31 January 2015

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Dyson at Large: Proof that newspapers have a future

Message for all doom-mongers: if printed newspapers are supposedly in a dying fly position, how come I’m thumbing through a 236-page weekly right now?

Yes, you heard that right, the 236-page edition of the Chester Chronicle, dated 21 October 2010.

So huge, in fact, that the presses have to print the paper in two lots, both stapled, the first ‘main book’ made up of 112-pages, the second ‘Classified’ section containing 128-pages.

The latter was mainly a local house-buyers’ bible, the first 103 pages packed to the rafters with property ads from 33 estate agents across Cheshire, more traditional sales, services, agriculture and motoring classifieds appearing from page 105 to 128.

These had to be carried over to the main book, with two pages of Public Notices, a page worth of BMDs, an eight-page ‘Recruitment’ section, two pages of entertainments and a four-page pull-out of reader holidays.

On top of this healthy revenue from classifieds, there were 96 display ads squeezed in throughout that main book, proudly showing that that in and around Chester the printed newspaper is alive and kicking.

As far as content is concerned, personally I preferred the page three lead to the choice of splash, although I’m sure experienced editor Eric Langton knows what his readers want.

He decided on ‘REVEALED: £7M MARKET OFF THE WALL’ for page one, unveiling plans for a new market hall linked by a footbridge to the historic city walls.

Langton is probably right, as we all know shoppers and market traders are among the most fervent of local newspaper addicts.

But I did like the page three tale, temptingly headlined: ‘I will kidnap your baby, shoot your family and burn your house down.’

This was a report from Chester Crown Court, telling how a teenager with a grudge used Facebook to land the brother of his girlfriend in police custody before his cruel fraud was discovered.

Other stories that caught my eye on a first perusal included:

  • ‘Leave our cats alone’ on page seven, an 11-year-old pictured pleading for yobs to stop throwing bricks at a colony of feral cats;

  • ‘Mind numbing tragedy’ on pages eight and nine, a spread of reports on church-going Jean Laithwaite who shot her husband as he slept before committing suicide;

  • ‘TV’s Stephen visits city to mourn friend’ on page 11, telling how comedian Stephen Fry had twittered about his stay in Chester; and

  • ‘Firms plead guilty over fatal fireball’ on page 21, reporting the inquiry into the death of a worker killed by exploding aerosols in a local factory.

    In total, there were well over 450 individual reads in 74 pages of news, features and sport, including a six-page ‘Celebrations’ section, 10 pages of ‘The Guide’ covering entertainments, three pages of ‘Community News’ in six-point, four pages of business and eight pages of sport.

    Not bad value for the Trinity Mirror-owned Chronicle with a cover price of 77p.

    Like everywhere else, of course, recession-hit readers in Cheshire have been watching the pennies, and so there was a -7.5pc decrease in readers to 20,224 according to the Latest ABCs

    But I still want to see Bob Satchwell waving a copy of this weighty title in the air when he introduces the session on the future of printed newspapers at the Society of Editors’ Conference in Glasgow on Monday.

    For within it lies proof that newspapers – if their custodians take a little more care of them – have a future that will extend far beyond the latest inane predictions.

  • Sex ad rating: a poor four out of ten. ‘Mistress Dawn’ and ‘Top Totty’ were just two of twenty adverts on page 109 of the classified book that I reckon might have been offering something more than a head massage.

    Read Steve’s previous blog posts here


  • Steve Dyson worked in the regional press for 20 years, editing weekly, Sunday and daily newspapers in the North East and the Midlands from 2002 until the end of 2009. To contact him, email steve.dysonmedia@googlemail.com.

    Steve’s blog is available via an RSS feed. Click here to subscribe.


    1. To me to you

      A future yes, but for most not as Daylies.

      Report this comment

    2. opto

      Local papers have a future, but ONLY if they are properly staffed. Reporter numbers at many papers are the lowest for four decades and at critical levels. Web sites are a useful add-on but will never produce the ad income that printed products make. My only worry after 40 years in the trade is that if owners don’t staff papers properly very soon they will decline rapidly because the public are not mugs.

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    3. somewhereovertherainbow

      Nice though opto and I agree . But there’s an economic crisis gripping the country and no chance of extra staff. Also in my long experience of “culls” owners don’t tend to restore staff levels after a recovery. They get greedy for bigger profit margins and fatter pay packets for the bosses. Sad, but true.

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    4. cheshire pussy

      would be interesting to see the cost of the adverts to create such a marvel….. giving them away I suspect. Anyway, when you break the paper down it is no more than your average weekly paper (approx80pages). The only difference here is cheap adverts that fill it the rest of this ‘litter tray’ fodder.

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    5. Shuttleboy

      One for the conspiracy theorists…Cheshire is the only English county without its own BBC Local news website. Coincidence?

      Report this comment

    6. davy gravy

      It is a massive paper though – what Steve would call a “cat killer”. All of which adds an extra nuance to the “leave our cats alone” header on P7…..

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    7. Colin Peel

      A cat killer? With two 112 and 128 page sections, it’s a double barrelled cat killer!

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    8. davy gravy

      Maybe we need to come up with a new category. “Elephant killer”? I pity the poor paper boys who have to deliver it…..

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    9. Realist

      It is the drip, drip, drip of declining circulations that will condemn newspapers to their graves. You can have as many advertisements as you can muster, but if there is nobody willing to read the vehicle that contains them, then the game is up. Newspaper readers are not stupid, they all realise they are being asked to shell out their hard earned money on products of declining journalistic quality, thanks to the slash and burn policies of shortsighted proprietors. Never mind the width, Mr Dyson, feel the quality.

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    10. Steve Dyson

      Thanks for the comments. Re. Realist’s note on quality, it was there in shedloads in the Chester Chronicle. See you all early next week when Dyson at Large is let loose at the SoE in Glasgow…

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