Meet the businesswoman reviving the community newsletter and turning a profit

Margaret Paton

A regional NSW businesswoman is reviving the free community newsletter and turning a profit.

Starting three years ago with an established title, The Canowindra Phoenix, Cheryl Newsom has added three more mastheads in Forbes, Parkes and Hilltops in the Central West of NSW.  

The formula that works for the newsletters is community news: “We’re committed to positive reporting on events, social happenings, sporting events and what is happening in and around each community,” says Newsom.

Another “unique point of difference” according to Newsom is that the newsletters are also delivered to road mail boxes. This service is also free, so farmers who might not get into town regularly can still keep up with local news.

We’re committed to positive reporting on events, social happenings, sporting events and what is happening in and around each community.

“It’s vital we reach those people,” says Newsom. “We believe there’s a demographic of people who want to pick up a paper and read it.”

Hard copy print runs range from 1300 to 2000 copies for each newsletter masthead and they range from 12 to 24 A4 pages including some with full colour wraps. Her mastheads are growing, unlike Fairfax Regional newspapers operating in the same areas.

Newsom also understands the need to make the publications available online for those keen to read it on their phone or computer. All of her newsletters are available online with a website and Facebook page.

Another digital arm of the mastheads is an ‘I love local’ app launched in Forbes this month  to be rolled out across Central West NSW. Local businesses and services pay to advertise on the app to reach potential customers who are using the app for free.  

Newsom’s looking to move all publications entirely online “sometime in the future”, but for now having both the hard copy and online business model works – she’s even invested in her own commercial printing machine to have better control over the product.

Newsom’s looking to move all publications entirely online “sometime in the future”, but for now having both the hard copy and online business model works.

“When you set up a business you need to have a budget, a business plan, a cash flow. Some startups don’t budget to do their Business Activity Statement and for GST so they end up owing money they don’t have. We make sure we account for this every week,” says Newsom.

“It takes three months to pull together a business plan and that’s with an outside accountant – I have to fiddle with it to get it right. Business is about the three P’s: planning, processes and product.”

Her business model also includes sponsoring community campaigns and donating proceeds from her company’s events to charities.

On top of her successful mastheads, Newsom is also the managing director of inXcess, a private consultancy she set up in 2005 that helps media clients use new technologies and programs to generate more revenue through advertising.

“I’ve consulted to newspapers a lot in the past, but it was always about sales and advertising, not editorial. I prefer to come up with new ideas, concepts and revenue streams,” she says.

Her consultancy set up the Click2Bid online auction system, which is used by The West Australian and has won an international award. InXcess set up a UK branch in 2011 which now operates there and in Europe.

Newsom says: “If I have a big consultancy project with inXcess, I spend less time on the newsletters. The newsletters are all running profitably.”

Margaret Paton

Former Sunday Age staff journalist, Margaret Paton (formerly Jakovac) has written widely for corporations/government departments and more than 100 online/hard copy mastheads in regional NSW, Sydney, Melbourne and Europe.

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