A free newspaper hit hard by lockdown has printed for the last time.
The Downs Mail, which covers Maidstone and Malling, has only just celebrated its 25th anniversary and at its peak delivered 88,000 copies to homes in Kent.
It was founded in January 1997 by former Kent Messenger editor Dennis Fowle, now 87, and his daughter, advertising saleswoman Claire Procter, 63.
At its height the newspaper had five editions plus quarterly leisure and tourism magazine, Mid Kent Living.
Currently edited by Simon Finlay, a long-serving Kent journalist whose previous jobs include editing the Folkestone Herald, the title was doing well until the pandemic hit, a statement explained.
When lockdown was announced advertising revenue nose-dived by 80% in the first few days before hitting zero for the following three months.
Despite a restructure, reduction in office space, staffing, editions and a government Covid loan the business never fully recovered.
From July 2020 to July 2021 advertising revenue grew and stabilised, but Mid Kent Living wasn’t produced.
In August 2021 sales took a sudden plummet again and advertisers pulled out due to talk of more winter restrictions.
By February, the publication's print costs had risen by 30% in a year, energy prices had soared and with "no option" to increase the price of the paper the company became unviable.
Maidstone liquidators Maxwell Davies was called in and the company goes into liquidation on Monday, June 27.
During its 25 years Downs Mail, which first published in April 1997 as Bearsted Mail before being renamed Downs Mail in 1999, was involved in campaigns to keep the Hazlitt Theatre open, block Kent International Gateway off the M20, and build a pedestrian bridge across the A249 in Detling after the death of eight-year-old Jade Hobbs in 2000.
Claire, who took over as Chairman from her father in 2009 when he retired, said: “The small team at the Downs Mail that has made this all happen have all worked so hard, particularly over the last two years with so many changes and challenges.
"Making them redundant after all their efforts has been the saddest decision of all.
“We just haven’t been able to recover and after 25 years, it is so sad for us and for the community we have been such a large part of.
“We have seen many other publications fail and never thought we would too but the combination of the lack of advertising revenue, rising costs and competition from free advertising online platforms means we also haven’t survived.
“We tried all we could to turn things around but it just wasn’t enough."