Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Andrews on Media: Time to Side with the Locals

Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Andrews on Media: Time to Side with the Locals

Article excerpt

The government must offer incentives to the regional news industry to ensure it stays competitive.

Strong regional and local news sources, be they print, broadcast or online, are vital for advertisers as well as the community. They provide an opportunity for targeted advertising, give those who would otherwise advertise only on Google or in the Yellow Pages another outlet and offer a more cost-effective solution than the national press.

Having the BBC as the only UK source of local news is a depressing, yet possible, situation that could occur within 10 years if action is not taken to protect Britain's regional news groups.

Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey and her rivals at Johnston Press and Daily Mail & General Trust spent months campaigning to change the rules governing local media mergers.

A review from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), announced alongside the Digital Britain report, suggested some relaxation and an inquiry into council-produced free sheets.

However, like most aspects of the Digital Britain report - dubbed the 'Digital Dithering' report by some - the OFT failed to provide any certainty that it would permit a large-scale regional press tie-up.

Whatever the case, merger activity will not be enough to save the regional press from its downhill struggle.

While the advertising market will eventually recover, there are structural issues that the leading groups will have to tackle. The rise of Google is the most prominent.

Bailey has complained that people discover stories on Google, read them on her sites and click away before learning that the stories originated at her websites.

It is partly the responsibility of the regional news industry to work collectively on this concern. The industry is no doubt hesitant to add pay walls to their sites, as internet users always have the option of going elsewhere. The BBC is an obvious first port of call.

The successful creation of a joint online offering between the local and regional news players to rival BBC Local would provide advertisers with a one-stop shop for individual communities, as well as a much bigger, recognisable platform than they are used to.

However, this sort of plan requires a significant investment - particularly the cost of marketing the brand and producing high-quality online video. Many regional newspaper groups do not have these funds, and are battling to keep titles open as they tackle big debts or pension deficits. …

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