Regional newspapers are adapting their businesses to fit changing technologies and the current climate, writes Geraldine Allinson.
Although other companies/sectors are competing hard and undeniably winning what used to be the traditional newspaper advertising revenues, today there would still appear to be no effective alternative for local communities to use in order to act as their voice on local issues.
The industry continues to 'rise to the challenge' of finding new ways to perform this vital role by, for example, covering council meeting and opening up public bodies to scrutiny through webcams, Twitter, and live blogging to complement the traditional newspaper coverage.
In order to meet all these challenges in a very short space of time, local media companies have become more efficient, examining each and every activity, taking on many new skills and concentrating on the things that clearly deliver value for advertising clients and audience. I don't believe anyone working within a local media company today is doing their job in the same way it was done even 18 months ago.
With all that said, there is one fact that none of us can deny, whatever the platform used - good quality journalism costs money. It will need to be funded somehow and if that is not going to be through the traditional advertising revenue streams that have subsidised those costs in the past, then how will it be funded? Through philanthropy? Through charity? Through government funding? No. My guess is that over time the funding will still come from advertising but it will also come as a bigger percentage from the user/reader/audience. This is not a popular view, but if as consumers/citizens we truly value the watchdog role played by local media and if advertising revenues are smaller, I can see that local media companies will have no alternative but to ask readers to put their hands deeper into their pockets to support the journalism. Having said that, with all that is changing there are still too many 'ifs' to be sure at this stage exactly where this answer lies. Growing audiences must be a bonus, but only time will tell!
Although the challenges are immense in our industry and the pace of change has continued to grow over the past five years, I can safely say there is never a dull moment and there are definitely never enough minutes in the day!
Geraldine Allinson is Chairman, Kent Messenger Group and is a Court Assistant of the Stationers’ Company.