I read with interest an article in the Press Gazette today; Regional ABCs: UK daily local newspaper circulation down 20% in first half of 2023.
I recall publishing items relating to the ABC figures as far back as 2014 pointing out that advertisers are throwing bad money after good. It was telling that many of our local newspapers stopped publishing the figures. In its heyday the Llanelli Star and South Wales Evening Post were big sellers. Apart from the street based vendors, most homes in the Llanelli and Swansea area would receive a copy through the letterbox paying weekly for the pleasure. The Carmarthen Journal was another popular paper, which catered for the more rural farming areas.
I wish to make clear that the tone of my missive is not one of gloating or ‘I told you so’. It is tinged with sadness to see the demise of what were once great community news resources.
There is also the issue of pulling the wool over the eyes of advertisers who in the main are being sold ads on the basis that these newspapers are somehow the same giants they once were. As a member of the ICNN and as an independent news publisher, we have struggled to get a crumb of any public or government advertising campaigns and omitted from local government’s staple circular for public notices payments because we are not by definition ‘a newspaper’, i.e. ‘a printed publication (usually issued daily or weekly) consisting of folded unstapled sheets and containing news, articles, advertisements, and correspondence’.
I respectfully submit that it is time to redefine the definition of newspaper to include independent online news outlets and it is time to evenly distribute the share of government paid advertising and public notice payments to include independent online news outlets, which judging by the figures highlighted in the article are more than able to hold their own with audience numbers.
Members of the ICNN have fought hard to try and get a seat at the table with those agencies who hold and distribute the huge sums of cash for campaigns meant to reach the masses. It is a monopoly, which needs to be changed in the public interest. Local authorities can no longer throw money away to the same old just because it has always been done this way. The news industry has changed and newsrooms have long since disappeared from our towns along with those dogged local reporters. Try and contact your local journalist with a story and get it published. You have more chance of finding someone reading a copy of the once great Llanelli Star, Evening Post or Carmarthen Journal. Other newspapers are available….For Now.
If you are reading this then you would have also seen a public notice or important government campaign if they had really wanted to reach a truly diverse audience who prefer local news over clickbait.
Thanks to the Press Gazette for publishing the letter