The Diocese of Guildford has announced it will cease production of The Wey from August 2017 following a strategic communications review to align communications to the diocesan strategy Transforming Church; Transforming Lives. The review engaged more than a thousand people in the Diocese of Guildford and beyond.
The Wey, which will reach its 100th and final edition in August, replaced The Herald in 2006, with the earlier publication commencing in 1988.
Nick Edmonds, Head of communications for the Diocese of Guildford, said: “We have a very strong history of communications in this diocese with 29 years of newspapers, and – as some will remember - even our own film studio at one stage, but to stay in touch we need to move with the times.”
"Newspapers have played their part in sharing good news and information across our diocese, but the media-scape today is unrecognisable from that of the 1980s.
“In those days, there was no email, no websites and social media was a distant prospect; the newspaper was the only way to share news and information, and was an economical way of doing so.
“Nowadays stories in The Wey have usually already been posted on the website, been shared on social media, and included in the e-bulletin by the time they reach print.”
New media growth
Social media has experienced significant growth in recent times, with CofEGuildford Facebook posts reaching nearly 100,000 people in the past month. With short videos now accounting for around 70% of all internet traffic, the Diocese of Guildford has increased its output of these with the role of video journalist advertised for 2017.
A survey of over 850 churchgoers across the diocese of Guildford revealed that although many people still read a daily or weekly newspaper, engagement with The Wey had decreased over the years, with more than two thirds of respondents indicating that they didn’t think a diocesan newspaper was a vital tool for mission. Meanwhile, regular email was the favoured method for the latest news and information updates.
To fill the gaps left by The Wey, a new e-bulletin is being developed to ensure the latest and most relevant content is available to all, along with a full content audit of the website to make the user journey as easy as possible.
“We’re very excited about a whole range of new developments which are just around the corner,” said Nick. “But we know that some people will miss newspaper, and I would like to invite people to get in touch to say what they will miss about The Wey, to make sure we are providing this in other ways.
“We will also explore options for getting news to those who do not have access to a computer or smartphone.”
To reflect the changes of focus, two new roles will now be advertised, for a full time communications officer, and a full time video journalist.
The Revd Mark Wallace, Vicar of All Saints’ Church Lightwater and Area Dean of Surrey Heath, took part in a consultation on the future of the diocesan communications and said: “I’ve enjoyed reading The Wey over the years, but it’s clear that a diocesan newspaper is no longer the best way to engage with many people.
“With more than 50% of web traffic now on smartphones and tablets, it’s vital for all our churches to prioritise their online and social media presence.
“I’m really encouraged to see our communications team taking a lead in helping churches to do this.”
Get in touch
A survey of other CofE dioceses revealed that less than a quarter still produce a newspaper, but some produced a less frequent printed magazine or other printed publication.
Nick Edmonds said that the Diocese of Guildford would explore the case for a magazine running on a less frequent basis but wanted to know from readers whether there was a demand.
“It’s very hard to measure how widely free publications are being read, so if you have a view on this, please be in touch,” he said.
In response to Goal 11 of Transforming Church; Transforming Lives, the Diocese of Guildford’s communications team is gearing up to offer more direct training to parishes. The first FREE training event will take place on 25 May in Woking - Get Your Church Noticed - more details here.
Nick Edmonds can be contacted by email to email@example.com or at Diocesan House, Quarry Street, Guildford, GU1 3XG.