Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Here's a scary thought ...

...what if  local newspaper groups were a bit like the banks? What if their plans to develop into huge, multimedia conglomerates were like the banks' ambitions to create a financial house of cards based on very little real money at all?

I only ask.

After all, when leviathans such as the Guardian Media Group trumpet their multimedia Manchester hub while withdrawing from local newspaper markets, aren't we entitled to wonder whether the big newspaper bosses haven't got things arse about face?
I know hyperlocal is another nauseating buzz-phrase, but couldn't there be something in a back-to-basics appoach to local papers? Just as a back-to-basics approach to banking starts to appeal. The local newspapers of old were like the friendly societies of old. They served a community.

Big banks only see shareholders, as do big newspaper groups.

And while the big newspaper boys, stripped of their expolitative 30 per cent returns - three times what Tesco is happy with - begin to go belly up, determinedly local, and locally-owned and managed newspapers, keep their heads above water.

Just as the big banks merged to try to stave off the ultimate catastrophy, there is talk of relaxing the restrictions on newspaper and cross-media ownership so that the big bloated boys can get even bigger. But who's to say that won't bring an even bigger fall. Who's the HBOS and who's the Lloyds in the British regional media scene? You supply the names.

My money is on the survival of the little people, the hyperlocals - both online and off - who still serve their local communities.

That's the future, lubricated however it might be with the support of local citizen journalists and  access to local BBC and ITV content.

 A concensus is beginning to build up that a new form of local, collaborative journalism is developing. Once we have Everyblock in the UK, we'll be able to build what is being created in the States.
Consider what Jef Jarvis is doing with CUNY, bloggers and the New York Times. Here's his key point - and one worth considering for anyone who still has faith in the megamedia model that has destroyed Britain's local press, condemning keen young trainees to servitude at £15,000 per year for two years, followed by a career ladder with very few rungs:
"We have to move past the old newspaper notion that one organization will - and can afford to - “own” a town. Those days are over. Instead, we’ll have ecosystems of local news linked together, and to support them we need complementary content and coverage and networks to sell ads into and for all the players. In a network that links to its own members all ships will ride with the tide of links." 
The question your ship a nippy little trawler, or a stonking great supertanker that will take a year to turn around? By which time it will have sunk.

Answers on a P45 please.

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