Regional newspapers closing down

Within the space of a week, two newspapers I regularly read to keep across stories in the South and South East are closing down. But what can be done to stop the decline of regional newspapers?

The Thanet Times which covered news in Kent and the Sports Mail which covered sport in Portsmouth and Hampshire are both no more. Their journalists are moving on to bigger publications leaving in their wake historic print friends who no longer find themselves financially viable.

The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade notes that these changes form part of a wider refurbishment of Johnston Press titles. 44 papers are having a revamp, as they move more of their content to an online format. Trying to compete in a world dominated by online advertising, regional newspapers found their traditional sources of revenue disappear, leading many in the industry to question whether any print newspaper would survive the digital world.

Well thankfully those naysayers have on the whole been relegated from most of the newsrooms I  have experienced, but that is down to pioneers attempting different financial models.

In the online world content is king and if you can provide a consistent service it is eventually possible to monetise that work. For example Guido Fawkes aka Paul Staines announced today the site is releasing a free mobile phone app which will be monetised post the first five thousand downloads.

Having installed it this morning all I have so far managed to do is force my phone to crash twice. But once the bugs are flushed out as someone interested in politics I’m excited by the prospect of having Guido so accessible on my phone. Its another way of accessing his controversial content in a format which fits my mobile. Some local papers still no not have mobile specific website design built into their sites, which seems crazy considering the rise of mobile phones and tablets.

The New York Times decision to go with a pay wall seems to be paying dividends because it started with a strong web base before monetising its content. It’s interesting to see that many commentators dislike the Times/Sunday Times model and that the Independent looks like to be withdrawing their pay wall plans.

But which of these options are really available to local newspaper proprietors. Well the correspondents at the Sports Mail are all experts on the twists and turns of Portsmouth football club.

I hope they are given the chance to set up a specialist blog in the new formatted Pompey news. Hyper local sites such as the newly re branded On The Wight site shows there is an appetite for regional online news, you just need the content to attract the audience.


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