Traditional print media circulations have been declining for many years as readers choose other media.
Drivers include changing habits in media consumption; the internet, social networking media, 24-hour TV, G3 phones, daily free papers (UK wide Metro, London Lite and the Evening Standard), and not reading any newspapers!
It is also driven by the significant decline in editorial standards and production quality of some parts of the regional press.
A daily or weekly diet of ‘grime and crime’ stories, negative local reporting, and limited local news celebrating their local communities no longer gives the readers of some local newspapers what they want .
For decades traditional commercial local newspapers have happily taken public money from councils and other public sector advertisers. Often these advertisers have not regularly negotiated contract volume discount rates.
Year after year traditional local newspaper circulations have declined but their advertising rates have not. Instead they have continued to increase. Paying more for less is not value for money!
Traditional local newspapers do not have an automatic right to public money from display, recruitment and public notice advertising.
We have a duty to provide value for money effective communications .
Local authorities have evolved their residents’ publications to reflect their changing communities and a need to effectively communicate and engage with those communities.
In some areas of the country the existing local print media no longer provides an effective or cost efficient communications vehicle and councils in these areas have expanded their residents’ publications in order to close this communications gap.
This is recognised by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), an example of their ‘Connecting with Communities’ best practice review.
Who’s monopoly? Traditional media in many areas operate an actual or virtual (different papers but same publisher) monopoly, appearing to act like a cartel as it appears the UK is carved up with most regions or sub-regions being covered by a single or a predominant publisher. There appears to be very little active competition between publishers in sub-regional or local areas allowing for the perception of price fixing and other anti-competitive behaviour.
It has also been known for established local media groups to swap ownership of titles apparently in order to consolidate their control of an area in the name of efficiency, reinforcing the appearance of cartel-like anti-competitive behaviour.
This seemingly anti-competitive behaviour also appears to reduce any drive to improve product quality, whether it be journalistic, editorial outlook, design, photographic imaging, or overall reproduction quality.
The Scarborough Evening News blamed the decline in both circulation and advertising on the following: ‘North Yorkshire County Council’s 20-page monthly, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s 32-page monthly and Scarborough Borough Council’s 12-page quarterly, ‘all designed and produced to mimic newspapers, at risk to local democracy.’
Could a long standing daily evening newspaper such as the Scarborough Evening News in all reality be so adversely affected by two monthly and one quarterly magazine. I challenge both the paper and the NS to provide any evidence to substantiate this claim.
“ C ouncil taxpayers are being used to subsidise publications distributed free to householders and helping to kill off local newspapers which hold local authorities to account. That has to be unfair competition. ”
The Newspaper Society, Society of Editors and the Local Media Alliance cannot prove a direct correlation between the frequency and advertising market share of a council magazine or newspaper -and the effect on traditional newspaper circulations and revenue - there is none.
Therefore the public sector is not destroying local newspapers!
Council residents’ newspapers - successfully deliver council news and information directly to residents without the distortion of other media delivery mechanisms.
Smart communications - creating a positive relationship with readers (residents) and providing a positive platform for partners and local communities to talk to residents in their home, building cohesive, integrated and informed communities.