Regional publisher Johnston Press has begun the second phase of the relaunch of all 170 of its paid-for newspapers with a further 44 titles to be revamped this month.
Twelve weekly titles are relaunching this week with 32 more set to adopt the company’s new templated designs throughout the rest of October.
It follows the initial relaunch of 23 titles in May which saw five daily newspapers switch to weekly publication and another five change from broadsheet to tabloid.
Some of the titles being relaunched will also be getting cover price rises, for instance the Bexhill Observer and Worthing Herald which will both rise from 55p to 70p.
The first phase of relaunches saw the Scarborough Evening News, Halifax Courier, Northants Evening Telegraph, Northampton Chronicle and Echo and Peterborough Evening Telegraph all go weekly.
The only daily newspaper participating in the second phase of the relaunch is The News, Portsmouth. It will not be moving to weekly publication.
All 170 titles had originally been due to relaunch by November, but as revealed by HTFP last month, the process was delayed with the remaining relaunches now due to run into 2013.
Chief executive Ashley Highfield conceded in a memo to staff that more needed to be done improve content – particularly where cover prices were increasing – and promised to hand out 1,700 laptops to journalists to ensure they had “the tools to do the job.”
In a statement to HTFP ahead of this week’s relaunches, the company claimed it had seen an improvement in both advertising and circulation revenue at the titles involved in the first phase.
It also said extensive consumer research had provided “a wide range of useful feedback” and promised that the views of readers and advertisers would continue to be taken into account during the second phase.
Said Ashley: “We received lots of feedback from readers of our Phase One titles – a lot of it good and some of it not so good as we would have expected – and that has informed our approach to Phase Two.
“We are trying different types of marketing and sales promotions and introducing further improvements to content. We expect to undertake further research during this second phase before looking to complete the rest of our relaunch programme.”
Among the titles relaunching today are the Hastings Observer series, where new features will include a 16-page entertainments and what’s on section, called The Guide.
Keith Ridley, editor-in-chief of the East Sussex titles said the feedback from the Phase One relaunches had been invaluable.
“We have very strong communities and a loyal readership, and we have been careful to strike a balance between the new and the old. These relaunches are about evolution and not revolution.
“We have a smart new look and a lot of new content. But we will continue to evolve over the coming months. We want to attract a new audience without alienating those who already enjoy us.”
The Worthing Herald, also relaunching this week, will include a new page called Snap Happy featuring “feel-good” pictures from family parties and celebrations, and Animal Magic, a page dedicated to pet care with a column from a local vet.
There will also be four pages of nostalgia and a new ‘Behind the Headlines’ feature looking at issues in depth.
Defending the cover price rise, editor-in-chief Colin Channon said: “We have delayed putting up the price for as long as we can, but at least we can add extra value to the Herald.
“When I told someone locally we had to put the price up, he shrugged and said 70p these days gets you half a cup of coffee, or a chocolate bar, or a can of fizzy drink – and that the Herald was better than any of them!”
The full list of newspapers relaunching this month is as follows:
Eastbourne Gazette Series
Hastings Observer Series (including Bexhill Observer and Rye and Battle Observer)
Mid Sussex Times
Sussex Express Series
Worthing Herald Series
Chichester Observer Series
Week beginning 8 October:
Lincs Free Press
Bury Free Press
Suffolk Free Press
The News, Portsmouth
Week beginning 15 October:
Market Rasen Mail
Portsmouth Journal Series
Hastings & Bexhill Resident
Week beginning 22 October:
Bognor & Chichester Journal & Guardian
Ems Valley Gazette
Mid Sussex Citizen