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Dyson at Large: Imagine your dream of a newspaper came true

Imagine a black and white local newspaper with a front page big enough to carry three lead-length news reports and a picture story, along with 12 display adverts priced at £4.22 per single column centimetre (scc).

Imagine this same newspaper has ten pages, and that on the other nine pages there are another 60 stories and 21 more display adverts, priced at £3.29 per scc for inside pages.

Oh, and don’t forget to imagine a back page that is more than half-full of old-fashioned classified advertisements and announcements, all 83 of them with a minimum price of £4.48 for 10 words.

Now imagine this is a weekly newspaper with a cover price of 35p, and that up to 3,900 local people buy it every week.

Hold on to that image for a second and allow me to quickly calculate that the above dream scenario, commercially, could be worth, oh, at the very minimum, a revenue of £3,000 a week, or £150,000 a year.

Okay, I’m snapping my fingers, and I now want you to wake up! But you know how you always wanted that wonderful dream you’re having to continue? Well, this one is real.

The newspaper you dreamed of is The Keswick Reminder, living, breathing and serving Keswick and the surrounding northern Lake District as far as Cockermouth in the west and Wigton in the North.

The Keswick Reminder

And while the paper is what some might call a ‘hyperlocal’, the 65 above-mentioned stories were well-written, interesting to read, and a decent mix of hard news, community tales and sports reports. Take the three main front page stories on Friday 29 July 2016:

  • ‘Reservoir is safe say water bosses after Thirlmere criticism’, a report from Keswick Town Council, where United Utilities defended the state of their reservoir after a former mayor had warned that it “had cracks” that could cause bad flooding.
  • ‘Call for free parking for Keswick residents’, a report from the same town council meeting, demanding that the Allerdale Borough Council should consider giving “at least 30 minutes and possibly up to an hour” of fee-free parking for locals.
  • ‘Hospital campaign receives new boost’, a report that Keswick Hospital supporters reckon they’ve convinced a new health chief “to recommend four extra beds” rather than removing them.

In short, they were meaningful stories, about real people, using facts and quotes from named sources, balanced with journalistic skill and pride. Here’s a few of the best stories from inside pages:

  • ‘Thanks for fantastic toilets’, a report on page two where the local mayor paid tribute to the efforts of a local councillor in saving and modernising town centre loos.
  • ‘Sunday best as the stars come out for film’s world premiere’, a celebrity picture lead taking up half of page three, reporting on the Keswick visit by the cast of Swallows and Amazons.
  • ‘Convention heading for record 15,000 crowd,’ a page four lead about the town’s Christian convention, with an eye-catching introduction that started: ‘Pornography was among the issues discussed …’.
  • ‘Horror of horse slashing attacks’, a page five report which needs little more describing, other than to say that the overall monthly crime figures for the town were said to be less than half of those committed in 2015.
  • ‘Blind cricket in Fitz Park – the best day of my life’, another well-written headline which both tells the page seven story and makes you want to read on.

There was also a list of a baker’s dozen of planning applications on page two, five letters to the editor on pages two and 10, and detailed local cinema listings on page five (which didn’t seem to put off three cinema adverts on page one).

The Reminder may look like a news press relic, but it reads like a modern and indispensable local paper, and it’s based smack in the middle of the community it serves, at 32/34 Station Street, Keswick.

Editor Jane Graves (who’s also a partner of McKanes Printers, the publisher) leads a small team of editorial and production staff from that address, the resulting paper then sold there and in 20-odd local shops, newsagents, garages and supermarkets.

And if anyone’s tempted to comment that this hyperlocal “won’t last” or to question “does it support long-term jobs?”, I’d point out two things: firstly, the Reminder is no upstart – it’s been serving Keswick for more than 120 years, since February 1896; secondly, Jane’s mother previously edited the title for 40 years until 2009.

To me it seems like a dream life on a dream title, and for a handful of journalists in Keswick it’s one that’s very much come true. Perhaps this is a title other hyperlocals could learn from.

• Many thanks to Dyson at Large paper spotter Phil Creighton for posting me copies of The Keswick Reminder. Should anyone else find a local they love, please email me at steve.dysonmedia@gmail.com

6 comments

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  • August 24, 2016 at 9:15 am
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    I’ve commented before about these outlandish enterprises. Where’s the digital strategy; the Facebook likes and retweets; the magical pound-generating website hits; and who’s the regional managing director, the deputy regional managing director and the assistant deputy regional managing director; and the editor-in-chief and their deputy? And what’s the CE on? Bet it’s not even seven figures. No, no, no. This won’t last till Christmas.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 9:58 am
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    It’s heartening to see the Reminder still going strong. I would suggest another reason for its continued success is that its website has carried the following statement for as long as I can remember: “Our website is currently under construction.”

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  • August 24, 2016 at 10:37 am
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    A beautiful name. Obviously the folk who buy do not worry about presentation, it looks like a 1950s paper. Fortunately it has a 1950s attitude to news, plenty of it, well researched and about people. A cheerful tale in gloomy times, thanks Mr D.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 12:46 pm
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    Do the rest of the maths, Steve.

    £150k won’t go very far with, at the very least, two or three staff (probably more), office costs, retail margin, distribution and printing costs.

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  • August 24, 2016 at 1:32 pm
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    Wow. Can’t necessarily see something this ‘traditional’ working everywhere but it does show that many of the changes that have happened in local newspapers have not been for the better and sticking to what works can be a viable business plan.

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  • August 25, 2016 at 8:21 am
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    I think the maths makes more sense, ‘voice of reason’, once you consider that the publisher is called ‘McKanes Printers’. The newspaper is part of a wider printing business, and so contributes to wider revenues, sharing the office, using the facilities, etc. It’s quite common to find that these remaining, longstanding hyperlocal titles are owned by printing companies.

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