The grand old lady of the KM Media Group stable, the Kentish Gazette, has seen her fair share of disruptive technologies come and go.
As the newspaper covering the city of Canterbury, she can trace her history back to 1717 so has had her share of ups and downs. She survived the invention of the telegraph, was still there when radio arrived, and then television. More than two decades into the internet age, she is flourishing and is very profitable.
While many are still daunted by the demands of digital, the Kentish Gazette has embraced it and turned it to her advantage. The journalism that her team produces has never been read by a bigger audience. And our advertisers have never been able to reach so many of their customers so easily. The Kentish Gazette brand exists in newsprint, on the internet and on the most-popular social media platforms.
The transformation has not always been easy and like everyone else, we realise that change is unlikely to stop any time soon, if ever,
For the family-owned KM Media Group, which owns the Gazette and itself started as the Maidstone Telegraph in 1859, the transformation into a multimedia company started in the 1990s when it invested in radio stations.
Its website KentOnline was launched in 2000 and was the first to deliver local video news. Terrestrial and Internet television station KMTV, focused on Maidstone and Tonbridge, is just around the corner.
All of this is proof, if it were needed, that local media continues to go from strength to strength. In July 2015, KentOnline attracted 2,272,819 unique browsers and generated 14,313,567 page views. In Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay and Faversham, the Gazette team attracted 495,524 unique browsers and 1,351,031 page views in an area with a population of roughly 170,000.
The KM Media Group's digital revenues are up 30% and has evolved into a multi-million pound business.
How has the Kentish Gazette stood out from the crowd in an age dominated by mobiles, tablets, laptops and PCs? By adopting the same principles as our predecessors did in 1717 and producing content that is trusted and which people want to give up their time to read.
When news breaks, people turn to the Kentish Gazette online to find out what is really going on. Most of the time they only know about it because of us.Because the Kentish Gazette team is close to its audience, it uncovers human interest stories that really matter.
We are not afraid of running the odd quirky story and have some fun - see Crabzilla or the Herne Bay shark while not falling into the clickbait trap loved by many news organisations desperate for someone to read their content.
We avoid lists of the best places to go dogging or running stories about popular TV shows or naked pictures of celebs with no local link.
We are using our vast social media following to find news, promote our stories and be part of our audience's lives. They talk to us and we talk to them like never before.
The Kentish Gazette's journalists are now experts in using social media, search engine optimisation and online analytics to measure the success or otherwise, of their content. They are producing videos, polls, picture galleries and audio interviews to persuade the audience to stick around on our site..
Whereas newspaper editors used to have to wait two weeks to see how a particular story sold, analytics are giving them a real-time insight into their audience - we know what they like, when they like it and how they like it. The times of the day or week our audience accesses our content is changing and so are our shift patterns.
Newspaper journalists skilled at compiling words for newsprint are adapting their content for mobile phones and tablets.
Will we continue to be successful? Being a family-owned firm means our shareholders are focused on long-term success and are happy to invest in the future, and that includes journalism.
Two inalienable facts will see us through.
- Firstly, life is and always will be local - 97 % of people spend half or more of their time within 10 miles of home and 89% of people spend half or more of their money within 10 miles.
- Secondly, our 300-year-old heritage, a track record like no other, means we are trusted by our audience and our advertisers. Our values are their values.
We bring order to the wild west that is the internet with all of its speculation, rumour, innuendo and lawlessness.
Our digital journey is not over. The mining of big data, augmented reality advertising and self serve digital advertising are all around the corner.
Curation is coming too. At least we should be good at it with three centuries of practice!
Leo Whitlock, editor of the Kentish Gazette