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The race to provide local news

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 1st July 2009

We all know that newspaper organisations are generally in a bad state at the moment, especially in print form. It seems that the business model required to keep professional journalism alive is still yet to be fully realised.

But whilst (apart from The Independent) we are unlikely to see any big name casualties in the near future (although the Guardian Tech Supplement is likely to be given the chop soon…), the local news situation is far more perilous.

And, according to Ben LaMothe, writing on Econsultancy, newspaper website design has much to answer for:

“For years if a newspaper had a website, it most likely served as a digital dumping ground for the print product. Design and functionality wasn’t a key concern because most readers still got their news in print. Times have changed, but unfortunately many newspapers remain unprepared.”

Ben cites an example from the US (where the situation is widely acknowledged to be a bit further down the path to destruction than over here) where a new breed of ‘local website’ – in this case – is successfully filling a hole vacated by the traditional media outlets (in this case it is actually owned by the publishers of the now defunct print title). It’s great to see the owners actively engaging with the local community to try and establish exactly what form the website should take and what content should be made available.

And so it was with great interest that I noticed a new website spring up this week covering a city where I grew up for about ten years. Bristol’s Evening Post newspaper hasn’t folded yet, but everytime I go back it seems to get thinner and thinner. Bristol 24-7 aims to provide the local residents with an alternative. It’ll be good to see how the site develops and whether it manages to differentiate itself sufficiently from the more established news outlet.

Because let’s face it and as Ben suggests in his post, newspaper companies aren’t necessarily the ones that are best placed to survive in this new digital world.

UPDATE: Scoble has posted an interesting update here:

Danny Whatmough