The Sidmouth Herald found itself in the Spotlight today when a local BBC television crew descended as the paper celebrated a major triumph in the newly published ABC figures.

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The Herald, which was established in 1849, is the only newspaper in the South West to grow circulation – up 1.4% - with others in the region recording drops as big as 18.8%.

It was double celebration for the Herald as it has totally bucked the trend by notching up back-to-back growth over two successive ABC periods.

Group editor Phil Griffin said: “There can be few, if any, newspapers which have grown readership in such a way over the past 12 months. It’s down to solid reporting and active promotions work – a real team effort”

The Herald averaged 6,402 sales per week in the period July to December, having grown its sales by 0.68% in the previous January to June period.

The circulation success follows Stefan Gordon taking over as content editor in April last year.

Stefan and his small reporting team, Alain Tolhurst and Stephen Sumner, backed up a by staff photographers and strong sports coverage, gave the Herald a new direction in a bid to bring down the average readership age, with the focus on human interest articles and community events, while maintaining its strong coverage of bread and butter material, such as council and crime.

Stefan said: “With 75% of the people in Sidmouth reading the Herald each week, we believe we are giving the readers what they want – information, entertainment and, importantly, a platform to have their say. We have some very contentious local issues, such as cliff erosion and the district council moving its headquarters out of town, as well as plans to build on controversial sites. Some weeks we have run three pages of readers’ letters.”

Pat Smith and her distribution team have also worked hard at community events to raise the paper’s profile.

“The Herald is well-loved and respected. We get such positive feedback at events – the paper is truly at the heart of the Sidmouth community,” said Pat.

The Herald’s ABC success was first aired on BBC Radio Devon’s breakfast programme today (Friday) and will be shown on BBC Spotlight television this lunchtime and again, in more detail, this evening.

BBC Spotlight reporter Neil Gallacher and a film crew spent an hour at Archant’s Exeter office on Friday, March 1.

“It was a strange feeling to find our own newspaper in the news for a change,” said Stefan, who found himself in front of the cameras.

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