Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall has forcibly stated her opinion that the UK regional press is suffering from a structural decline due to outside market forces and behavioural change. Which is rather obvious, but it’s always good to see the reaction to someone pointing out the elephant in the room…
(Hold the Front Page): She said regional newspapers will need to be “re-engineered completely” with lower costs and fewer staff – and that some titles will “inevitably” need to merge and close.
Ms McCall’s comments, which are certain to provoke lively debate within the industry, came in a speech to Cardiff Business Club, originally reported in yesterday’s Western Mail.
In her speech on Monday night, Ms McCall outlined how online advertising has “decimated” revenues for the UK’s regional press.
She predicted that many well-known regional and local titles, which have often been the cornerstone of their communities for more than a century, will go out of business.
…Ms McCall claimed that the big stock market listed publishers have insisted for years that the changes occurring in local and regional media markets were predominantly cyclical, not structural.
But she said: “This has been wrong for at least ten years and is now universally accepted as such.
“The changes are structural – they are permanent and result from fundamental changes in consumer behaviour, communications and technology. The situation is exacerbated by the current cyclical downturn, but neither the readers nor the revenues are ever coming back, at least not to anything like previous levels…
Full article and rather interesting comments here: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/news/081105mccall.shtml
The deployment of mobile (cellphone) optimised websites amongst the regional press continues, with early reports of good traffic, from this Hold the front page article:
Hold The Front Page website story: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/news/081103briefs.shtml
“Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves says the paper’s new ‘m-site’ has surpassed expectations in its first week. The Post is one of twelve Trinity Mirror regional dailies launching mobile phone companion sites over the next two months. Marc said: “We’ve set up specific feeds from our website, picking up the elements we want to go on the m-site. We’ll review as we go and add or take away feeds from more areas of the site.
Also, BBC Commissioning Research indicates that 16-24 year olds are more likely to download news onto their mobile than any other age group, in contrast to the purchase of newspapers in this group:
“Young people are the age group most likely to download News on their mobile phones – over a third of 15-24s claim to do so and 10% regularly.”
Following the Newspaper Society’s entering into a legal attack on the proposals, Sly Bailey (CEO, Trinity Mirror) has stated to a House of Commons select committee:
“If the BBC came in and distorted the market for eyeballs [website users], then there is not an audience for us to monetise,” she said.
“The BBC has lost sight of its purpose. It is using public money to compete in public areas where it simply doesn’t need to be. All organisations need parameters and targets.”
Further coverage in this Telegraph article: http://tinyurl.com/55vs7n
UPDATE: 21st November 2008:
- The £68m proposals have been rejected by the BBC Trust, following high profile lobbying by the regional press.
- “In its provisional conclusions on the public value test (PVT) on the local online video plans published today, the trust said the proposed network of more than 60 websites “would not improve services for the public enough to justify either the investment of licence fee funds or the negative impact on commercial media”. ” (Guardian)