In the UK: half of regional, local papers to close by 2014

Dateline: Wed 17 Jun 2009

The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom reported Tuesday that:

"Up to half of the UK's local and regional newspapers could shut within the next five years as revenues continued to decline, an analyst warned MPs today.

Claire Enders, the chief executive of Enders Analysis, told a Commons committee that newspapers would close across Britain because revenues would collapse by 52% – or £1.3bn – between 2007 and 2013.

"We are expecting up to half of all the 1,300 titles will close in the next five years," Enders told the Commons culture, media and sport select committee hearing on the future of local and regional media.

"Many titles are already running at losses and are being sustained by the good graces of their owners, and that may not last," she said."

The reporter, Stephen Brook, explains that newspapers, especially those in towns with two or more papers, have been hit hardest by a combination of the recession as well ad revenue losses caused by a drain-off from Google.

The story also noted a U.S. study which said that blogs generate only 4 percent of original news content. Claire Enders forecasts correctly that blogs cannot do the heavy lifting being done by newspapers.

"Most blogs are read by the person who created them and his close personal friends. It is not a replacement for 1,300 local and regional titles," Enders is quoted as telling the Guardian.

Always-on-the-watch blog reader Tom Henderson of Extreme Labs sent this our way. He referenced the Star's Guild vote in his header; once again, a damnable situation.

Comments

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"The story also noted a U.S. study which said that blogs generate only 4 percent of original news content. Claire Enders forecasts correctly that blogs cannot do the heavy lifting being done by newspapers."

And, one has to wonder, how much of that "4 percent" is actuated by a story idea originally read in the newspaper.

Heavy lifting is accomplished by companies which profit from serving the public interest. If the public is no longer interested in what goes on behind closed doors, or if sufficient profit can no longer be made by informing the public, then the heavy lifters will leave the stage. Leaving an empty stage behind them.

2009-06-17 06:55:15

hendy [Member] said:

Right.

And you didn't include <em>News Sites</em>, only blogs in your argument. Doesn't hold water.

2009-06-17 09:09:10

BigPoppa [Member] said:

I sat in on a session with Rob Curley while at a media conference a couple of years ago. Rob Curley was the guy who pushed the hyper-local online initiative for newspapers and was very successful in smaller markets such as Naples, FL, and Lawerence, KS. He tried the same push at the Washington Post and it flopped.

I think hyper-local online coverage would work better than newspapers, but I don't think it can be run successfully by a large company, such as Gannett. They have way too much overhead in all of their markets to allow for hyper-local and the occasional online advertiser to cover the cost of the people involved.

Instead I see a lot of smaller, locally run sites with maybe a handful of people covering a community. For example, a small news operation of 2-3 people for Zionsville, the same for Carmel, Fishers, Greenwood, Broad Ripple, etc., reporting everything that happens in those communities. Everything being newsworthy items as well as human interest stories and community information. The sites are powered by local/regional advertising because the sites become a destination for those in the community instead of looking for the occasional blurb in the Star. I see it helping to build stronger communities since you are more informed of everything in your community. Communities get news on other communities through feed sharing on the sites based on content tagging, building regional news outlets. Content can be tagged so a user gets the regional information they want and they aren't exposed to content they don't want.

The current model just can't survive and most of the larger media companies are far too bloated to make the necessary changes.

2009-06-17 10:40:23

ellen mckinney [unverified] said:

unfortunately, whatever else hyperlocal can do, it misses the big picture.

for instance: is the east side of indianapolis receiving its fair share of government services compared to the north side? the star staff crunched the numbers and talked to the people (and the bureaucrats) and the answer was, predictably, hell no.

now, perhaps some computer wizard/blogger could create a local version of google that would also analyze the contents of all central indiana blogs and produce "meta-content" that spotted trends. but is there any money in that? if there isn't, it's not likely to happen.

there are at least two ways "newspapers" could survive -- though they wouldn't be newspapers as we know them, and it's doubtful that most current chains could adapt enough to survive. it may take entrepreneurs akin to amazon and google's founders:

predominantly subscriber-paid: instead of the subscription price paying for, literally, the paper the news is printed on, charge what it costs to gather and distribute news -- mostly online, but also on paper; let ad sales be the profit source. no ad sales, no profit -- but the paper remains in business as a sort of co-op or quasi-public utility. (this is about as far from the gannett model as it's possible to get.) newsprint and printing costs would diminish sharply, because only real news would be worth printing -- no more fluff.

electronic paper: familiar with the kindle, amazon's device that lets people download books and newspapers almost instantly through cell-phone technology? now imagine an 8 1/2x 11 or larger kindle-style device that is flexible and thin and light. rather than buying the device, the reader would get it with a subscription to the local "paper" -- at a premium, probably, because of its convenience and its coolness factor. (yeah, "the paper" could be cool again.) and if the reader wanted, say, the wall street journal and the washington post, too? no problem: the local "paper" would get that for you and take a cut of the revenues (just like amazon). want a book? same thing. its storage capacity might not match the kindle's, but a subscription could include the right to re-access any previously purchased content for free.

this model has more cost-cutting advantages than the other -- dead-tree versions would fade out as the device cost dropped. (remember the original ipod? $300 or more for very little memory? now the ipod shuffle, with about that much memory, is $49. the original was cigarette-pack size and weighed several ounces. now, an iphone can do far more at half that weight . . . and in 5 years or less, an iphone will be cheap.)

when the dead-tree version is gone, newsprint, printing and delivery costs go with it. (so do a lot of jobs, but if news-gathering organizations go under, more than jobs will be lost. thomas jefferson probably wasn't far off the mark when he said if he had to choose between government and newspapers, he'd take the latter.)

2009-06-19 05:48:46

FollowIndy [unverified] said:

Ellen:

"now, perhaps some computer wizard/blogger could create a local version of google that would also analyze the contents of all central indiana blogs and produce "meta-content" that spotted trends. but is there any money in that? if there isn't, it's not likely to happen."

Check out http://followindy.com

No blogs (yet), but it's a step in that direction.

As for money, yeah there is none as yet, but I'm still open to suggestions about how there could be.

(and word of warning, trends views are dog slow atm)

2009-06-19 07:08:40

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