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
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
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.