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Is Archant Showing Papers How To Downsize And Reboot The Right Way?

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Yesterday, we quoted analyst Benedict Evans as saying “deflation is now the agenda” for news publishers. As if the newspaper closures and cutbacks of the last year hadn’t already made it clear, now here’s another example…

Archant’s Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire division is shutting two of its local weekly free papers, the Harlow Herald and East Herts Herald, to replace them with a new-launch free “newszine” called HarlowScene.

It’s a repeat of Archant’s creation of CambridgeFirst in May, and the strategy looks good – a colourful, fresh-looking news magazine that’s more relaxed than conventional local rags, publishes to web first and which has reporters out on patch rather than in costly offices.

There aren’t even any redundancies, apparently.

HoldTheFrontPage: “It will be available to readers in eight different ways, including door-to-door delivery, paid-for sales, free pick-up, website, mobile site and from 41 parish council outlets in rural areas.”

Archant’s regional MD Stuart McCreery tells HTFP: “This project was born out of necessity. The economic and multi-media climate in which we operate was challenging us and we needed to find a new way to satisfy our customers and readers in a more engaging and attractive manner.

“The Scene series will serve a wide audience in an innovative way.”

Has Archant found the right template for downsizing and readjusting to new times?

3 Responses to “Is Archant Showing Papers How To Downsize And Reboot The Right Way?”

  1. Sanjit and Roy, you both make perfectly valid points. Yes, the paper itself is a terrible example of what it’s setting out to achieve, with little evidence of any direct connection or involvement with the patch – but in fairness that’s almost certainly a reflection of sub-standard staffing levels than any lack of ambition or talent among its editorial team. Too many journalists are unable to exercise their full potential these days because they’re simply expected to do too much.

    However, with better investment in staff, its a potentially great way for papers to get back under the skin of their circulation areas and produce (if you’ll forgive a much-hated buzzword) “hyperlocal” content for a variety of interests. But one or two overworked, underpaid trainees endlessly rehashing press releases while trying simultaneously to do videos, photos and web editing is never going to be sufficient to capitalise on that model’s potential.

  2. @ RoyChallis I think the article was about the business model rather than the content. The business model is an interesting one. In my view it could well point to a new way of producing regional and niche content. I’d question whether such a model would ever translate to the nationals/dailies as successfully.

  3. roychallis

    What absolute nonsense. For “relaxed”, read utter, vacuous dross. If everyone follows this template – a shambolic website and a paper devoid of any substance – the local newspaper industry really will be dead inside 10 years.