Sunday, 22 November 2009

Neil Benson is right to look at new revenue streams but newspapers shouldn't seek to rival PR agencies

Following Trinity Mirror's deal with Northumberland Council to provide hyperlocal websites, Neil Benson of Trinity Mirror has argued that newspapers should team up with councils to provide 'arms length' PR services:

I admire the sentiments, as without new revenue streams then the regional print media will continue to die, but offering 'PR services' is not the way to do it.

To succeed in PR you need a myriad of skills, the most important lying away from the public face of 'press releases' and focusing on business planning and client management. In short, in takes years to master and is constantly evolving and this would come as an expensive shock to those newspaper groups who fail to commit to it properly.

In a pitch situation, it wouldn't be possible to hold an advantage by being linked to a particular newspaper group, as that would destroy editorial independence and would cause uproar, a crisis for the PRCA and that's just for starters.

Instead of trying to succeed in a different and shark infested sector, newspaper groups should focus on setting up and growing online micro communities so the move to online news doesn't destroy the communities represented by regional news. Rather, it's a massive opportunity to provide even more relevant and local news to the people who want it. So, the content of local news could differ depending on the profile of the reader. This could also help local democracy - especially during local council elections.

To acheive this dream newspapers need to stop trying to survive in the old world and further develop their hyperlocal offering, which aren't yet hyperlocal enough.

Finally, there's a great post by Rick Waghorn on this subject where he compares the NUJ with the old monks trying to fight off the printed press:

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