Has the decline of UK local newspapers been overstated?
The UK’s local newspaper sector has been navigating choppy and uncertain waters for some time.
Since 2009 (if not before), the industry has found that a combination of cyclical and long-term structural challenges have impacted on advertising revenues, the volume – and frequency – of titles; as well as the number of boots deployed on the ground.
The media analyst Claire Enders told the Leveson Inquiry back in 2011 that £1bn of annual classified advertising revenue has gone from the regional press since 2008; and that as a result, it has lost 40 per cent of its workforce in the last five years.
“They have been the worst effected by the pressures of the digital age,” she concluded.
Four years later and many of these pressures are still very much in evidence. However, the traditional narrative of decline oversimplifies a more nuanced reality.
In a specially commissioned feature, Emily Shackleton explores this more complicated picture; finding positive messages in terms of digital audience growth, the presence of hyperlocal media and the launch of new titles.
That said, on-going considerations such as digital revenues and the sustainability of community driven alternatives, have not gone away. There are no easy answers to these questions, but the picture is perhaps not as bleak as you might think.
What are we to make of UBM’s new strategy?
That’s the question asked by Colin Morrison, who relates UBM’s pivot in the past 15 years from being a major content producer to a primarily B2B provider focussed (as they describe it) on “live events, press releases and other digital and print media.”
“Even before digital disruption took hold,” he writes on TheMediaBriefing, “UBM was a world champion at chopping and changing markets, portfolios, and executives.”
Their latest strategy – which sees them dive into deeper into the world of events – needs to be seen against this constantly evolving backdrop.
It’s a potentially challenging environment; which is a polite way of saying that UBM may need to make some tough calls in the not too distant future.
As Colin explains, “UBM’s long tail of marginal and loss-making events is a problem. In 2014, its top 89 annual events generated 85% of events revenues and 96% of profit, which is another way of saying that the remaining 200+ events were not worth much.”
Their new-to-media CEO last year invested just shy of $1 billion ($972m to be exact, but what’s $28m among friends?) to acquire US events organiser Advanstar. But was that really such a smart move?
Once you’ve read this piece you may be questionning the wisdom of the move. Or you may agree with their CEO Tim Cobbold that ultimately this is a smart move which allows the company to further embed itself – and ultimately “go long” – in America.
What we’re reading
- Amazon to start paying authors based on the number of pages read: “Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.”
- The British comedy “Catastrophe” premièred in the US last week… on Facebook: The show first aired on Britain’s Channel 4 earlier this year, but it’s US streaming debut was on a social network.
- Majority of smartphone video viewers multiscreen during TV time: second screen activity is not just confined to email, browsing and social networking. A recent global survey found 53% said they watched smartphone video simultaneously while watching TV.
The above articles are original TheMediaBriefing analysis, and initially published in our daily morning newsletter.
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