From heart-warming community stories to construction and property updates, demand for local news has never been higher and the sector is having a much needed moment in the spotlight after a decade of decline.
Much like every other industry, the UK media landscape has had a turbulent year. Having been in steady decline for a number of years, print readership only further plummeted as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, as more people turned to sourcing their news online and from less traditional outlets like social media.
The closure of offices and increase in Londoners leaving the capital for countryside and coast means that freesheets, like Metro and Evening Standard, saw the most significant losses. The former reported a readership loss of 70% from March to April 2020 whilst the latter’s readership fell by almost half, from 800,000 to 423,000.
However, more time spent at home means more interest in our local surroundings and readers have been turning to regional news sources to be kept informed and entertained throughout the pandemic. Research conducted by Comscore during the first lockdown found that more than 2.2m people used local news websites in June 2020 in comparison to January that same year.
The UK’s largest commercial publisher, Reach, gained 3.2m unique users between January – June 2020 across its 60 regional websites, an increase of 9%. JPI Media, which owns The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post among others, also significantly grew its online readership by 15% during the same period.
With the vaccine programme in full swing and the Prime Minister announcing his roadmap to normality, there’s now light at the end of the lockdown-tunnel, but the regional news landscape shows no sign of slowing down. Reach recently announced its plans to recruit 25 new journalists across the UK in a bid to further boost its regional coverage. The roles will be based in big cities Liverpool, Cardiff, Manchester and Birmingham but also smaller towns including Warrington, Taunton and Cheltenham, where demand for local news is high.
Nub News, a hyperlocal news network which launched in 2018, also recently announced expansion plans. It currently operates in 62 UK towns but is aiming to increase this to more than 100 over the course of 2021, a move its Founder and Chief Executive, Karl Hancock, says will “enrich and strengthen its role as a record of daily life in our towns, getting to the heart of community issues, frustrations, hopes and joys.”
The media landscape is ever evolving but one thing for certain is its resilience, and whatever new challenges present themselves, you can be sure that it will adapt and overcome.
If you would like to discuss this topic further, please do not hesitate to get in contact with Julia Thomas.