Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by The Newspaper Society

The Newspaper Society represents and promotes the interests of the publishers of Britain's local and regional press, who collectively own over 1,300 daily and weekly, paid-for and free newspaper titles. We are grateful to you for giving us an extension of time in which to make a submission on the subject matter of this inquiry.

  With the growth of the Internet, newspaper companies are increasingly positioning themselves as a news and information resource which straddles several different media. A survey conducted by the Newspaper Society in October 1999 indicates that 85 per cent of regional press titles are currently online. I enclose a summary of the results of our web-usage questionnaire.

  One of the most exciting elements of electronic publishing is that the medium can be interactive. Alongside content, publishers can offer communication services to users, such as bulletin boards, e-mail interaction with editors and facilities for contacting schools, health authorities and local authorities. 37 per cent of regional newspaper sites have chat forums where people can communicate with each other and 27 per cent have bulletin boards. These give people a relatively effortless chance to voice their opinions in the case of a local issue and are a promising means of enhancing participation in the democratic process. Often the protagonists—such as councillors—can be brought online. In addition a number of our members run vote lines on particular issues. For example, organised this facility alongside the Welsh Assembly election campaign. All these initiatives can be promoted in the newspaper and feedback can be integrated with the regular letters and opinion pages.

  Participation will only be built up over time and in this the local press has a tremendous advantage. Not only do they have a strong local "brand" and an existing affinity with readers, they also attract users to their web sites through the provision of good content and topical items which are regularly updated. The immediacy of the medium can be utilised in order to publish news as it breaks, giving users a snapshot which will be followed up in detail in the subsequent print edition.

  The seventh annual World Electronic Publishing Conference "Beyond the Printed Word", held in Amsterdam in October, discussed the latest developments in successful on-line publishing. In case after case presented by newspaper executives the "go local" theme was demonstrably working. Locally focused in approach, with a high level of trust among users and a network of contacts, our members are developing their role as the leading local community information provider, irrespective of medium.

  It goes without saying that new methods of citizen consultation and participation in local and central government cannot replace statutory rights of access to meetings and documentation. The Newspaper Society will be making representations on both the Local Government Bill and the Freedom of Information Bill, with a view to enhancing the public's rights of access to information.

  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information.

Catherine Courtney


  The Newspaper Society conducted a questionnaire in October 1999 with the objective of gaining accurate and reliable data regarding new media within the regional press industry.

  Over 350 questionnaires were sent out to regional press companies by email and post. Seventy-four usable replies were received which accounted for 46 per cent of the regional press. 85 per cent of regional press titles are online.


  An analysis of the results showed that 75 per cent of the sites were launched since 1997 illustrating the recent investment by regional press in new media. (See figure 1.)


  The total number of page impressions was 8.6 million per week. The average figure for page impressions per weeks was 83,592 per site. There is an enormous disparity between the highest traffic sites and the lowest. 20 per cent of respondents did not provide a figure for traffic.

  Top sites in terms of traffic:







  The total figure for users visiting regional web sites is 359,011 per week. The average site generates 6,298 users per week. Again there were great disparities amongst the highest and the lowest number of users. 56 per cent of respondents did not provide figures for users of their web sites.

  Top sites in terms of users:







  81 per cent of regional newspapers carried banner advertising on their sites. Almost three quarters carry classified advertising and over two thirds of online newspapers carry sponsorship. Nearly half host web sites for customers and 60 per cent offer advertising in an online directory.


  89 per cent of UK regional newspapers use their own titles to promote their web sites and almost three quarters advertise online. (See figure 2.)


    —  88 per cent of regional press web sites carry local news

    —  86 per cent carry local sport

    —  78 per cent carry job listings

    —  77 per cent carry property listings

    —  78 per cent carry property listings

    —  69 per cent carry local business listings

    —  38 per cent claim to be undertaking e-commerce

    —  74 per cent carry entertainment listings


    —  23 per cent of sites operated by UK regional newspapers collect any sort of demographic information of visitors to their site.

    —  39 per cent of regional newspapers include new media questions within readership surveys

    —  32 per cent claim to be making a profit from their web sites.

    —  50 per cent regional newspapers claim to be generating in excess of £25,000

    —  36 per cent provide an ISP service

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