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Gambling local publisher puts shirt on new title

A journalist-turned-publisher who once started a magazine off the back of a Grand National win has taken another big gamble – by launching a local newspaper.

Jon Saxon used the return from a winning bet on 33-1 outsider Neptune Collonges in 2012 to fund a magazine about British pubs called Doghouse.

Now he has come up with the idea of launching the bi-monthly Ludlow Ledger in the ancient town famed for a nice castle, food festival and title of ‘gourmet capital of country’.

The former magazine journalist is convinced his novice freesheet has plenty of legs in its printed form and plans to take it monthly in the New Year.

Jon, pictured, a former features editor of EMAP’s Car magazine, said: “The Ledger is definitely bucking the trend.

“While our online views are going down, the take-up of the printed version is rising sharply.

“I was reluctant to put the Ledger online anyway. Our launch edition had 700 views online, which went down to 300 for the second and only 70 for the current one,” he added.

“By comparison the first printed edition’s take-up was 61 days, 55 for the second and just 40 days for the last one.”

The 24-page paper, which is showcased by imaginative writing and engaging photography with a strong Sunday supplement feel to it, started with a dual delivery and pick-up distribution formula but is now handled exclusively by 55 retail outlets.

“There’s no question that the people of Ludlow seem to be loving this newspaper more and more – judging by the take-up figures,” said the 41-year-old.

With short stories and long cover articles of up to 3,000 words in length, Jon believes people still want a “good read” in their newspaper.

“I feel a newspaper is a way of bringing communities back together,” he added.

“And just like an old-fashioned newspaper we get proper letters, and postcards, from our readers. The publication seems to be embraced by everyone in the town,” he said.

The risk-taker in Jon saw him begin his career in journalism by accident.

Back in 1994, despite not having a driving licence, he entered a record-breaking attempt to visit all the counties of mainland Britain in the quickest time –in a competition run by Pentax and Continental Tyres.

He sat in the back of .Mk1 Golf GTI driven by a former girlfriend. He kept a diary and took pictures and his story featured in by-lined piece in VW Motoring.

It fired his imagination and he went back to study a media degree at Worcester College. He went from music journalist to motoring content provider for Yahoo, features editor for EMAP’s Car magazine, to New York and Toronto as North American correspondent for The Golf and then editor-in-chief for evo in the United Arab Emirates.

16 comments

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  • October 17, 2014 at 8:26 am
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    I really think there is a market for good quality print and I have a hunch this could succeed. If only the likes of TM, Newsquest, JP would invest in quality!

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  • October 17, 2014 at 9:18 am
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    Would love to see this succeed and prove there’s a market for quality writing still.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 9:45 am
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    This is the future for genuinely local journalism.

    It is not Woodward and Bernstein, and it is not the digital nirvana sought by so many of the big provincial publishers in danger of losing their way.

    But it is worthy and it is worthwhile – a way of communicating with the community on a a doorstep level like good local papers always used to do.

    I like the cut of risk-taker Jon’s jib and I wish him and his team every success.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 10:27 am
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    Love the look of that front page; wish for a different set of fonts, but hey, that’s nitpicking.
    But yes, long form reading, great photography and insightful pieces will always be popular.
    I think he’s on a safe bet.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 11:51 am
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    Let’s hear it for the truly local printed paper. You really can’t beat it and I am proud to be involved with one myself. Readers love good, community papers produced by people who understand the area. Digital is great for a particular demographic, but in rural parts where connectivity is hit and miss, our readers want a paper to grab and read. Long may it continue.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 12:05 pm
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    Thank you, firstly, to HTFP for giving Ludlow Ledger some time under the spot-light, and secondly for the encouraging comments that have followed.

    As for the font marriage (fishyphil) I wanted to see if the normality of Arial and Times could work – which by large it does. I have since played around with a couple more sets of fonts but it drastically alters the feel. I am open to suggestions, if you were happy to pass any my way.

    Also, to everyone else: I would love to feature these motivating comments in issue 4’s letters page. Would that be okay. Of course if you would like to write a little more then please do email me direct: editor@ludlowledger.co.uk. Cheers, Jon

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  • October 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm
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    a PR girlfriend spotted these in her local rag. A motorcyclist “broke THEIR collar bone” FORTY years ago and “Sir Soames”
    just three examples of poor quality to avoid and all the more reason a quality publication can succeed. Moral..get the basics right then aspire to higher things.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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    Like the look of The Ludlow Ledger and wish it every success. The local market is crying out for something fresh but that is still familiar enough to get picked up. Good luck.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm
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    Am I missing something? What’s wrong with forty? And so often these days, police are unable to say if the accident victim was male or female, so I see no issue with their collarbone…
    Anyway, best of luck with your venture, Jon. There’s always a market for quality.

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  • October 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm
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    The first three editions have been brilliant. Each had stories which would be worthy of nationals Such as the chap in the last issue who is building a WW1 biplane in a barn using bits found in his grandfather,s house! Good luck to you Jon.

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  • October 18, 2014 at 8:45 am
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    It looks great and happily this tale helps confirms what the grown-ups instinctively believe, that the emperor’s new digital clothes can be shown up for what they are by quality words in print. Without the blind race to the bottom of the barrel by those in charge of our industry the plunge in quality that has gone hand in glove with the ‘digital revolution’ would have been acted upon. This HTFP article should be required reading for those industry leaders and the NUJ could encourage members to draw it to the attention of shareholder groups – perhaps a mail shot with copies of the Ledger would wake them up. Well done Jon, especially for having the courage of your convictions.

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  • October 18, 2014 at 8:50 am
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    PS: My own errors in that last post demonstrate the need for sub editors.

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  • October 18, 2014 at 3:17 pm
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    Major Eyeswater. need some retraining. 40 it is! In Figures are used in news stories. Basic stuff. Find out from police if it is man or woman! Their is plural! Are they sharing a collarbone? Gawd help us!

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  • October 19, 2014 at 5:09 pm
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    Major eyes water. Yes. You are missing something. 40 it is, for example.

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  • October 23, 2014 at 10:04 am
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    If the sentence starts with a number – “Forty years ago my house burned down…” then it is spelled out.
    And good luck on finding out from the police the gender of the victim. From my own experience, the press office quite often doesn’t know. “Their” is not ideal, but the jury is out on that one, and when needs must it is an acceptable use.

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