Really? Regional Media is in Good Shape? | DMA

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Really? Regional Media is in Good Shape?

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It’s time to challenge a commonly-held perception. A perception which has been fuelled by doom merchants and nay-sayers in the wider media landscape for some time now. There is a belief that local news brands are in decline. That long-term circulation trends signal a terminal reduction in local audiences.

The opposite is, in fact, true. Local media is adapting to changes in consumption habits and as a result is reaching more people than ever before. With the explosion of digital channels, these well-established, trusted, and yes, loved local media brands are reaping the benefits of a period of transition and evolution undertaken by the whole local news brand industry.

Consumption habits have undoubtedly changed, and as a result fewer people get their news from printed products. However, what hasn’t changed is the huge appetite for quality local content – and this is what local news titles produce day in and day out, via any platform the audience demands.

Consumption Habits

2014 marked the year that saw more people now access their news via the internet instead of the traditional route of reading a printed newspaper. In the UK 41% of the public accesses news via the web and mobile apps (up from 32% in 2013), compared to 40% who read printed newspapers (Ofcom) – which emphasises the need to develop digital offerings.

Further to this, we now see that 57% of the UK use their mobile handset to access the internet (Ofcom) – which greater illustrates the changing nature of how we reach our audiences.

There is over 1,100 local newspapers in the UK with 1,700 associated websites, providing access to local content to communities however and whenever they choose to consume it.

Audience Growth

This change in consumption habits is clearly demonstrated by the impressive ongoing growth in Newsquest’s own total audience reach, driven by digital consumption of our content, across multiple devices. Newsquest’s total digital network has seen audience growth of 41.9% year on year, and currently stands at 12.9 million monthly unique users, with further growth expected when the next reporting period comes around. When combined with around 10 million weekly newspaper readers, the total reach opportunities for brands looking to engage with local media consumers become considerable. The digital growth more than compensates for the print audience re-alignment.

Beyond the impressive reach figures we can demonstrate genuine insight into our audience, which shows the unique pillars of behaviour that makes local news brand consumers a breed apart, and a breed very much worth engaging properly, if a national brand is serious about local cut-through and engagement.

The combined power of online and offline

The numbers are significant. 81.7% of GB adults 15+ consume a newsbrand across print & online; whilst online (PC & laptop only) delivers a +11.4% incremental increase to print-only readership across all newsbrands (NRS).

Whilst there has been realignment in how local media brands are consumed, print still retains a key role as part of the regional media offering. New opportunities – such as providing integrated offline-online solutions – provide total reach; increasing audience scale whilst re-iterating the message.

Such opportunities are readily available in print, whilst tests continue on the effectiveness of combining door drop (via the regional media free newspaper network) and online solutions.

Trust – The key to success

What really sets local media apart – distinct from its continuing development of online offerings – is the status as the most ‘Trusted and Valued Medium’, which continues to drive the growth in audiences.

Local newspapers are more than twice as trusted as any other media channel (IPA Touchpoints 4 2012), whilst advertising on local newspaper websites is 77% more likely to be believed and relied upon than advertising on other websites (Source: the wanted ads III).

This breeds success. Over 60% of people act on the ads in local newspapers (CrowdDNA/Loving Local), and is the most effective media channel for generating word of mouth conversations (IPA Touchpoints 4 2012).

So local media is very much alive and kicking, in fact its audiences are growing. The way in which it is consumed has changed. During this transition Local Media has retained its ‘most trusted’ status; clearly highlighting its values to the local communities it serves across the country.

But from a national sales perspective, the ‘localness’ must go hand in hand with a measurable national scale. Therefore, the challenge is to help advertisers understand the scale and scope of the multi-platform opportunities – because we know local is in demand.

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