Local World is a new company striving to rejuvenate the regional media industry. The company is headed by former chief executive of the Mirror Group and former editor of the News of the World, David Montgomery and brings together the regional media offerings of a number of the key regional players in the UK market.
Northcliffe Media (the regional publishing arm of the Daily Mail and General Trust) and Iliffe News & Media (part of Yattendon) are two of the major shareholders in the organisation, with a range of venture capitalists also investing significantly in the body. The media entities bring with them their vast regional media portfolios, totalling 107 print titles, such as the Hull Daily Mail, Cambridge News and Leicester Mercury with a combined weekly readership of 6 million and a number of online portals.
The company’s main aim is to start the ‘fightback’ of the regional newspaper industry, whose average readership has tended to be on the slightly older and slightly less affluent side, over 50s and C-E social grading (TGI, Q1 2013). Their intention is to reinvigorate this audience and attract new readers and users. To do so they will develop the multi media offering of these local titles, expand in digital and mobile, while making moves in to areas such as local directories, an aspect of the market that they believe there is no reason for companies such as Google to be dominating.
The battle plan is to recapture the attention of national media planners whose interests have moved to national and televised media with falling cost per thousands in these areas. Local World maintain that local media still offers a great amount and by centralising the media process, maintaining localised editorial coverage and offering expanded digital platforms, they believe planners will be drawn back to the idea of the local.
The Daily Mail attempted to off-load their regional media in 2005 for £1.5 billion, so confident were they that they could achieve this they turned down bids exceeding £1 billion but not meeting their valuation. However it is a sign of the times and the fall from grace that regional media has endured that when Local World had Northcliffe’s media valued in preparation for their bid for the titles, it was just £150 mil.
However, the fresh approach and new energy behind Local World is good news for the regional media industry and the centralising of the media processes will ensure that planning with these titles will be greatly simplified and offer a more attractive option.
The fact also remains that no matter how global the world becomes, people still spend significant amounts of their money and time in the areas close to where they live and maintain an interest in the goings-on in these areas. Regional media, as such, can always be relevant and this is why there is concern within the industry about the Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) decision to posthumously investigate Local World’s creation.
The OFT are looking into competition concerns with Local World’s creation and could keep the company in court hearings until 2014 if they decide to undergo a full investigation along with the Competition Commission.
The issue though comes down to a relatively simple question; do we wish to have a commercially viable regional press in the UK or do we want a self-defeating regulatory policy on competition, leading to the closure of titles. Diversity is important, but more important still is the survival of the regional media industry.