Regional newspapers are either in – or just exiting – an economic crisis. The rules have changed, the ad revenue is disappearing to free online alternatives, news habits have changed and the audience is getting older.
It shouldn’t be this hard, in theory: if the current thinking among intelligent journalists is that you need a niche, then what better niche than a town or city? Nothing unites people or defines them more than where they live. Imagine you had that relevance and you covered an industry or profession – that’s a recipe for success isn’t it?
Update 1/7/10: See Tom Whitwell’s comment below: he points out that of course there are adverts on thetimes.co.uk, “on every page” even. “We just don’t have dozens of flashing popup/popunder ads for Albanian bingo parlours,” he says.
So I admit to exaggerating slightly by saying there are “no” adverts – but one or two display boxes on a page is a real contrast from most online newspapers and I think my general point stands: one of the selling points of the Times online is to not have your attention diverted by garish Flash animations and gaudy rollovers.
Original: If we boil this paid content debate to its essence, it comes to this:
People either pay to read and watch stuff you make
On one hand, digital ad spend will soon reach £3.79 billion a year in the UK, overtaking TV and print, according to an eMarketer survey of analysts’ ad projections so there unquestionably is some business model to be constructed from ad-based media (not all analysts are as optimistic incidentally, though most agree online is returning to growth after some stagnation).
Is there reason to be cheerful about the future of digital media? Answer: of course there is. But you wouldn’t think it sometimes, with stalling advertising rates, UK start-ups scaling down and the niggling feeling that the future is always somehow a couple of years away.
So why not get some people together to talk about what’s good about the digital life? That’s what my former employer paidContent:UK did on Wednesday night, an event spurred by the fact that paidContent founder, publisher and all-round blogging chief Rafat Ali is leaving the company in the next few weeks to do new things.