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Ex-editor hits out at ‘clumsy’ regional press web adverts

A former regional editor who launched his own series of online-only magazines has criticised “clumsy” web adverts on regional press websites – saying newspapers groups need to “get to grips” with digital.

Darren Isted, who spent 12 years in charge of Stevenage-based weekly The Comet, runs Hashtag Digital Media, which publishes a series of local interest magazines in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

He is set to launch two further publications, #London and #Cambs, in the next few weeks.

The magazines are published solely as e-editions online, which Darren describes as a “gamechanger”.


He told HTFP: “Using digital is the way we lead our lives now. For CDs, DVDs and landlines just a few years ago read streaming of music and TV and the rise of the mobile.

“This has been a quick change and newspaper groups simply haven’t got to grips with using digital to actually promote their advertisers without clumsy web adverts or even clumsier pay-per-tweet models.

“Advertisers and readers love the magazines because they offer a print style read but do so with all the potential digital offers such as live links, social media shares and video.”

“Print is struggling, not dead, and if we maximise digital to its fullest potential there is no reason why we can’t run both this and the print model hand in hand in the future. It’s the application of print principles to digital which will end up killing both.”

Darren spent a total of 25 years with The Comet before stepping down in 2014 to set up his own marketing business.

On how his new venture has fared, he said: “The titles have been remarkably popular in each area in which they have been published.

“People are quick to grasp the power of digital if it is promoted properly and our use of social media means that it is easy to access links direct to pages for advertisers while also providing an interesting read for potential customers.”

Darren added: “In terms of the future we have already had contact from media companies about the potential this offers. We have also developed a franchise model which would allow Hashtag Digital Media to role this out both UK wide and globally to those who wish to publish their own local magazine but don’t wish to use an outdated print format with poor generic copy.”


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  • February 16, 2017 at 7:11 am

    A good piece by Darren

    In my experience the majority of regional publishers see online digital advertising and print as two completely separate entities rather than part of s bigger whole, in some cases setting up digital sales teams in competition with their own print teams
    Many of the progressive independent publishers thriving across the uk in competition with the bigger groups have to maximise response for their advertisers so duly realise the importance of presenting a united front of print digital and social media as part of the customer support package which increases the chance of response for the advertiser and increases the likelihood of them advertising again.
    Live hyper links in adverts to drive web traffic to a customers own site and supportive social media links are also used as standard by the new publishers,practices the bigger players fail to get their heads around.
    many reps and managers have become complacent and just ‘sell space’ whilst their competitors work harder to gain and keep business and until commercial heads appreciate and adopt s more proactive multi channel approach to selling, the drift away from established papers to new competitors by advertisers and readers will continue

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  • February 17, 2017 at 9:10 am

    A lot of regional and weekly webs are frankly a mess to negotiate. They do not seem able to crack it.

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