The debate on the much loved/much maligned council mag reared its head again recently. So I ran a special comms2point0 survey to understand the current status of council mags across the UK.

by Darren Caveney

I remember being an in-house head of comms in local government and stopping the then council mag – all the way back in 2011! The council’s dire budget situation made it a very quick and easy decision.

Did I want to keep the council mag or lose keep a member of the team? It was that stark. I would always go with people. And the decision did force me to think creatively – and digitally – about the ways to counter the loss of this channel and to innovate in other ways.

Now in an ideal world I would have kept it as it did serve a purpose to some locally at a time when the UK was less digitally mature. The paltry 200 people who responded to a magazine survey from a resident base of over 250k said they really liked the mag. But chopped it got, having gone down from quarterly, to three editions and then to two. Sponsorship was the only thing keeping it afloat and to be honest that was a time sap and not the best use of already precious resources.

Fast forward to 2022 and a large county comms team is in a similar jam and was looking to see the current state of affairs of mags within other local authorities.

So, I ran surveys across Twitter and LinkedIn to help paint the current picture for benchmarking purposes.

The results were interesting.

Granted, not exactly Ipsos Mori-style robustness but a helpful guide nevertheless.

Here are the results, and some verbatim comments from a sample of those who took part. Thanks if that was you.

The Twitter Survey Results

  • Almost 40% were still producing three to four copies per year.

  • 8.9% produced just one copy per year

  • And 46.4% no longer produced one

The LinkedIn Survey Results

  • Just slightly over half (51%) still ran three to four copies per year.

  • 7% published just one edition per year.

  • And 36% no longer produced one

Very crudely across both surveys – it’s a long time since I did my maths ‘o’ level – there are as similar a number of council producing three to four per year as there are producing no copies each year.

In the minority are the councils publishing just one or two copies per year.

So, I get a sense that the majority of councils have either committed to keeping a regular publication or removed it completely.

Sample verbatim comments

“Currently produced four times a year for all residents and an additional tenant and leaseholder magazine three times a year”

Sara Martinez, Norwich City Council


“We had a quarterly one but budget realignment and increasing confidence in our digital offer saw us end it. We did produce special editions as doorstep copy during Covid though which was useful”

Gareth Nicholson, London Borough of Havering


“We have recently brought back our printed publication after moving to a digital format”

Andrew Hadfield-Ames, Hertfordshire County Council


“We only have a quarterly one for our council housing tenants and leaseholders, we stopped our boroughwide magazine a few years ago”

Shima Tailor, Enfield Council


“We do spring, summer. autumn and winter editions”

Sarah Phillips, Stevenage Borough Council


“We’ve had three per year for several years now, but are reducing to two editions from March 2022”

Kirstie Snow, Dorset Council


“No printed magazine at all. We have a community link magazine but that is not produced by the council”

Casey Littlechild, BCP Council


Many thanks to everyone who took part.

If you’re reviewing the status of your magazine this year I hope this is a useful insight for you.

Darren Caveney is creator and owner of comms2point0 and creative communicators ltd

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Original source – comms2point0

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