Tag Archives: itn

Saving local journalism: some thoughts ahead of C&binet

I’m sat on a train on the way to the C&binet session at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport looking at the question of what the government should do – if anything – to save local journalism. Here are my notes:

The problem is not journalism

The vanity of journalists often leads to chest-beating deprecation of modern journalism. While there is some validity to that argument, it misses the point. Audiences have been steadily declining since well before the internet – that’s not what’s caused the current crisis.

The problem is not a journalism problem – it is an advertising problem, and a distribution problem.

The advertising problem is this: over recent years the market has been flooded with suppliers. This has driven the price down to a level that cannot sustain shareholder-owned print operations. In the last 12 months a sheer drop in demand has compounded the problem, and it’s widely accepted that some of that demand may never come back.

Advertising itself has changed too – from the traditional model of CPM (selling eyeballs) to CPC (selling clicks) to CPA (selling actions, e.g. purchases), and is likely to evolve further in the future towards VRM (vendor relationship management, i.e. managing the relationship between seller and buyer). I’ve seen little evidence of newspapers adapting their own advertising offerings in line to get a foothold when advertisers catch up – it’s still print-centric.

The distribution problem is that newspapers do not control distribution online – by and large their readers do, and newspapers have failed to acknowledge this, leaving themselves open to web startups that build user distribution into their design and operation. Of course the loss of control over distribution means losing the monopolies that allowed newspapers to keep advertising prices high enough to sustain the profit margins they were accustomed to. Now advertisers have choice, and the newspaper ad offering doesn’t look much of a bargain.

What does the future of local journalism look like?

I see 2 main paths of development, and both have one thing in common: the future is networked.

On the one side I see the national-grassroots-data path – I’ll call it the Networked Model for simplicity’s sake. As increasing numbers of local newspapers close or stunt their operations, hyperlocal blogs will spring up to address the gap. At the same time national news organisations enter the local market and partner with these and data-based operations. The most likely figures in this scenario are The Guardian, hyperlocal blogs and the likes of MySociety and OpenlyLocal. It’s a patchwork solution that is likely to leave gaps in coverage.

On the other side is the Local News Consortia proposed by Ofcom. Established operators like PA, ITN and regional newspaper publishers will partner up to gain access to a pot of public money and efficiencies that they cannot achieve without ending up in front of the Competition Commission. This will require some public service commitments such as covering councils and courts, and universal coverage – but fundamentally this will be Business As Usual.

More to follow in further posts

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Letter to Govt. pt2: The opportunities and implications of BBC partnerships with local media

As part of a group response to  the government‘s inquiry into the future of local and regional media, Adrian Monck looks at the implications of BBC partnerships with regional media. Blog comments will be submitted to the inquiry as well. If you wish to add a blog post to the submission please add a link to one of the OJB posts – a linkback will be added at the end.

 

A long time ago, I wrote the plan to run ITV News in London (replacing LNN), modelled on the operating structure for Five News. It involved reformatting shows and cutting staffing to the bare minimum required to get on air.

Nothing wrong with that. It was a more efficient use of resources.

But it wasn’t really designed to involve the process you and I would know asjournalism. It was intended to produce a happy simulation of a television news broadcast to a standard adequate enough to satisfy regulators.

Five News shared resources – as did the new ITV London when it started – with the rest of ITN. The biggest and most expensive of these resources were the satellite trucks and needless to say, the deployment of said trucks went to the people paying the most money – ITV’s national news and Channel 4 News.

The editorial decision-making process played second-fiddle to the negotiation and horse-trading around satellite dishes, technicians’ overtime and working hours without which stories and guests (even cheaper!) couldn’t make it on air. Continue reading