HOLD THE FRONT (WEB)PAGE – LOCAL NEWS SITES GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

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Whether you’re scanning the pages for news of the latest fundraiser in your area, or catching up on the latest town hall shenanigans, local newspapers are often still a much-loved institution in towns and cities up and down the country.

However, when faced with whether to part with your cash for the local rag, or your favourite national daily, there’s no contest for most people – the big boys win hands down. So, I wasn’t too surprised at the latest figures which revealed that print circulation figures for regional titles were down by more than 13 per cent this year.

The numbers, as the i (from The Independent) points out today, show that the industry is in danger of extinction, as more and more readers turn to online media for their local news fix. The i cites several regional news websites which are pulling in millions of monthly unique users, thanks to a savvy combination of live blogs, reader comments and breaking news updates.

While online media is undoubtedly in the ascendency and news sites continue to go from strength to strength, questions still remain about whether this could mean the beginning of the end for local newsrooms.

In my opinion, the fact that regional hacks can now tweet live from council meetings and election nights means that many outlets are in fact reaching a younger, more engaged audience.

Journalists are able to interact with their readers in real-time as planning applications are passed, local Government policies are debated and new MPs win seats. As a result, more people are driven to a particular newspaper’s website and are more likely to click through to other stories published that day.

In fact, regional newspapers’ websites have now developed such an identity that they’re often given their own regular slot in their printed counterparts, with the most-read articles and highest-rated reader comments making it on to the pages.

Online cuttings are no longer seen as the lesser counterpart to print – unlike with the hard copy, there’s no geographical limit to the readership and we’re able to gauge how a particular story is received, through social media interactions and readers’ views.

But, as local newspapers catch up to the general shift towards online news, surely this only strengthens the argument for an industry-wide measurement to be agreed among PR professionals that places a true value on the coverage we work hard to achieve.

Steph

@Peppertweets

@StephCureton