His first two titles will be a weekly news paper for Macclesfield followed by a fashion and arts magazine provisionally entitled The Season.
Following his exit from Excel, he has now focused on his portfolio of ‘Today’ urls which he intends to launch across the North initially, working on a hub and spoke style model, which has the local, or more precisely county, web site at its heart and from which a variety of print titles are subsequently spun out.
Regan said he has 25 county or large town urls registered and said he is serious about building a national portfolio.
He is currently funding the operation himself but is also in talks with potential investors.
His team is now five strong he said, all production and editorial and he is looking for six more journalists – two news, two sports and two interns – and he insists he is paying proper money. However, he also added that he is not seeking journalists who regard local papers as a stepping stone to a career with the larger regionals or nationals.
He said he wants to build a publishing business whose whole ethos is based on delivering better local content than is currently available elsewhere.
The first of his sites, Cheshire-Today, was relaunched 10 days ago (having effectively been passive for the past year) and Regan said traffic has been better than he expected with daily unique visitors now up to over 17,000 and he expects a settle down figure of around 200,000 unique visitors a month within a year.
His print titles will have a print run of around 10,000 he said, with the distribution lists compiled from four sources: Google street views, the Land Registry, the electoral register and bought-in post code data.
His lifestyle title, The Season, will be markedly different from the standard ‘county magazine fare’ he insists and will be unashamedly direct in its pursuit of the “extremely wealthy” with an editorial policy which features culture, thoughtful local debate and sport in general rather than “just footballers and C-list celebs.”
Delivering local news to local audiences will sit at the heart of the Today business he maintains.
“Readers will come to Cheshire Today and get the dog’s bollocks in terms of the quality of our local news, sport and fashion.”
In addition to his team of journalists, Regan said they are pulling together a sizeable team of ‘citizen journalists’ but rather than ask readers to chip in with general news items – which he is adamant doesn’t work – they are interviewing specialists and, to use culture as an example, they have already secured the services of a dozen Cheshire arts critics (enthusiasts) and are planning to have team of 35 in place by the summer and ahead of the print launches in September.
Other specialist areas for contributors are also being built up with niche sports reporters the next to be developed.
Regan ideally would like to see up to 10 print titles spun out of the Cheshire Today website hub but he concedes that is more likely to happen if he can secure external investment. But he insists the Macc title and The Season are already budgeted for and will happen.
“I think the death of print publishing is, to paraphrase Twain, greatly exaggerated” he said.
“As long as your delivery combination of print and digital is anchored in good quality content, you will find an audience that will engage editorially and commercially.”