Maidstone free newspaper Downs Mail to close after 25 years due to Covid lockdown

A absolutely free newspaper strike hard by lockdown has printed for the final time.

The Downs Mail, which covers Maidstone and Malling, has only just celebrated its 25th anniversary and at its peak shipped 88,000 copies to houses in Kent.

Former KM Editor and founder of the Downs Mail Dennis Fowle signing copies of his book So I started a Newspaper at Waterstones bookshop in Earl Street Maidstone in 2009 Picture: Matthew Walker
Former KM Editor and founder of the Downs Mail Dennis Fowle signing copies of his e-book So I began a Newspaper at Waterstones bookshop in Earl Road Maidstone in 2009 Photograph: Matthew Walker

It was established in January 1997 by previous Kent Messenger editor Dennis Fowle, now 87, and his daughter, advertising saleswoman Claire Procter, 63.

At its height the newspaper experienced 5 editions moreover quarterly leisure and tourism journal, Mid Kent Living.

At the moment edited by Simon Finlay, a long-serving Kent journalist whose earlier positions incorporate enhancing the Folkestone Herald, the title was accomplishing nicely right until the pandemic hit, a assertion explained.

When lockdown was declared advertising earnings nose-dived by 80% in the 1st couple of days prior to hitting zero for the next 3 months.

Irrespective of a restructure, reduction in workplace room, staffing, editions and a government Covid bank loan the business in no way totally recovered.

From July 2020 to July 2021 advertising earnings grew and stabilised, but Mid Kent Dwelling was not manufactured.

In August 2021 income took a sudden plummet all over again and advertisers pulled out because of to discuss of more winter restrictions.

By February, the publication’s print fees experienced risen by 30% in a yr, electricity selling prices had soared and with “no option” to enhance the selling price of the paper the corporation turned unviable.

Maidstone liquidators Maxwell Davies was identified as in and the company goes into liquidation on Monday, June 27.

All through its 25 yrs Downs Mail, which initially revealed in April 1997 as Bearsted Mail right before being renamed Downs Mail in 1999, was associated in strategies to hold the Hazlitt Theatre open, block Kent Worldwide Gateway off the M20, and make a pedestrian bridge across the A249 in Detling immediately after the death of eight-calendar year-aged Jade Hobbs in 2000.

The first edition of the Downs Mail, published in January 1997 Picture: Downs Mail
The very first version of the Downs Mail, printed in January 1997 Image: Downs Mail

Claire, who took in excess of as Chairman from her father in 2009 when he retired, said: “The tiny group at the Downs Mail that has produced this all happen have all labored so challenging, significantly more than the very last two years with so lots of adjustments and challenges.

“Making them redundant right after all their efforts has been the saddest selection of all.

“We just have not been capable to get well and soon after 25 yrs, it is so unhappy for us and for the group we have been these types of a substantial element of.

“We have noticed quite a few other publications fall short and never believed we would way too but the blend of the absence of advertising income, increasing fees and levels of competition from cost-free advertising on the net platforms implies we also haven’t survived.

“We experimented with all we could to transform factors all-around but it just wasn’t enough.”

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