On a day in which the combined might of the Newspaper Society and the Local Media Alliance delivered their urgent ‘action plan’ to Andy Burnham in a bid to save the UK provincial newspaper industry…
… it seems slightly odd to dwell on the thoughts of one happy little, local wedding photographer in the back end of Lancashire.
But as the world, his wife – and even Polly Toynbee…
…start to wring their hands with growing angst as to what on earth is ever going to happen to the Stockport Express or the Beccles & Bungay Journal in amidst this ‘perfect storm’, so I’m starting to wonder what it takes to get heard these days.
Because whilst the Newspaper Society might think that the best way to spare the Stockport Express from the axe is to insist that local planning applications stay in the back pages of said mighty Manchester suburban organ, I’d beg to differ.
Hand on heart, I’ve done Ewood Park and Turf Moor in my MyFootballWriter travels; I’ve never been to Darwen. I don’t know Linda from Adam – or should that be Eve..?
But what I do know is that Addiply is now empowering her to attend Darwen Town Council meetings, to report that planning permission has been granted for Crown Paints to extend their factory – and every other little worthy tit-bit of small town news that any self-respecting small-town news reporter would file for his or her weekly paper…
Because one, DIY, self-service strip of text advertising later and – having set her own ‘rate card’ of £5 per week – Linda has earned herself £18 this month. Minus our 10% commission.
Now, £18 ain’t a lot. But its hers. And she has one, happy advertiser who has placed his little ‘postcard’ in the window of hew news ‘Post Office’ and hasn’t, therefore, had to entrust his little ad-stroke-marketing spend to you-know-who in the hope that it will get from Darwen to a black box in New Mexico and back again.
Clive has placed that ad himself; cos he knows that his neighbours are looking at our Linda’s site; are starting to pick up snippets of their news from www.darwenreporter.com … and he seems happy enough…
And if Clive’s happy enough with where his £20 a month’s going, so – hopefully will other little, local Darwen traders; all of whom might have spent £500 on building their own little websites of late and are now starting to twig that they need a way to advertise that website cheaply and effectively…
And what’s more, they want to know exactly what they’re getting for their money; they don’t do PPC, don’t understand CPM, but you know what they ‘get’ £5 per week… cos it’s what they pay to put a postcard in a Post Office.
Find three or four more Clives on the streets of Darwen and Linda is pulling £100 per month off one, DIY, self-service advertising strip. That’s her monthly hosting covered; that’s her Town Council Xs covered; that’s Darwen folk getting someone sat in a Town Council meeting and keeping local democracy in check.
Perhaps Linda has a couple of kids at school; perhaps she doesn’t want a full-time living working for NewsQuest or Johnston; perhaps she’s more than happy to be ‘a village correspondent’ now armed with all she needs to do the job – a lap-top, a mobile phone and a kitchen table.
And a simple, open and transparent means for little local advertisers like Clive to keep Linda in hosting – and Darwen in a town council meeting reporter.
And if I’m the NUJ, it’s the Linda’s of this world I should be fighting tooth and nail for; for the Simons of VentorBlog, for TowcesterNews, for SE1, for our old revolutioanry pals of www.peoplesrepublicofsouthdevon.co.uk – these are the people that are going to give the members of the NUJ a living.
Or rather, the hope of a living.
The fundamental truth that we all have to grapple with and grasp is that the economics of the Web are such that at a Darwen-like level – probably at a Stockport-like level – the web might not support a full-time living for a hyper-local journalist.
But many a hyper-local journalist might not want a full-time living.
Either way, the challenge for all of us is to arm that hyper-local journalist with as many cost-saving tools and devices as we can possibly find – and give them a chance.
And enable them to access HM Govt advertising too – that’s the ’subsidy’ that matters… Tell me, Dept of Health, what’s the medical make-up for Darwen, Lancs?
Right, give our Linda some digital advertising based on that knowledge… and cos you ‘get’ CPM, let her supplement her income off the Clives of this world with £25 CPM Dept of Health advertising tailor-made for that Darwen market.
And if I’m Lancashire County Council, I’d find Linda some advertising; new community initiatives that need marketing, bus route changes, etc, etc…
There’s your plan.
And it’s happening. Right now. In Darwen.
Me, Linda and Clive the local wedding photographer are building a sustainable platform for hyper-local community news – the news that matters to the community of Darwen.
Andy Burnham, NUJ, Polly Toynbee… you want an ‘action plan’? Go and ask Linda what she needs to put her plans into action…
Or else sit there and think that by paying for NewsQuest’s training budget, for paying to keep planning applications hidden away in the back of local weekly newspapers and by enabling Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press to build a bigger silo across the North-East of England you will save provincial journalism.
Cos you won’t.
You might, however, just save provincial journalism – and with it the thousands of decent, hard-working, family people facing a bleak and uncertain future therein – by giving the likes of our Linda a helping hand.
‘Action plan for Andy Burnham to save local press…’ ran the headline.
The point is that ‘the local press’ – that big, mechanical, oily beast of an industrial age – is beyond saving.
The local ‘Press’ – as in Linda and her lap-top – that’s what you should be saving.
And that’s do-able.
That’s well within reach of networked, mobile man.