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News group's future under the spotlight

More than 100 editors and journalists from across Archant gathered to discuss the way forward for the group at its annual editorial conference.

During the two-day event at Stansted Airport’s Hilton Hotel staff from the group, which publishes the Ipswich-based Evening Star, East Anglian Daily Times, Eastern Daily Press and Evening News in Norwich, as well as more than 80 weekly titles, were given the chance to share their ideas and hear from a number of guest speakers.

The theme for the event was Time for a Change?, and the conference was opened with a speech from Archant chief executive John Fry, who asked delegates to focus on the important issue of circulation.

He asked: “With long term circulation trends slipping, what can we do to maintain and grow our existing customer base, by focusing initially on our existing products and then on innovations and acquisitions.

“How do we make our fantastic products even better and how do we fill in the gaps around our existing products?”

Delegates also heard from conference organiser Peter Sands, managing director of The Editorial Centre in Hastings, who argued that content is the only reason people buy newspapers and magazines.

The former Northern Echo editor said: “People ask themselves two questions when buying a publication: What’s in it for me? and What does buying it say about me?”

Sun Woman editor Sharon Hendry also gave an insight into what attracts readers, and Simon Bradshaw, editor of The Argus in Brighton, told how changes have been made to his paper following declines in circulation – including cutting the number of editions from eight to three.

And Ipswich Evening Star news editor Martin Davey also revealed how changes had been brought in at his newspaper by bringing back patch reporting – and even offering reporters bonuses if sales in their patch go up.

Martin told delegates: “We went back to reporting news from the local streets. In this technological age there is still no-one who can compete with the local newspaper for local news.”

  • ‘Henry V’ was also on hand to motivate staff at the conference, as theatre director Paul Bourne and actor Patrick Morris recreated the atmosphere of some 600 years earlier at Agincourt, when Henry V roused his 10,000 demoralised troops to a final attack and a famous victory.

    Staff were asked to imagine they were part of Henry’s army, and as the sounds of battle rang out over the PA system Patrick rose before the gathered crowd to deliver a stirring rendition of the famous Shakespearean speech which ends: “The game’s afoot. Follow your spirit and upon this charge cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George’.”

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    ©NEP 2004