Can regional publishers survive ‘content inflation’?

David Montgomery, chairman of the new Local World regional media company, predicts that local publishers will be handling a 20-fold increase in the content they handle.

Twenty-fold? More like 50-fold.

Mr Montgomery points out in an interview with InPublishing that regional newspaper firms must build huge digital audiences if they are to prosper.

He is not, of course, saying anything new in that respect. But he is being bold in underlining the sheer scale of the task the industry if facing.

It is something it simply cannot achieve with its own output. To survive it must harness user-generated content.

The challenge will be to marshal material of sufficient relevance in a world of what Tom Foremski calls “content inflation”.

He says that just as inflation devalues currencies, content inflation is devaluing content.

Every day content creators, both professional and amateur, are churning out more and more stuff. This oversupply drags down advertising prices.

An additional problem for the regional media is competition from advertising giants such as Google and Yahoo, whose automated content handling costs are a fraction of those who employ people such as journalists to do it.

But enough of the gloom. There is hope.

People will not be content to surf aimlessly over this burgeoning ocean of content (much of it dross). They will require a knowledgeable guide, someone who understands them, their lives and the place they call home. Someone who will speak up for them and their community. Someone who has been around a long time. Someone they can trust.

This expertise and brand loyalty is what regional publishers will add to the value chain, and this, ultimately, is how they will succeed.

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