Enders: Innovation In Local Media Builds Industry Confidence As Value Of Trusted Journalism Grows

Trusted local news media is innovating to create a strong and sustainable future for local journalism in the UK and government support in key areas such as advertising spend could accelerate this momentum, a report from Enders Analysis published today has found.

The new report has found that the service provided by local news media to democratic society is currently massively undervalued within the existing commercial marketplace and the sector has a “unique opportunity that is only barely tapped.”

And the importance of trusted, verified local journalism will grow as we enter the age of Artificial Intelligence, but the sector should not assume that the public and government “fully understand the role of trusted media when it matters most.” Local news media publishers remain strong cash businesses, with many enjoying good margins.

They are achieving “mind-boggling” traffic online and highly engaged audiences, with the sector reaching 40 million people a month. Reach’s local titles alone drive traffic that is larger than Instagram and TikTok, the report found.

The future of the local news sector, which is innovating to build new journalism formats and services, could be decided in the next three to five years and it is critical for government to step-up support for the industry during this transition period.

The report points to a number of positive market innovations which are building business confidence across the sector. Local media companies have undergone profound business transformation and created impressive new consumer interfaces.

Publishers are seeing encouraging results from new subscription and online advertising models and from a focus on journalism which champions the welfare of its local community.

The Enders report said government should “use its might as one of the UK’s largest advertising spenders” to spend much more in local news media as it did “very effectively” during the Covid pandemic.

The new Digital Markets Unit regime should outline a framework for incentivising local news origination through journalism enterprises and, ideally, the special status of local news provision should be recognised, the report recommended.

Enders called for the BBC to work with the local news media sector through initiatives such as the Local News Partnership rather than risk negatively impacting the sector through its activities in the local marketplace.

Douglas McCabe, Enders Analysis chief executive said: “Our report makes some firm recommendations for government including making much better use of local media as an advertising platform, as it did successfully during the pandemic. The Cairncross Review, from 2018, provides a foundation for support that is still relevant—and too-little implemented—today.

“In the medium term, stakeholders from across the business community, investors, advertisers, local and regional institutions, digital platforms, public policy designers and even the public itself all needto be encouraged to lean into – play a role in – supporting the efficiency, impact and commercial independence of local media – the single most important media in any well-functioning democracy.

“In this scenario, we are all winners.”

News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith added: “This report makes very clear the increasing importance of trusted local journalism to our society in the age of AI, and the efforts publishers are making to find a truly sustainable future for local news through innovation.

“The next five years will be critical for the sector and the report makes some helpful recommendations for interventions to support local journalism, such as government and the private sector making much greater use of the sector as an advertising platform.”

For further information please contact Laura Skerrett. Read the report in full here.