OPINION: Regional press needs injection of sex appeal

When I was a cub reporter working on that mighty organ the Swindon Evening Advertiser, I used to edit what passed for the ’youth’ section. I’d spend my evenings watching crap bands in dank pubs. I’d hunt out artists and designers on the bleeding edge of current trends (there weren’t many of them). Then I’d lovingly create my masterpiece.

When I was a cub reporter working on that mighty organ the Swindon

Evening Advertiser, I used to edit what passed for the ’youth’ section.

I’d spend my evenings watching crap bands in dank pubs. I’d hunt out

artists and designers on the bleeding edge of current trends (there

weren’t many of them). Then I’d lovingly create my masterpiece.



But something told me I was shouting into a void. At the back of my

mind, I knew that the average ’Adver’ reader was more interested in the

obituary column. It was granny fodder, no doubt about it.



Which brings me to the Newspaper Society’s Now report, which is aimed at

increasing the regional press’s 4 per cent share of national display

advertising. While the report has been warmly welcomed, it doesn’t seem

to address one of the main challenges facing local papers: their

old-fashioned image.



Local papers are well aware that the bulk of their readers fall into an

older age bracket. Many have introduced smart listings supplements

designed to attract a younger crowd.



But are the readers taking the bait? I doubt it. Not when they can read

The Face, Dazed & Confused or that underground publication dished out

free at their local music venue. Their parents read the local rag - they

wouldn’t be seen dead with it.



Media buyers also regard regional papers as spectacularly unsexy.

Production values are seen as low and editorial departments are often

perceived as the stamping ground of spotty first-jobbers or

retirement-age hacks.



The Now report is long overdue and initiatives such as a digital artwork

delivery system and online booking are steps in the right direction. But

to really get the agencies interested in local papers, the Newspaper

Society has a major PR job on its hands.



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