At a time when digital is the buzzword in the newspaper industry, former Daily Express editor Richard Addis is going back to basics. In the midst of all the online experimentation, veteran newspaperman Addis, who is also a former deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph and executive editor of the Daily Mail, is launching a free local daily newspaper.
“Project newsstand”, as Addis describes it, will be a free tabloid publication focusing on arts, leisure and entertainment that will be distributed to a small number of addresses in an upmarket London postcode area. Delivering to what he will tell advertisers is a small but niche audience made up of wealthy readers such as chief executives, Addis says Project newsstand is experimenting with “hyper-local journalism”. Further launches in other areas are likely to follow.
Keeping his cards to himself Addis will not divulge the exact streets for the launch at the end of March, or who is backing him financially and with how much money, but he does say: “Hyper-local journalism is a concept being discussed in the major journalism schools in America and is based on the idea that people are starting to get weary of world news and most want to know what is happening on their doorsteps.
“Our competition isn’t regional or local newspapers as you might expect, as many of them cover vast areas compared to what we’re doing,” he continues. “We’re talking literally a few streets, so I suppose if we have competition, it is the local village or community newsletter. If someone is writing about your street it is impossible not to want to read it.” Addis, who is also a former Marketing Week journalist, is keeping details of his distribution model under wraps but City AM’s latest increase in circulation to 93,737 continues to show that free newspapers can succeed and that there is still demand for a printed product. “For our project there wouldn’t be enough penetration if it was a web-based thing – people just wouldn’t read it,” he says. “I still don’t believe that people are going to the internet at home every day and clicking onto all sorts of new websites. We’d need to spend an enormous amount on marketing if we were launching an internet site just to stand out among all the competition. If a newspaper comes through your door you can’t fail to notice it.”
Observers might say that to launch a newspaper so local in content is like stepping back in time but Addis argues it is “stripping newspapers back to the essence of journalism” and says: “World news is universally free and therefore has no value. Intelligent analysis you pay for with products like the Sunday papers but oddly it is local information that is the most valuable of all and that impacts on your life the most.”
Success will rely on the backing. A former colleague of Addis adds: “Richard is delightful and has substantial talent but how insane his new venture is depends on who his financial backers are. Local news can be done in print but the costs are massive, whereas local community websites are growing all the time. The thinner the area is the less daily news he will have to write about and even if the audience is upmarket, I can’t see premium brands advertising in a non-glossy. It may work but I wouldn’t put any money into it.”
Addis is extending the boundaries of the newspaper industry’s current exploration and experimentation in a different, more regressive direction than that being followed by his peers. But sceptics could find the multi-channel delivery of news content in the future does indeed include access points thought to be archaic and no longer of use.