers have said that they want a more reader-friendly package, something more compact than having to spread the paper out onthe table to read it,’said Musgrove.

‘We’re not changing the content in the paper in terms of becoming more brash, we’re careful to label it a compact.

‘The content’s going to remain the same: We’re very much a local newspaper and we’ve got very defined geographical parameters on our patch.

‘That’s what we do best – providing local news – and that won’t be changing, but hopefully it will be more pleasing on the eye.’

A new masthead and red and grey colour scheme are being used to give the paper a ‘clean and modern look”.

The Strathy covers two distinct areas, Badenoch and Strathspey, and began life in its current form when the Strathspey Herald’s owners acquired the Badenoch Record in April 1964

The newspaper, which has its main office in Grantown and a district office in Kingussie, has had just four editors and a news editor at its helm in more than 100 years.

‘There’s a lot of loyalty,’said Musgrove. ‘The papers have been part of the community for so long.

‘In the Highlands of Scotland, in particular, local papers still have a huge part to play in the local community – probably more so than other parts of the country – informing people of what’s happening.’

Musgrove, who is originally from Newcastle, joined the paper fresh from journalism training in August 1996 and became editor in 2000.

He said: ” It’s such a special part of the world to live in if you like the outdoors, and there’s such a sense of community.”

He added: “I drive fourteen miles to work and I do it in fourteen minutes – there aren’t many places in the country where you can do that.”

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