Future for local and regional media - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Big Spark Publishing Limited

  Re the LMA/OFT/monopolies situation, this is a view from a small contract publisher.

  We are a small publisher in Horwich, Bolton—Big Spark Publishing Limited, in a difficult time we are doing OK.

  I and my business partner have had a long standing desire to publish local newspapers, this year we launched our first title the monthly "Cheshire Independent" which has been a resounding success and was in profit from issue 1.

  Following on from "Cheshire" we have, last month, launched 2 more newspapers—one in Bury and the other in Bolton, again, launched with a profit.

  These are very simple, efficient models that give the local reader and advertiser a service that they like and want, no different to what used to happen in the 60's and 70's.

  The present situation with the big monopoly publishing groups is of their own making, they have systematically raped and pillaged the local/regional newspaper industry purely for their profit with little or no regard for their two streams of customer—they have now been found out.

  Jobs and Motors advertising has been overpriced and has now been lost to the Internet through their own greed — the cost of Job advertising has always been at a premium rate.

  To allow them to further grab as much of the action as possible under the guise of the threat of the Internet, just does not work at the level of local publishing, there are thousands of small businesses who have been "priced-out" of advertising locally because they cannot buy "small", the offer from the "big boys" is "use us, pay inflated ad rates, you can't go solely in your local paper you will have to buy a cluster of titles—there is no other choice—so tough".

  The LMA members are simply trying to protect their profit base with no regard to their customers, their cushy plan over the last 30 years has now run it's course, they need to change, look at themselves and ask what do their customer really want?

  At the local level it's not the big advertisers who are deserting the local press—many were not there anyway, it's the "buy local" and the "shop local" that have been let down—these guys don't buy big on the Net.

  We are talking "Parish Pump" editorial content here, the local charity, the Harvest Festival, the local school, etc etc.

  I can tell you now that if you get on the street and ask the local small businessman what he thinks of the LMA "big boys" he will tell you he is sick and tired of them and is looking for an alternative.

  We are simply a "pin head" in this industry, but we are giving our customers what they want, by allowing this lot to get an even bigger slice you are removing the opportunity for little fellas like us to fill these small local publishing voids—believe me these people are not short of a sly trick or two if they think their pot of gold is to diminish.

  If the OFT accept the LMA position small publishers like ourselves will be in a difficult, aggressive marketplace, the potential to recruit good newspaper ad sales people will be virtually impossible because of contractual covenants and baring out clauses inserted in salespeople's contracts—it's hard enough now to get around that one without being hit with some spurious last minute legal threat, as has happened to us recently.

  This move is not FAIR TRADING this is more greed—turn it down now!

May 2009

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