Published: 08:00, 31 May 2017
| Updated: 08:21, 31 May 2017
The new owner of Kent’s leading independent publisher plans to “invest in new technologies” to expand its audience in the county.
Edward Iliffe, whose company Iliffe Media bought the entire shareholding of the KM Media Group in April, said the “very similar” ethos of both businesses inspired the takeover.
In his first print interview since the deal, he committed to supporting the “high journalistic values” enshrined in the group, which publishes nine paid-for and four free newspapers plus KentOnline.co.uk, which serves 2.4 million browsers each month.
He also senses a shift among audiences away from bad news in favour of stories which makes them “feel proud of where they live”.
The takeover is the latest stage in the expansion of Iliffe Media, following the launch of the Cambridge Independent in 2016 and the acquisition of 13 titles from Johnston Press earlier this year.
Mr Iliffe said: “My general view of news is people are interested in their surroundings and what goes on in their communities.
“People in commuter areas love to come back and feel proud of where they live.”
Mr Iliffe has a family history in printing going back to the 1820s.
It was his great-great-grandfather, William Isaac Iliffe, who launched his family’s first newspaper, the Midland Daily Telegraph, in 1891, which became the present Coventry Telegraph.
“The values of the KM Group are very similar to where we have come from..." - Edward Iliffe
His great-grandfather was Lord Iliffe, a Conservative MP from 1923 to 1929, who expanded the publishing business and ultimately became president and principal proprietor of the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail, and owner of the Coventry Evening Telegraph and the Cambridge Daily News.
He was also, for a time, a co-owner of the Daily Telegraph.
The long family history mirrors that of the KM Media Group, which also owns radio station kmfm and is launching KMTV in partnership with the University of Kent on Freeview this summer.
The Kent Messenger was founded as the Maidstone Telegraph in 1859 and taken over by Barham Pratt Boorman, the co-founder of the Kent Examiner & The Ashford Chronicle, in 1890.
The Boorman family owned the group for four generations. The company’s longest-running paper, the Kentish Gazette, was launched as the Kentish Post in 1717 and was the first newspaper in Kent. It was acquired in 1980.
Mr Iliffe said: “The values of the KM Group are very similar to where we have come from. It is much more locally focused.
“We are not here for the short term. The intention is to create a trusted, valued and useful local media where high journalistic values are respected by the readers and advertisers alike.
“In KM these values have been enshrined for many years and makes a good fit with the other Iliffe Media papers, both geographically and philosophically.
“I do not believe these aspirations are greatly different from when these titles were established and it is only the method of distribution that has evolved.”
KM Media Group chairman Geraldine Allinson, the fourth-generation of her family to run the business, said the deal with Iliffe would allow KM to continue to evolve and bring about much-needed investment to maintain its independence and continue to serve the people of Kent with trusted news and other valued content.
It also enables KM, which employs about 270 people, to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding its closed final salary pension scheme.
Mr Iliffe added: “The ambition is to continue to invest in new technologies, which will ensure the future of local newspapers, radio and TV and associated websites.
“Whether this is on a screen or paper or both is not important – the overall audience is.”