WHEN the Tenby Observer, the local paper of a small Welsh fishing town, relaunched in 1978, it declared itself no longer interested in the goings-on of nearby Carmarthen and Haverfordwest. Henceforth it would report only on Tenby. The first edition carried a front-page story about thefts from a local caravan site (an “alarm clock, assorted foodstuffs and two clothes brushes”). The paper’s new owner, Sir Ray Tindle, told his reporters: “No cat should have kittens in Tenby without us knowing about it.”
The term “hyperlocal news” was not much used in those days, but that is what Sir Ray was up to. Last month the proprietor, now 85 and still running a stable of over 220 regional papers, applied the principle to his struggling South London Press, splitting it into seven more local editions focusing on individual boroughs. Readers’ interest in local news reaches only a short way from their doorstep, he says, and a local DIY store has no business advertising a hammer to someone on the other side of London.