Community festival launch for new Leeds community newspaper

South Leeds Life newspaper

South Leeds Life has moved into print. Photo courtesy

A stall at Beeston Festival may seem to some like an unlikely setting to launch the latest addition to Leeds’s media scene.

But the launch of hyperlocal website South Leeds Life into print at a community event celebrating community cohesion and attended by thousands of local residents could not have been more apt.

South Leeds Life is an interesting story in itself. It’s a fully constituted community group with a committee and editor made up entirely of local residents and people who work in the area. It was set up back in 2010 and features contributions from local residents, has run community reporter training courses and has a fab community reporters website which takes residents step by step through how to write for the blog.

It roughly has 30-40,000 page views a month.

The first edition of the newspaper is a pilot. If it is successful SLL hopes to produce a regular monthly newspaper starting in the autumn and is already looking for advertisers and someone to sell the ads. It’s understood SLL had a 5,000 print run, funded mainly through a grant application

Editor Jeremy Morton writes:

“We have decided to go into print to reach more residents in the area, especially those who aren’t online yet.”

The newspaper kicks off a campaign to encourage more residents to volunteer their time and skills in the community. It also has a report from South Leeds Foodbank as well as looking ahead to summer galas, local history and sport. It will be available at local pick up points like community centres and libraries.

It’s always interesting to see initiatives like this pop up as mainstream media contracts in terms of staffing and community coverage. Nature abhors a vacuum and hyperlocal naturally fills gaps in the market.

Last year saw the launch of the city-wide The City Talking newspaper in Leeds, with issue 14 out now.
tct newspaper

Run by a group of passionate Leeds residents who make up creative consultancy Hebe Media, TCT is aimed at the lucrative 18-34 demographic which legacy media finds so difficult to reach.

It’s consciously cool, looks at fashion, trendy stuff, events, bars, restaurants, events etc, but also does a bit of news as well.

And it prints thousands of copies monthly at pickup points in the city centre. I gather feedback is very positive from readers. Hebe also run a website of the same name, which is based off a 53,000-strong Facebook group. Hebe was recently names one of just four winners across the UK to get a share of a £2.4m hyperlocal media fund. They will be partnering with organisations in Leeds and York to utilise local data for a variety of platforms, including apps.

Quite the forward-thinking multi-platform organisation!

By why print? I mean, everyone’s been saying for years that in this increasingly digital world ‘print is dead’, right? After all, the Yorkshire Evening Post’s print sales are down 16.5% to 26,000 print copies a night, with its online operation showing steady growth.

Looking at Leeds’s newest additions to its print roster, a key appeal for both of these publishers is the ability to reach audiences who aren’t aware of their digital offering.

In south Leeds SLL now provides important community information to people who are digitally disenfranchised either through poverty, lack of digital skills, or poor broadband connections.

TCT is aimed at a younger, more affluent market, but print allows them to offer longform journalism and a good-looking boutique product which is appreciated by advertisers. Again, they’re targeting a slightly different market to their online products. And ultimately it’s still much easier to sell advertising into a niche print product than it is to sell it online.

Both products provide a welcome spike in traffic to their respective web operations.

And the move into print isn’t only in Leeds. In London The Brixton Bugle is proving a huge success (I visited their impressive operation last year), The Peckham Peculiar was launched in print following a successful crowdfunding campaign, HU17 and York-based One And Other has won many plaudits. Hyperlocal expert Radcliffe wrote in depth about ‘Hyperlocal and happy to be in print’ for the BBC last year.

It shows that while demand for a paid-for daily newspaper is in decline, there is still a demand for quality niche print products.

The proof will be in the pudding regarding the long-term sustainability of all these products, but it does show that relevant multi-platform publishing by small and nimble community media organisations is alive and well in 2014.


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