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(Posted on 31/01/19)
The importance of a local press – Part One
With ongoing talk of print news being in crisis and the onward decline of papers, there has never been a more important time to ensure the survival of a local press. Once the best source for local news, the regional press has been marginalised both by the internet, with its largely free distribution of news and the rise of gossipy social media, and a readership of physical media that is ageing. Once a bastion of local issues, many local papers – especially the so-called ‘free papers’ – have been assimilated into covering ever larger areas or vanished altogether. But the days of the sneering ‘Firemen rescue cat stuck up tree’ attitude to local papers are long gone. People want local news, but can a local press still deliver it?
Not everyone’s on social media. In the past, local papers have been a vital part of local life, but people read news on their electronic devices, on the move and in smaller chunks than they used to. They ‘digest’ news in a completely different way from how they did even 20 years ago, with the younger generations the most radically different. The so-called millennial generation simply don’t read newspapers in the way their predecessors did. Interestingly, this is at a time when millennials are actually staying closer to home and not moving around in the same way earlier generations have done. They will one day be the ones that will most need a local press.
Local papers are great for building a sense of community, a sense of belonging to something that matters to real people in an everyday world. The globalised news agenda – Trump, Brexit, North Korea, Russia, the Middle East – doesn’t cater for this at all. These are big impact stories on a global scale, but in reality, matter little to someone worried about council tax rises, if their bins are being collected, or if the new housing being built down the road is going to make a difference to the traffic on their morning commute.
‘Free’ papers delivered directly to homes – which were popular throughout the 2000s – seem to have been replaced by papers at pick-up points in local shops and post offices (another endangered species). This is fine for people who are mobile and are able to visit local shops for their purchases, but not everyone can get out to their high street these days and are yet again missing out on a part of local life that was once taken for granted. Perhaps one solution would be to have a distribution list of elderly residents, who could request a free local paper be delivered though their door. Margins are so tight these days though, that even that is beyond most papers. But it’s important to try to retain that connection with local people, of whatever age.
To identify ways to keep your local community informed about your business activity, talk to the Zebra team.