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 protagonistssuch as councillorscan be brought
online. In addition a number of our members run vote lines on
particular issues. For example, TotalWales.com 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
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.
SUMMARY RESULTS OF WEB USAGE QUESTIONNAIRE
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.
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.)
78 per cent carry job listings
77 per cent carry property listings
78 per cent carry property listings
69 per cent carry local business
38 per cent claim to be undertaking
74 per cent carry entertainment listings
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