Local newspapers no longer dominate. But they are responding to challenges, says report

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Local news organisations are investing in a digital future, restructuring newsrooms and diversifying business models, according to a new Reuters Institute report, The Digital Transition of Local News.

The study of news organisations in the UK, France, Germany and Finland found that local journalism remains valued and trusted by audiences and many local and regional media organisations are optimistic about the future of local news. Yet the transition from print to digital has also presented challenges. Some outlets have been forced to close bureaus or consolidate as they seek new sources of revenue and target new audiences. 

Most are also competing with platform companies such as Facebook and Google for advertising, while also relying on those companies to reach online audiences.

Findings:

  • Local and regional news organisations are investing in a digital future, including creating digital first newsrooms and adapting to audience needs.

  • Local media groups are experimenting with revenue generation, including implementing paywalls or paid subscriptions, events, members clubs and e-commerce.

  • Like many news organisations, local and regional outlets compete for advertising with platform companies such as Google and Facebook, but also rely on these companies to reach online audiences.

  • Pace of change varies between countries, but all news organisations in the sample still focus on their print product for revenues, while acknowledging the need to transition to digital. 

  • In the overall local news landscape, some local news outlets have been forced to shut bureaus or close completely, while others have consolidated. 

  • Local or regional media groups that have consolidated report belonging to a larger organisation provided greater access to relevant expertise and digital tools necessary to build their online presence.

  • Some news outlets report difficulties attracting and retaining young reporters: local media perceived as “not cool”, and wages are lower than at larger media organisations. 

Joy Jenkins, co-author, said: “Local newspapers, like other legacy media, are facing major challenges and no longer hold the dominant market position they once did.  But the newspapers in this report are also developing innovative ways to respond, from paid solutions journalism to collaborating with other newsrooms on digital initiatives to diversified business models, including in-house marketing firms, custom publishing, and events. They also enjoy a level of recognition and trust from their communities that will no doubt aid their continued transition.” 

Co-author Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (pictured) commented: “Local news is incredibly important for making sure people are informed about their communities and empowered to engage in them. It is also clear that the business model based on advertising that historically has funded local news is seriously challenged today. That is why it is so encouraging we have identified several different examples of how local newspapers are working to reinvent their journalism and their business to adapt to an increasingly digital, mobile, and platform-dominated media environment.”

 

 

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism is a globally focused research centre at the University of Oxford that tracks the world’s media, its trends, developments and forecasts