1997 - In the beginning
The Downs Mail started life as an eight-page newspaper known as the Bearsted Mail in April, 1997. It was circulated every month to more than 12,000 houses and businesses in East Maidstone. By September it had grown to 12 pages, by Christmas to 16. Readers liked the newspaper for its local news --and this was bringing good results for advertisers.
Late 1998 - Title changes to DOWNS MAIL
The steady growth of the newspaper continued and as it spread into Maidstone town the publishers decided the title should reflect its wider influence. In September 1998 it became known as the DOWNS MAIL. In the same month the privately-owned publishing company, Mail Publications Ltd., opened offices at 2, Forge House, Bearsted Green Business Park, Bearsted. The family-run business now had the space to accommodate the first employees - with help for both the editorial and advertising sides. By the end of the year the paper was regularly 32 or 36 pages. Classified advertising was really taking off - local traders had a local medium to reach the local public.
1999 - Traditional local paper takes shape
The Downs Mail was now regularly running at 48 pages and contained all the features of a traditional local newspaper - deep local news coverage, sport, obituaries, a crime page, church page, and letters page. This was all possible because advertisers liked the newspaper and were getting good responses. By the end of the year the first edition was printed.
2000 - Birth of a second edition
Growth continued and by the summer the newspaper was usually 56 pages. By the autumn a second edition of the Downs Mail was produced - to cover the whole of the Weald of Kent in the Maidstone Borough. This completely separate edition covered about 15,000 private and business addresses through Royal Mail distribution. At the same time coverage of the first edition of the Downs Mail increased to cover a further 5,000 addresses. Total distribution of the Downs Mail had grown to about 33,000 addresses.
2001 - The Jade Bridge campaign
By early 2001 the Downs Mail launched its first website - and this helped support a massive Downs Mail campaign for a pedestrian bridge to be built over the A249 at Detling after the death of eight-years-old Jade Hobbs and her gran as they crossed the hectic road to buy sweets in the village. The campaign was very successful - raised more than £100,000 from the public to help fund the project and Kent County Council soon responded to all the public pressure and announced the bridge would be built.
2002 - Town edition is launched
By late spring a third edition of the newspaper to cover the urban town of Maidstone was launched. The Downs Mail now covered practically every private and business address in the Borough of Maidstone with a total of 63,000 copies, reaching more addresses by far than any other newspaper in the Borough. This too was an immediate success with readers and advertisers. Honours started coming the Downs Mail’s way. Editor Dennis Fowle became Kent campaigning journalist of the year for the Jade Bridge campaign at Detling - and the newspaper won Maidstone Neighbourhood Watch’s annual award for its contribution to its fight against crime in the area - the first time the cup did not go to a Watch co-ordinator.
2003 - 2005 The years of consolidation
The Downs Mail continued to grow in size and strength - due to its comprehensive coverage of Maidstone Borough both in distribution and news.
2006 Maidstone Borough Council approval
Maidstone Borough Council selected the Downs Mail to include its bi-monthly eight-page newsletter, Borough Update, now the newspapers reached more than 65,000 addresses, just about every one in the borough.
2008 – Founder and Editor retires
At the end of the year founder of the Downs Mail, Editor-in-Chief and chairman Dennis Fowle retired from full-time duties after a career of almost 60 years in journalism. At the Kent Journalist of the Year awards he was honoured for his ‘Lifetime Achievement.’ His daughter Claire Procter, who launched the newspaper with him, became the new chairman.
2009 - Launch of Malling edition.
The first Downs Mail, Malling edition, was distributed in September and was well received by readers and advertisers, Very soon it was carrying two special supplements - Town Talk for the Snodland area and Malling Mail for the Malling Action Partnership villages. The total monthly distribution for the Downs Mail series of newspapers was in excess of 90,000 copies.
2010- 2013 Building on our success
The Downs Mail has continued to develop and and succeed through the economic decline by continuing to produce papers that are newsy, well received and read "cover to cover" resulting in maximum exposure and response for advertisers and in 2011 all the editions were made available to read online.
The new web site was launched in the Summer of 2013. All of our current and archived editions are also free to read on our website at www.downsmail.co.uk
2016 - Launch of the fifth Downs Mail title
With the expansion of Maidstone and an increase in its housing stock, the Downs Mail editions were increased from four to five providing an even better service to our advertisers by adding thousands of copies being delivered door to door.
Mail Publications Chairman Claire Procter said: “At a time when some newspapers have declined, we have decided to expand our offering both to our family of loyal readers and our commercial partners.
“The Downs Mail is soon to celebrate its 20th anniversary and what better way to do so than to announce these exciting expansion plans.”
Downs Mail now publishes five editions across the Maidstone and Malling areas with more than 85,000 copies delivered direct to people’s homes and available for pick-up every month.