Local Affair: Can Rich Media Save Regional News?
The UK’s regional papers face a potentially bleak future, so what should they – and are they – doing to reverse their fortunes? Can new media provide the shot in the arm that they need? New Media Knowledge canvassed the thoughts of some in the know.
The UK’s regional media organs have suffered heavily in the economic downturn. With ad revenues falling and traditional classified sections being challenged by the likes of eBay and Gumtree they also have to deal with overall falling print circulation as consumers switch to the Web and mobile platforms for news.
Trinity Media, which owns 140 regional titles, recently revealed its ad revenues had slumped 36 per cent year-on-year. Even independent regional bloggers, such as Birmingham-based Created in Birmingham, present a threat to the traditional regional titles, so how can regional media fight back to regain readership and, subsequently, reverse the slump in ad revenues? According to the industry players that NMK spoke to, rich media – especially video – could provide the key.
Guardians of Wisdom
According to Simon Robinson, marketing director at content management firm Vignette, we live in an age where content and context are crucial and news can be found for free on the Web, making the challenge all the more harder for newspapers – regional and national - to monetise news.
“Editors must think about how to keep loyal readers coming back, drawing new readers to the publication and retaining those readers who have now made the move online,” he told NMK. “The Guardian’s Open Platform is a great example of monetising ‘old news’ which could be viably applied across a spectrum of publications, large or small. The Guardian’s readership has been driven up by almost 50 per cent since last year and the website now towers above its other UK newspaper counterparts.”
Heralding the Changes
The Morpeth Herald in Northumberland has already seen the benefits of adding new media content on its site. When editor Terry Hackett wanted to cover the Morpeth floods last autumn he took a Flip Ultra handheld digital camera to the scene. His footage resulted in a 100,000-strong leap in web hits.
London’s Evening Standard also arms its reporters with Flip video cameras.
Regional publishing giant Johnston Press, which publishes 318 local and regional papers across the UK and Ireland including Portsmouth News and Yorkshire Post, has deployed an online video platform across its titles from specialist Brightcove to engage audiences with rich media content.
“For newspapers, the impact of online video also extends beyond audience development and advertising revenue,” said Brightcove’s senior vice president of marketing, Jeff Whatcott. “Online video is a rich storytelling medium that increases engagement with the online community that gathers around a newspaper brand. Online video keeps visitors on newspaper websites for longer periods of time, turning more webpages and sharing more content through social networks, which are all impactful, measurable outcomes resulting from newspaper online video initiatives.”
Furthermore, Whatcott is upbeat about the impact of video in helping regional media compete again for ad revenues.
“Newspaper organisations have an enormous range of assets that they already leverage for website initiatives,” he concluded. “In fact, for the first time, print publishers are competing for premium advertising rates which were previously the sole purview of television broadcasters.”