Well, not quite. But the last few days have made for even grimmer reading than normal. Newsquest are set to close 11 regional titles, mostly freesheets. Deloitte reckons there’ll be more to go. I don’t think any regional hack can consider themselves safe.
Never mind local newspapers getting more Web 2.0 savvy and improving their websites, many of them are just struggling to survive right now. And that’s going to seriously impact on local news both on and offline. Over to Jon Slattery:
“Before newspapers are cut to the bone, closed or merged could someone please tell us where the money is going to come from to produce worthwhile editorial on the web which comes anywhere close to that provided, up to now, by regional newspapers.”
The sad thing is that as local papers struggle to stay afloat and cut back – and as journalists increasingly get overburdened – there’ll be less time to put time, money and resources into producing great, unique content for the web and engaging across the internet.
And that really does leave a vaccuum, news-wise. There’s already a move towards ultra-local websites set up by people to serve the communities that local newspapers are unable to. I can see these growing (possibly set up by ex-journalists). And who’s to say that the BBC won’t step back in with their ultra-local news idea, arguing that there’s a void that needs to be filled?
The irony could well be that by getting distracted by fire-fighting on the print front, local newspapers get caught out by the smoke starting to come from online.
Would any newspaper be brave enough to completely shut down in a physical format and move everything online, adopting a more Web 2.0 way of doing news? Would it work? And how on earth would they monetize it?
If I had any inkling or idea on how to answer those questions, they’d be in this paragraph. But I don’t. So they’re not.
But, even if it is a desperate last throw of the dice, what does a paper have to lose if it tries it? Not that I’d want to see papers disappear from their communities, but if it’s a choice between online-only news and no news at all… .