No editor likes advertising managers’ requests to run full wraps round their beloved newspapers.
But when times are hard, it’s worth at least having a compromise scenario in your back pocket, and here’s one I’ve spotted that seems to work.
The Southwark News appears to allow wraps, but only if they are ‘three-quarter’ style, leaving prominent space under the masthead to display the main editorial content.
The result? Yes, more crucial revenue in the tin and slapped backs in the boardroom. But more importantly, especially for paid-for titles, the three-quarter approach allows space that can still be used to attract readers and, of course, retains some editorial pride.
The wrap round the weekly Southwark News on January 5 saw My Big Fat Greek restaurant effectively getting a half page ad on the front and a full page on the back, with other advertisers on the inside front and back pages.
With decent people pictures and well-written boost headlines, I reckon there was still enough content on the front for readers to be enticed to buy.
‘Brave builders rescue terrified residents from burning flats’ was a good local ‘splash’, and was then fully laid out as such on the ‘real’ page one inside the wrap.
OK, you may think fire rescues are two a penny, but this one told how the builders were too concerned to wait for the fire brigade and rescued residents with their own ladders as smoke billowed from the property.
This made it a great local exclusive, one to natter about in all the pubs and shopping precincts in Camberwell that week. Even better, the builders happily posed for a picture – and just look at the one guy’s beard and headwear!
I wasn’t too interested in the top cop’s interview on policing the Olympics, but thought the sport boost on the wrap and the real page one was another seller: ‘Striker plays on despite arrest’.
This was Millwall’s Darius Henderson, arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm on New Year’s Day, but backed by his club ‘John Terry’-style as innocent until proven guilty, making another good talking point for readers. (For the record, Henderson was still on bail as this blog went to press.
I found the Southwark News to be a buzzing little paper throughout, and especially liked the catchy headlines that showed subs cared about their words, making community news shine.
Try this one leading page three: ‘Well I’ll be damed! Former primary head recognised in Queen’s honour list.’ Or this one leading page seven: ‘Bun House is no longer current,’ the Bun House being the name of a local boozer set to close.
It wasn’t all fun and frolics though, with plenty of straightforward hard news stories, including: ‘Police: we’ll double riot catch’ on page four; ‘Dad-to-be stabs himself in heart’ on page five; and ‘Fighting dog bait Timmy on the mend’ on page 10.
Regular sections include a ‘meet the stray’ column by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home on page four (‘Meet Jessie Woo’, a Staffordshire Bull puppy), ‘In the Dock…’ on page eight, with six detailed magistrates cases, and a ‘Disability’ column and one from local MP Tessa Jowell on page 13.
Tight, clear intros were obviously a rule of the newsroom as well, with this typical example from the page seven Bun House story: “A historic Peckham boozer that has served punters in the area for more than a hundred years will shut its doors next month.”
My only real criticism of the Southwark News is that there wasn’t quite enough content: in a 36-page book inside the wrap, there were 59 stories on 12 news pages, seven pages of detailed What’s On listings, and a further 16 reports on five sports pages.
But then this is no typical newspaper – and certainly not one with limitless editorial resource like shared columns, national news and syndicated features available to those belonging to big publishers.
The Southwark News is London’s only paid-for, independent weekly newspaper, staffed by an editor, a deputy and just five reporters – who also look after a district edition for Dulwich and Herne Hill and a monthly lifestyle and entertainments paper, the Southwark Weekender.
Launched as an A4 news sheet back in 1987 by the late Dave Clark, it was acquired in 2002 by young reporters Chris Mullany and Kevin Quinn who, despite the recession, have turned the small business into a valued part of the community.
The Southwark News now has a growing weekly paid-for circulation of 12,208 at 40p a time, with the Weekender distributed to a further 30,000 homes.
It’s making profit and they’ve recently taken on more staff, their careful expansion during the recession encouraging news for other independents and would-be launches across the UK.
Free from the shackles of bigger groups’ strict digital policies, the Southwark News has also decided to give little away on its website other than a limited archive, with readers wanting full access to the online version of the paper charged 40p a time.