How one indie Sydney paper is challenging News Corp and Fairfax

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 12 March 2018
Neighbourhood paper

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding newspapers, there is one new paper on the block that is challenging the status quo.

Neighbourhood is an independent inner-Sydney newspaper founded in 2017 by Jonathan Samway, through his production agency Moth Projects.

Working in agencies for most of his career, such as McCann, Y&R and Prodigy, Samway saw an opportunity for a micro-niche publication to challenge the 'often bias' content he believes dominates Australian content.

The monthly paper now reaches 450,000 in inner-Sydney, dropped in suburbs like Paddington, Surry Hills and Potts Point. It’s a free paper funded by ad revenue.

The paper is 20% ads and 80% content to avoid the paper becoming too cluttered, Samway tells AdNews.

jono.png
Jonathan Samway

Big brands such as Volkswagen Mini and Virgin Airlines have already advertised in the Neighbourhood and Samway says he expects the phone to keep ringing as the paper evolves out of infancy.

“There are a lot of multinational companies who are big spenders nationally, but aren’t getting to a micro level, which is where we thrive,” Samway says.

“There is a lot of trust for advertisers that come with creating a paper that isn’t left or right wing – just good, quality news.”

Unlike other papers, Neighbourhood focuses on in-depth features on local issues instead of covering national and global news, which Samway says gives the paper an edge against Fairfax and News Corp titles.

“Unless you are dead keen, why would you pick up a newspaper when you’ve already read the news on your phone, heard it on the radio or watched it on TV,” Samway questions.

“People still love the idea of something tactile but the method of delivery, pushing out papers every day, is going to struggle.

“If you go to a coffee shop now at 10am and the Sydney Morning Herald is sitting there, it’s already redundant because you’ve been drip fed the news since 7am.”

Instead Neighbourhood has produced stories like ‘Saving the Soul of Kings Cross’, a two-page spread on street artist Banksy and a feature on the issues surrounding the WestConnex being installed in Sydney’s inner-west.

Samway describes the paper’s editorial tone as “an egalitarian way to tell a story”, adding that “people that would never work for Fairfax and News Corp are our contributors”.

Neighbourhood currently has eight staff on its books and a global database of 115 contributors.

Samway has big ambitions for the paper, hoping to reach 450,000 people in Sydney and eventually launch in Melbourne.

banksy.pngOne of Neighbourhood's unique features

Death by a thousand cuts and the failings of mainstream media

Not only is the Neighbourhood taking a different editorial stance, it also aims to look visually different to other Australian papers.

The paper is flashback to the 1970s with its twofold, clean design, inspired by early issues of the New York Times.
Putting together the design, Samway reflected on the wrongdoings of other papers.

“If you look at the Sydney Morning Herald today, it’s lost its way and has click bait headlines and increased sizes images to compensate for ads disappearing,” he says, adding that Neighbourhood wanted to steer clear of this approach.

“The presentation of the articles in Australian papers are degrading.”

He says that writers working for some of the big papers are “disillusioned” and often unable to pursue the stories that matter due to pressure from advertisers or head office.

“We’ve had phone calls from people tell us that we can’t publish a particular story, but we have stuck to our guns because we can – because we don’t have a high flying corporation behind us.”

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