Has the regional press got its mojo back?

COULD it be that at long last the regional newspaper industry has got its mojo back?

The pessimists have enjoyed a field day during our years of cutbacks and closures.

With our confidence shaken our response to the headline-chasing analysts and prophets of doom from our own ranks has been uninspiring.

But I sense a change in the air, an acceptance that although there are still great challenges ahead there are many reasons to be positive about the future.

Industry leaders are rediscovering their voice and delivering a long-overdue message of hope.

Crucially, their vision of the future lies both online and in print, a resilient business that has been written off far too soon in some quarters.

Last month Ashley Highfield, Johnston Press chief executive, told BBC Radio’s Today programme that the local press will be printing newspapers “for decades to come” because many consumers prefer to read a paper in print rather than online.

He said those who have written off the industry have overlooked the fact that it is approaching a tipping point at which digital revenues cancel out print declines.

Meanwhile, Sir Martin Sorrell, boss of the world’s biggest advertising agency WPP, said newspapers had been disproportionally hit by advertisers moving spending online, but that the effectiveness of print advertising was now being reappraised.

He said: “I think actually we are starting to see with traditional media, particularly newspapers, a little bit of the pendulum swinging back because people will realise they are more powerful than people give them credit for.”

Sir Martin’s view was endorsed by Pablo Del Compo, worldwide creative director of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, who said the shift by advertisers online and on to social media had gone too far, and that print is a more powerful medium than people realise.

Further evidence of this energising new outlook came when Johnston Press, a 250-year-old publishing business, snapped up a start-up run by a 21-year-old entrepreneur in Brighton.

The fledgling Brighton and Hove Independent was seen as a weekly newspaper and website that harnessed print and digital in an exciting new way.

And this, surely, is where our future prosperity lies: in innovative products and services that consolidate our print-online-social command of local markets.

We are not an industry in decline, we are an industry that is changing. We stand not at the edge of an abyss, but at the beginning of a renaissance.

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About John Wilson

Group deputy editor of the Worcester News, Berrow's Worcester Journal, Malvern Gazette and Evesham Journalist. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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