Wednesday, 15 April 2009

How To Create Better Local Newspapers

Above is an image from  a  regeneration campaign in Sheffield, March 09

What’s Going On in Local Communities: How can we Tell?

There’s a problem with local news information and advertising. 

Too much of the same.

What is the same? 

• Newspapers have embraced the internet with websites and blogs.
• The quality of local news hasn’t improved.
• The structure of print and internet advertising doesn’t embrace the social potential that technology offers.

Local Perception: We’re at the tail end of democracy?

• Local, regional, national and international news coverage appears to the general public as a done deal.

• Why? 

Quality of Local Newsprint and Technology

• How can technology be used to reinvent the local newspaper?

• It comes down to reinterpreting the needs of the potential reading community in terms of what the technology can do for them

There’s a potential to tweek the structure and create a new way of doing things

Gaps, or resistances, between different groups in society are the problem that the existing relationship of newsprint to advertising can’t bridge.

Resent(ation) or Presentation?

Prejudice, bias and stereotyping have become the norm to whip up opinion, response and sell newspapers...

Yet all the while on the horizon, underneath the calm of the way things are presented is the knowledge that, actually:

Prejudice, bias and stereotyping in the short term is bad for economic and social development in the long term.

How Local Newspapers can Flourish

There are two main gaps that need to be addressed and filled.

Gap One
 Local printed news and the internet.
When small local media are established it is usually in deference to the powerful historic structure of advertising inside the paper. Websites mirror and duplicate the printed content. This is ‘sold’ as ‘even better value for your pound, dollar or euro’, enhancing ‘readership’. Value is measured by the circulation of the paper, its readership and daily, weekly and monthly ‘traffic’ to the website.

A question of emphasis

• Noone questions this form. We are either ‘inside’ this structure as employees or professionals, or ‘outside’ as consumers, or readers.
• Yet if we grasp the historical value of newsprint and the advertising potential of the internet in a slightly different way everyone can really benefit.
Giving communities permission to create quality newsprint 
The second gap is between communities, businesses and culture.  
A community newspaper free of advertising with economic roots in the commercial internet environment has the potential for depth and range while at the same time being focussed on the importance of promoting more and more businesses through the internet.

The Paper’s the thing!

If businesses and local people can campaign together to create local newspapers where funding comes from internet advertising and sponsorship, the community mindset will become more assertive, less ‘confused’ about the value and power of the internet to them locally.

This is the main idea

• A new community newspaper established on these principles:

• That the structure is itself a campaign to move advertising and sponsorship onto the internet, to let local news breathe?

We’re materially rich but culturally poor

• This is the central thesis: this idea is empowering.  
• Everyone has opinions on newspapers and how they can be developed and improved.

Perceived Community Passivity

 Could this campaign give the wider general population a real opportunity to access the internet? 
Could it also assist in changing the way the general population perceives, understands and uses local print media and the internet?

  Any thoughts?
  Your ideas?

Reinterpreting Community

• Quality local newspapers are really important
• But so is a new agreement between the owner, businesses and the community that the quality of local newspapers will improve as they become involved in the campaign to create a template for a paper financed by a website

21st Century Quality Local News

• The central point is that this is a campaign to encourage local news media owners, businesses   who advertise and the community to support financially (and in kind) the idea that newsprint doesn’t have to contain advertising. 
• Advertising should be on the internet.
A new way of launching local news media
• The way any local news media is developed is through conversation, research, interview and the production of the product.