Here's to the future after one year down and you by our side
- Credit: Archant
IT was on Friday March 6 that we stood in the ballroom of the Abbey Sands Hotel in front of a packed gathering of Torbay's finest to announce the coming of a new newspaper.
Many thought us mad. A new printed publication taking on the might of all things digital where clicks, shares, likes and algorithms ruled the world.
But we firmly believed we were offering something different and there was still life yet in the old dog called print.
We could sense from the feedback in the room that day that people still had an appetite for newspapers, local newspapers. They welcomed the Torbay Weekly. We were delighted, enthused and humbled.
Little did we know that just a few days later that very same hotel would be confined to darkness and like the rest of Torbay closed. The pandemic had arrived.
Commercial support from our advertisers for our launch edition had been way above budget targets. But then most of the advertisers quite understandably were forced to walk. They had no businesses to advertise. We were left with just hundreds in the pot.
Abandon completely, postpone or go ahead?
- 1 Hilton opens its doors - with a little help from Bert & Buoy and a Riviera palm tree
- 2 500,000 meals and still going strong
- 3 Relentless from Torquay United
- 4 Four to battle in Bay by-election
- 5 Torbay has it all - and we all have a part to play in tourism future
- 6 Joelene to lead special police scrutiny panel
- 7 Absolutely ridiculous and selfish
- 8 TW Predicta April 22
- 9 Concluding the debate about diesel v petrol v electric cars
- 10 Rowers - and Mr Portillo - in bid to go round world in 80 days and raise money for Rowcroft
Some again must have thought we had lost those proverbial marbles when we decided to go for it.
But we had fantastic support from Archant Newspapers and, in particular, then chief executive Simon Bax. Some advertisers stayed with us and have remained with us ever since. To them we are eternally grateful. We had support from Torbay Council and other key stakeholders. And we had those such positive vibes from that reception at the Abbey Sands.
Torbay was ready for a new newspaper which did old-fashioned things in a modern way, putting the paper at the heart of the community. The focus would be on our Naturally Inspiring Bay and its inspiring people, reflecting on success and uplifting and heart-warming human-interest stories coupled with a small army of correspondents writing about that rich community. A newspaper by the community for the newspaper.
And, so, on Thursday March 26, the first free editions of the Torbay Weekly rolled off the press - a unique launch edition working with the council, public health and other partners packed with advice and Coronavirus helpline numbers aimed especially at those residents without access to a website or social media platforms at a time when they needed help the most.
Our first year has gone and we are still battling away.
But our hard core of advertisers has stayed loyal through lockdowns. The feedback we have to our community content model has been simply inspiring in itself.
We feel that we have now touched first base and achieved broadly our initial goals even though we are still operating in hugely challenging circumstances.
We are now entering phase two of our three-year plan.
We have launched a 12-month campaign with Rowcroft Hospice aimed at raising at least £50,000. Rowcroft is dear to the hearts of everybody in Torbay and South Devon and like most other charities has had a terrible year financially. Rowcroft and the Torbay Weekly are an ideal community partnership.
We are committing to giving people an even bigger and better Torbay Weekly with more pagination and at least 56 pages every week as life returns to normality.
Like any business we operate under economic constraints and will continue to strive to publish profitably and provide you with all you need from a local title.
We have so far relied solely on advertising revenues in a market which is not expected to be back to any sense of so-called normality for many months.
That is partly why we will be introducing a £1 price on to the Torbay Weekly when sold from next week. As part of this we will donate 20p of each copy sold to our Rowcroft campaign. This will happen in an automated way through the purchase process, you pay a £1 and 20p of that flows through the supply chain into Rowcroft.
We are broadening the availability of the Torbay Weekly across the Bay and beyond. It is currently available in 56 outlets across TQ1-TQ5 but will from next Thursday 8,000 copies will be available in 120 places throughout South Devon.
This will include for the first time the major supermarkets of Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco, Lidl and Morrisons as well as all of the current corner shops and convenience stores.
We will be introducing ourselves to new readers. You will see on this page a list of all the outlets where we will be available.
It is important we maintain a critical mass of delivery and we will continue to be available free of charge through over 18,000 letterboxes across the Bay. Why do some still get the paper free while others will have to pay £1?
We are being as open, up-front and transparent as we can be here. Specially collated data shows those homes are the most likely to respond to our advertisers which is obviously crucial to them and us as a business. Those individuals will be able to contribute in a different way to our Rowcroft campaign in the months ahead.
We would love to serve every home and continue with the Torbay Weekly being free for all. But we have to be realistic. Our current ambition is to publish a stronger, bigger and better newspaper to those who want it and who will now have access to it. There is a cost to that. We will continue to have over 26,000 copies in the marketplace and that will, hopefully, grow.
We were immensely proud when Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez hailed the Torbay Weekly as the 'resurrection of print'.
We couldn't have come this far without your support. Please stick by us for the exciting and Naturally Inspiring journey that lies ahead.