A fall in advertising revenues for local newspapers' print editions is being offset by a rise online.
Gloomy headlines about the credit crunch may come back to bite newspapers on the backside, as the regional press has become the latest medium to be hit by the economic slowdown.
Daily Mail and General Trust recently warned that a lack of property advertising was having a serious impact, and warned that the worsening conditions would put pressure on its regional arm, Northcliffe Newspapers. The group said the number of people advertising property in the six months to March in its regional titles fell 7% on the same period a year earlier, with motor advertising down 12.5%.
Last month, Johnston Press, which publishes more than 300 regional papers including The Scotsman, Yorkshire Post and Sheffield Star, announced it was seeking to raise pounds 212m in emergency funding. The initiative resulted in Ananda Krishnan, who is Malaysia's second-richest man, taking a 20% stake in the company.
However, amid the gloom, many local papers are finding that their websites are providing some much-needed cheer.
Digital products account for 7% of Trinity Mirror's regional revenues and 10% of profits, mostly from classified and local ads, while in April, Newsquest's network of local websites attracted its biggest audience go date, according to the latest ABCe figures. The ABCe data shows that a host of other local newspaper websites are also doing well. Visitors to the Shropshire Star's website, for example, rose 60% in five months.
Consumers, it appears, are as keen as ever to get their fix of local news across a range of platforms, but the immediate challenge for local media groups is persuading advertisers not to cut their spend in the regional press in favour of supporting only their websites.
Advertisers and media agency buyers need to be reminded of the worth of newspaper advertising - and new research by the Newspaper Society may provide a worthy starting point.
The study, called Local Matters, asks how brands can connect more effectively with Britain's communities. By questioning more than 5000 participants across the UK and Northern Ireland, the results may prove helpful in persuading advertisers that campaigns in the regional press do work.
The Newspaper Society hopes it will persuade advertisers to run targeted ad campaigns in the local press that will differ from their national activity. Marketing director Robert Ray says the research explains what binds local communities together, and how this varies across Britain, which should help generate actionable insights for advertisers and communications planning. …