Bright days ahead for independent publishers

News Of The Area director Michael Wright is forecasting bright days ahead for independent publishers.

FOR the third time in less than a year, Australian Community Media (ACM) publications across the state have utilised their front pages to appeal to government to support their struggling regional newspapers.

In this latest iteration, dozens of ACM papers are asking NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and opposition leader Chris Minns to support regional newspapers in two key ways if successful at the March state election.

The first is to “Guarantee that no less than one full page of NSW government advertising will be booked each week in this and every local paper in the state”.

The second to “Reverse the 2020 regulatory change allowing local councils to bury public notices about their decisions on their websites rather than openly advertise them in the local paper”.

One of the newspapers promoting the ACM campaign is the Port Stephens Examiner, who highlighted their risk of closing in a similar frontpage spread in December 2022.

Last week’s Port Stephens Examiner front page ‘Dark days ahead…’.

A common thread across the campaigns is the statement “papers in peril”, a line being used by ACM to describe the state of regional newspapers across the state.

News Of The Area director Michael Wright however, does not agree with that pessimistic view on the industry.

“What I don’t agree with, and what I want to distance myself from, is the doom and gloom of the ACM headlines and inferences that seem to be speaking on behalf of all community newspapers,” Mr Wright said.

“Their headlines say that dark days are ahead for communities across NSW.

“It might be dark days for ACM but it certainly isn’t the case for all newspapers across NSW.

“I see bright days ahead for us.

“Tough days maybe, but certainly a future with community newspapers in it.”

NOTA Group Editor Douglas Connor, who oversees the publication of four regional newspapers from Port Stephens to the Coffs Coast, said while any and all extra advertising streams are welcomed, a weekly mandated full page state government advertisement will not be a silver bullet for regional newspapers.

“It is vital regional news outlets focus on producing high quality, hyperlocal print and digital products which tailor specifically to their community.

“The successful independent outlets which have launched in recent times in regional NSW have set themselves apart with their intense local focus; and readers, communities and local business sectors have responded to this by supporting those newspapers in terms of advertising.”

Mr Wright agrees with the ACM push however for councils to be mandated to publish public notices in local newspapers, in the interest of transparency.

“I have seen the ACM front pages and what I do 100 percent agree with is the push to the government to reverse the 2020 regulatory change which allowed local councils to not have to publish Development Application notices in the local paper.”

With the media landscape of Australia rapidly changing, Mr Wright sees an ever increasing opportunity for independent publishers to make their mark in regional communities.

“ACM does seem to be struggling, and I think it suggests the era of media giants is slowly disappearing.

“I feel the long term future of rural, community and regional newspapers is in the hands of local independent publishers because they seem to be able to operate at a lower cost base,” he said.


WATCH the ABC’s Media Watch program on this issue (click here)

News Of The Area made a guest appearance on the ABC’s Media Watch program in response to the most recent ACM pleas for help.

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