'Local Newspaper Week' - Council newspapers
Between the 11th and 17th May, the Newspaper Society has been promoting 'Local Newspaper Week'. To coincide with this, I've been blogging about some of the things I've noticed about my local newspapers since moving into Muswell Hill last October. So far I've looked at advertising, and at some of the issues around local democracy.
Local council newspapers
The business model of the regional press is under severe strain. Not only is the economic situation affecting display advertising, but the rise of news consumption on the web, and changing consumer habits, have made an impact on the bottom line. Another pressure has come from a new direction - the rise of the local council's own newspaper or magazine.
Recently the Local Government Association concluded that publications from local councils had little impact on the regional press. Cllr Margaret Eaton, chairman of the LGA, said:
"Put simply, effective communications - including council magazines - lead to higher levels of satisfaction with local authorities and help people access local services. A typical council publication is distributed four or six times a year, and does not operate as a rival. The growth of the internet has had a far bigger impact than council newspapers."
Haringey People and advertising
Not only is Haringey's magazine atypical from the view of Margaret Eaton because it is more frequent, it most certainly does compete with the local press since it takes display advertising.
Boasting a circulation of 224,500, a single booking full page advert is £2,500, a half-page is £1,500. Competing on price is part of their advertising sales message.
The Muswell Hill Journal and the Ham & High Broadway are more coy with their rates - and these was no PDF rate card to download. A call to the sales team revealed that a full-page in the Ham & High would be roughly £2,000. It looks competitive, but of course, the Ham & High have to prove their circulation, which stands at around 12,000. The council doesn't have to certify circulation.
One study I'd love to see is a real assessment of the genuine readership levels of council magazines. From my experience of delivering political leaflets at election time, I know that there is a world of difference between getting something through someone's letter box, and actually getting it read.
People and community
Despite being called 'Haringey People', I find that the publication lacks a bit of the local character that the Journal and the Ham & High have. Clearly, being targeted across the borough, it has a lot of content that is irrelevant to my little corner of it, and it doesn't have the same personality.
One of the features I really like in the Muswell Hill Journal is a regular set of vox pops from local residents. It isn't the most sophisticated opinion gathering in the journalist's tool-box, but what I like is that picturing all of the contributors reflects back the face of the local community within the paper.
I also really like the 'The Week' guide inside the front page of the Journal. It lists hyper-local community events in a timely fashion that the council's publication just isn't granular enough for. Or regular enough for - yet.
In the next part of this series, I'll be looking at some of the components of my local papers where, it seems to me, the traditional way of operating has a limited future.