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Home KM Group History
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Charles Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities. Queen Victoria had been on the throne for 22 years. And the Maidstone Telegraph, forerunner of the Kent Messenger, was born.
It was 1859. A loaf of bread was 10 pence (4p). A bottle of gin was 3 shillings (15p). And Maidstone's new paper cost one penny.
The launch of the paper signified the beginning of the Kent Messenger Group, the county's premier media group.
Today, over 150 years later, the company continues to publish weekly newspapers, supplements and magazines but also runs websites, radio stations and other media-related businesses.
In fact, because the KM became so deeply rooted in Kent, parts of the county were dubbed "KM Country" - most appropriate for a county that in 1421 was the birthplace of William Caxton, the father of printing!
One of the Group's titles can trace it's history back well beyond Queen Victoria - almost 300 years to 1717. That was when the Kentish Post, which became the Kentish Gazette, first rolled off the press in Canterbury.
The Gazette series of newspapers was taken over by the KM in 1980, one of numerous mergers and acquisitions which date back to 1890. But throughout the years of expansion, huge competition and massive technological change the KM has remained in the ownership of one family.
In the 1970s, Messenger House was built on the site of a wartime searchlight battery in Larkfield and served as the company’s headquarters. The site is currently being redeveloped, with our Medway office now serving as temporary HQ.
The Kentish Express, founded in 1855 and based in Ashford, was bought by KM Group in 1971. In 1980, KM Group bought Kent County Newspapers, bringing the Herne Bay Gazette, the East Kent Mercury and the long-established Kentish Gazette into the KM family. The Kentish Gazette was first published as the Kentish Post, the county's first newspaper.
The titles merged in 1768. In 1987, the Sheerness Times Guardian, Faversham News and Sittingbourne News (now the Sittingbourne Extra) were added to the group.
The Group owned a few free newspapers from 1970, but throughout the 1980s, the Extra series, which it started in Thanet, expanded to cover the whole county. Dartford Informer & Maidstone Star also joined the stable of free papers. There are now 7 free newspapers in the series.
Committed to the future of local newspapers, the company has launched two exclusively paid-for titles since 2010. Sittingbourne News Extra and Folkestone & Hythe Express. It has also launched further editions of its established titles. The Sandwich Mercury, an edition of the East Kent Mercury, published for the first time in May 2014.
KM Group also publishes specialist publications such as Kent Business and What's On, a popular weekly guide to events.
KM Group has always been about information. Nowadays, that does not just mean newspapers. It also includes the Internet, radio and other media.
The countywide website Kent Online was launched in 1999 signaling a new era for the company. It has been the UK’s fastest growing regional news network for two consecutive audit periods between June 2013 and June 2014.
KM Group has evolved by supporting and developing new media. Since 2007 KM Digital have sold newspapers online and in 2008 nine local web sites launched as online partners to the group’s newspapers.
The company started to invest in radio in 1999 and in 2001 KM Radio was established. There are now seven commercial local stations across Kent as well as a DAB digital station.
In July 2014 KM Group, in partnership with the University of Kent, was awarded the local television licence for Maidstone and Tonbridge.
With its integrated multimedia portfolio, the KM Group has shown itself to be the premier media group in Kent and Medway. But never forgets its roots.
KM Group remains committed to serving the county, its people and supporting their communities. Through a network of local offices, the company aims to bring a top quality and comprehensive service to both the people and businesses of the county. Just as it has for over 150 years.
Barham Pratt Boorman, great-grandfather of the present chairman, was the youngest member of a family who ran a general store in Tenterden. He was interested in newspapers and in 1884 had launched the Kent Examiner and Ashford Chronicle.
By then the Maidstone Telegraph had become the Kent Messenger and Maidstone Telegraph and had editions in Dartford and Sevenoaks as well as Maidstone. The papers were printed on a steam driven press in Station Road, Maidstone.
But in 1890 the owners were flung into jail after a series of costly libel actions. They appealed to Mr Boorman for help. He raised funds to get them out of jail and then bought the Kent Messenger from the cash-strapped brothers.
Over the next 40 years, "BP" spearheaded radical technological change and company expansion. Linotype machines were installed and revolutionised compositing by automatically setting type that had been done by hand. New editions were published and offices opened.
Mr Boorman died in 1928 after 40 years at the helm. His son Henry Roy Pratt Boorman, grandfather of the present chairman, took over.
Roy Boorman, universally known as the Guvnor, established the Kent Messenger as the pre-eminent newspaper in the county.
He took over several titles including the Maidstone Gazette and Journal (1936), the Chatham Observer (1937), the Tonbridge Free Press (1958) and the Edenbridge Chronicle (1968).
Circulation rose steadily, thanks in part to Mr Boorman's view that, at a time when few people owned television sets, pictures sold newspapers.
He was a good publicist for the KM, driving all over the county looking for suitable sites for advertising hoardings. One slogan read: "Kent Messenger for Maids and Mistresses" - a risqué slogan for its time!
In the 1930s, the KM published a magazine called "Kent Tells The World", featuring county industry and organisations. Mr Boorman sent it to British embassies all over the world.
The KM operated from premises in Week Street, Maidstone, where the company flourished for more than half a century. The building, which incorporated oast houses, was later demolished after a serious fire. The site is now called Brenchley House.
Roy's son Edwin joined his father in the business in 1959.
He was about to emigrate to Canada to set up his own printing business when the KM Group was caught up in a national printing dispute. As a strike loomed, Edwin offered his help to continue publication during the crisis, which his father accepted.
After that Edwin stayed with the family business and steered the company through decades of growth as Managing Director and, subsequently, Chairman..
He also served as President of the Newspaper Society between 2001 and 2002.
Edwin was awarded an OBE in 2002 for his services to the Royal British Legion in Kent and retired in January 2006, becoming company President.
Edwin passed away after a short illness, aged 76, on March 14, 2012.
Geraldine Allinson, daughter of Edwin Boorman, worked for some of the UK's major regional newspaper groups before joining the KM Group in 1993 as Development Manager and became Chairman following her father's retirement in 2006.
"I would hope that if my great-grandfather could look at everything the company has achieved since his sudden death in 1928 he would congratulate his son and grandson for leading the company through thick and thin and into a future he could not have dreamed of."
She served as President of the Newspaper Society between 2011 and 2012.
In February 2006, Libby (Geraldine's cousin) became a Non-Executive Director. Libby had previously worked in the Commercial Team for over 10 years and now runs her own business in Bilsington near Ashford.
Henry (Geraldine’s brother) joined the KM Group in 2013 working on projects across the company.