Jim Hayes
Editor-in-chief INM Regionals

Jim Hayes - Editor-in-chief INM Regionals

INM’s portfolio of newspapers includes 12 weekly regional newspaper titles, namely The Kerryman, The Corkman, the Drogheda Independent, The Argus, the Bray People, the Wicklow People, the Wexford People, Gorey Guardian, Enniscorthy Guardian, the New Ross Standard, the Fingal Independent and the Sligo Champion. These newspapers publish local and regional news and sport.


Daily readership print

Journalists employed

The comfort of family in a new digital way

How to serve readers if they can’t make the weekly trip to the newsagents? Become digital overnight, be creative and reach into the hearts of the community. ‘We’re here for you.’

Front page Wicklow People (1 April) showing the We’re Here For You campaign.

The impact of coronavirus on our newspapers and our local communities was sharp and instant as spring dawned last year. St Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s annual holiday traditionally marked with parades in towns and villages all over the country, was cancelled as the country headed into an unprecedented lockdown.

As plans unravelled, editors in our 12 regional newspapers faced the task of filling pages reserved for images and stories of celebration and pageantry. It was a challenge they would face time and again in subsequent months.

Through March and April we mined story and picture archives for essential “human interest” as current events dried up and Covid-19 dominated the news. But we knew it would not be enough. Many of our readers were reluctant to make that weekly trip to the newsagents and circulations were under pressure as a result.

Our editors and journalists looked beyond print to deliver up-to-the-minute local news. In the absence of breaking news feeds on our websites, we stepped up activity on social media. Daily Covid-19 news updates on Facebook have become a vital component of our local news services and have cemented our reputation as the most reliable and trustworthy source for that information in our markets.

As the pandemic broke, we recognised the value of digital editions.

We launched our ePapers and Local Irish News app with great fanfare and an aggressive marketing campaign that included front-page wraps, highlighting convenience and value. The formula has been a success – from zero to 1,500 in-contract subscribers in nine months.

Behind the figures, of course, are the human stories of not only readers in lockdown but journalists as well. They have had to adjust very quickly to a new reality of personal time management and balancing life and work, all under the shadow of a pandemic. Among the results: a deeper understanding of the plight of others and a greater prevalence of long-form interviews and analysis.

The lack of fixtures and regular events forced editors and journalists to don their thinking caps and come up with creative ways to fill pages and hold reader interest. We launched a number of editorial campaigns that reached into the heart of local communities, including the We’re Here For You initiative, which turned the spotlight on frontline heroes and community volunteers; We Miss You, where young readers were encouraged to submit pictures and messages for grandparents who they could not visit; and Home In Our Hearts, where readers living abroad used the pages of the newspapers to send messages to loved ones at home.

Between the lockdowns there was some semblance of normality and our photographers took every opportunity to visit local schools and sports camps. The resulting images of smiling youthful faces injected life and colour into the pages of our local papers.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Own magazine maintained its position as the flagship of the regionals as circulation increased, the traditional publication bringing the comfort of the familiar in uncertain times.

Coronavirus, Covid-19, pandemic, PPE, frontline workers, community spread, self-isolation, social distancing, cluster, super-spreader, flattening the curve… 2020 saw a new vocabulary as our journalists grappled with a new reality.

The changes were profound and far- reaching.