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Reasons for (justifiable) optimism

Whilst there’ll be no return to the golden age, there are significant opportunities for newsprint.

By Tim Robinson

Reasons for (justifiable) optimism

The sticker on the back of my laptop says: “Newspapers dead? Ha, ha, ha!”

A promo giveaway a few years back from the design firm run by Javier Errea, it still raises a smile every time I open the lid.

The truth is, newsprint will not be returning to a glorious Golden Age; no surprises there. However, in a world turned upside down by global lockdowns, there are significant opportunities and reasons for (justifiable) optimism.

For local media, the battle for breaking news was won by the internet long ago. Increasingly, print has a different job to do as our online content competes for mobile eyeballs.

And where local newspapers are making a post-pandemic comeback (and yes, many of JPI’s are), it’s because they are thinking about these things:

1. The situational. People’s habits are constantly changing and their reading habits change with them. Monday to Friday, they are no longer opening a newspaper at breakfast time, as they consume a leisurely boiled egg. Weekends, however, are a different story. Readers want distraction, ideas for things to do, read or watch and places to go. Getting the right package of curated leisure, news, opinion, background, nostalgia and sport will make weekend (and pre-weekend papers) an habitual purchase.

2. Uniqueness. In a world of infinite choice, our print brands need to give readers something they can’t get anywhere else. And in local media, that USP, to state the obvious, is local content. But not just the same old local content – we’re having to re-evaluate everything. Just because we’ve covered a subject, a sport or an activity since time began, it doesn’t mean people are still interested. Example: thousands of people take part in park runs, something we never really covered, whereas a lower-league football touchline increasingly empty of spectators was seen as an essential part of our sports mix. This – and much else - is changing and the huge amount of data about online readership is helping to inform these print choices.

3. Trust. Our authority, with local editors accountable to their communities, is very different to the social media free-for-all. We need to cherish and develop our influence to improve our communities. This is valued by readers, who find it habit-forming.

4. WFH. The boundaries of our physical world have shrunk and Working From Home means the end of commuting for many. This will undoubtedly mean a renewed interest in local place, property, leisure, food and drink, health and content relevant to their changing lives.

Printed local newspapers are still selling across the UK and the ones which find new ways to reach out and stay relevant to readers are the ones which will survive.

In a world of infinite choice, our print brands need to give readers something they can’t get anywhere else.

This article is part of our ‘Print Post-Pandemic’ special feature, looking at the future of print as we emerge from lockdown. The feature includes the following articles by leading publishers and suppliers:

A major part of the mix, by Mark Allen

Rewards extended dwell time, by Sally Hampton

Shout it loud: print is safe!, by Chris Horn

Targeted distribution is key, by Stephanie Hyde

New metrics needed, by Keiron Jefferies

Sustainability: consumers demanding more, by Sarah Lesting

We need to change the way we operate, by Nicola Murphy

Reasons for (justifiable) optimism, by Tim Robinson

Luxury is physical, by Piers Russell-Cobb

Positive outlook, by Adam Sherman

Subtle changes bring cost savings, by Julian Townsend

Turning ‘expensive’ into ‘premium’, by Neil Wass

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.