It’s a dream that I reckon many HoldtheFrontPage readers often find themselves yearning for:
- Launch a local paper with funds raised by the community.
- Make it so good that keen readers and advertisers keep it alive.
- Follow that success with a sister paper for the neighbouring suburb.
This dream is a reality for modern media entrepreneurs Kate White and Mark McGinlay, who started The Peckham Peculiar in January 2014 and, now that it breaks even, are about to launch The Dulwich Diverter.
You can read the details of this crowdfunding success and new launch plan at the links above, so I won’t repeat them here.
But alternative business and finance structures aside, what’s the actual product like? I got hold of the latest edition of The Peckham Peculiar – a free, hyperlocal newspaper published every two months – to find out.
The first thing that hit me was the fascinating front page of the February/March edition: a normal but smiling pensioner on her doorstep, her ordinary front door swinging open, its black colour helping to project the white headline and subheading which tell readers exactly what’s going on.
dwellings of SE15
The three page spread inside is mainly pictures from a new book on prefabricated houses, the best images showing residents at the door, in the garden, in their sitting rooms – all the more tantalising because of the mundanity of their surroundings.
The words are not as good as the pictures: a simple snapshot of the history of prefabs, the number still surviving in the local area and a quick interview with the photographer behind the new book.
A better story would have been an interview with at least one of the residents pictured: when they moved in, why they’ve stayed, and what life’s been like in these post-war homes that were built in the late 1940s and intended as temporary structures for just ten years.
Yet despite that lack of specific human detail, the quality of the picture-led design carried the spread, and I even found myself looking at the interesting online prefab links provided at the end of the article.
The other three stories boosted on page one were much stronger reads:
- ‘MEN OF STEEL’, headlined ‘on his metal’ on page 10 (yes, the lack of an initial capital on all inside headlines caused me to twitch as well), a decent interview of around 850-words with a steel fabricator whose sparks can be seen from Peckham Rye Station.
- ‘BELLENDUM BARBER’, headlined ‘how’s trix?’ on page 12, a captivating chat with TV writer Trix Worrell, the man who based the Channel 4 sit-com Desmond’s on the Ambrose family’s barbershop in Peckham.
- ‘NO HOLDS BARD’, headlined ‘shaking up shakespeare’ on page 20, a 1,000-word feature on local Peckham Rye resident Elliott Barnes-Worrell, whose film The Works blends various lines from Shakespeare to create a modern-day story on a local estate.
Despite the housing and local industry features, the latter two articles give you an accurate feel for what Time Out magazine refers to as a ‘local artsy South London newspaper’.
Other major articles in the latest 32-page edition included: a spread on a Peckham-inspired book of cult comic strips; a backgrounder ahead of a local production of Hamlet; an interview with a man making a documentary about changing Peckham; and the rescue of a dying local boozer.
But if that’s what’s wanted by local hipsters in SE15 – and they’re still buying adverts and reading it after 13 issues – then what’s wrong with that? Nothing as far as the publishers’ figures are concerned:
- The Peculiar has a print-run of some 8,000 copies.
- These are distributed as a free pick-up via more than 150 local stockists in Peckham, Nunhead, Dulwich, Camberwell.
- The Peculiar’s online edition attracts an average of 13,000 views per issue.
- Its blog gets more than 1,000 views a day.
- It has “tens of thousands” of followers across various social media platform (including, when I looked, 15.9k followers on its main @peckhampeculiar Twitter handle).
A last statistic on advertising for the hard-nosed among you: the edition I read carried four full-page, two half page and 36 quarter page adverts. There’s gold, it seems, in them thar hyperlocal hills…
* I’ll be returning to the expanding world of hyperlocals in every other blog for the next few months.