Stephen Davies recently asked “What does the future hold for the regional press?”. I’m actually quite optimistic about the future of the regional press and even more importantly I believe that it is vital that we all give it as much professional support as we can because it is essential to the future of society and local communities. The old mantra “think global, act local” is even more important today than it ever was.
Regional media in the UK is actually making a pretty good job of adapting to the changes introduced by social media and consumer generated media. In many cases they are well ahead of the nationals as these three examples show:
> Cumbrian Newspaper Group – the Evening News & Star in Carlisle was actually one of the first UK newspaper to introduce blogs on its site with contributions from readers. Last year Nick Turner, deputy editor, was interviewed about it by UK Press Gazette.
> Liverpool Daily Post has launched a standalone business news website that features RSS feeds and a weekly podcast with business editor Bill Gleason.
> Even my local weekly paper the Wakefield Express (where Philip Young started his journalistic career) has recently launched blogs and reprints snippets from them every week. This isn’t just a local initiative and is part of a bigger Johnson Press project.
If you think about what people are actually interested in and talk about down the pub or in the post office queue then it is often local stuff. Much of the massive growth in consumer generated media will be local and this could actually be a benefit for regional media. They can unearth stories that might have escaped them and highlight or expand on them.
The elephant in the room as Richard Bailey pointed out in a comment is classified advertising. Local papers depend on it and need to get a slice of it as it moves on-line. The threat isn’t actually the consumer generated media but e-bay and craigslist.
There is research that points to the fact that regional media is far more trusted by people than the national press. One client once won a million pound contract as a result of a lead from a story about a charity bike ride in a local weekly paper. The MD of the customer lived in the same village as the MD of the client. He’d never heard of the firm despite the fact that thanks to our work it regularly appeared in the trade and business press that he read. The difference was he liked his local paper and read more of it for enjoyment while he simply skimmed the business/trade press and read what he had to.
And finally on a semi-related topic dealing with the regional media is one of many areas where regional PR firms beat London PR firms. Most regional PR professionals can put together an effective regional media campaign anywhere in the country. It’s not just about knowing your local area but more about understanding what makes regional journalists tick. Speak to any regional journalist and they will be able to tell you horror stories of calls from clueless London PRs trying to pitch a story that doesn’t stand a snowball in hells chance of appearing.