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Freelance publishers axed from Local World sites

A group of 25 freelance community publishers who helped run a network of hyperlocal sites for Local World have left their roles after the publisher decided it now had enough users to sustain itself.

The company runs a series of Local People portals within its existing local newspaper footprint, which previously belonged to regional publisher Northcliffe.

But Local World has now ended the freelance contracts it had with 25 community publishers, following a previous restructure last year which saw around 75 freelance publishers depart.

The previous restructure saw around 100 freelance publishers, who each ran an individual portal, replaced with the current group of 25 freelance community publishers who each ran a group of sites.

Local World confirmed that 25 people were affected, who were contracted not permanent staff.

A spokeswoman said: “Local World is grateful for their work in establishing the service but it has now reached a stage where it has sufficient users to sustain itself, which was always the plan.”

One of those leaving is Carol Deacon, a former newspaper editor who covered the Local People portals in Nailsea, Clevedon, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare.

Carol’s departure brought to an end a 28-year journalism career in the North Somerset area in which she previously edited the Clevedon Mercury, Weston & Worle News, Burnham & Highbridge Times and the Bridgwater Times.

In a farewell piece on the website she wrote: “My freelance contract with Local People ends today so it is goodbye from me.

“I am assured the websites are ‘continuing’, however from now on I am sorry to say you are on your own posting items on Nailsea, Clevedon, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare websites.

“I am told it is a cost-saving move and led to believe copy from reporters on The Post and free contributions will fill the space left by my departure.

“I am not going to shout from rooftops about my demise as I enjoyed my time working for the company which is now called Local World and was flattered to be invited to so many fantastic press events.”

South Devon publisher Paul Strange also wrote a story about his departure, thanking all those who had contributed to the site.

Wrote Paul: “I’m moving on to pastures new, so it’s a chance to thank everyone who has contributed to the site since it was first launched and, in particular, since I took over managing Tavistock People in August 2012.

“It’s been a pleasure serving the local community, and I hope that together we’ve managed to reflect some of the spirit, warmth and friendship that Tavistock exudes.”

17 comments

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  • June 11, 2013 at 11:00 am
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    You can’t replace qualified, experienced reporters (or ‘publishers’) with the general public. It’s ridiculous but typical of news publishers to be putting profits ahead of quality.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 11:19 am
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    It’s so sad to see what Local World is doing to regional journalism. UGC is why blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook were invented.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 11:36 am
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    Not the only ‘reverse ferret’ on digital which Local World management are performing – I gather their plans to launch ‘Familybook’ may have run into choppy waters with a global social media corporation with a none too dissimilar name. Quelle surprise!

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  • June 11, 2013 at 11:43 am
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    I really think this is one of those moments we’ll all look back on in years to come and say “that was a turning point” in the history of local newspapers.

    This is it. The floodgates will now start to creak open throughout the industry as the blueprint for the future is slowly proved.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 11:46 am
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    So the Local World wolf has already shed Grandma’s clothes and shown us what big teeth it has. This decision just makes no logical sense whatsover. David Montgomery recently outlined the need for journalists with a variety of skills. The company had them but have now got rid of 25 of them. These ‘community publishers’ were the trusted focal point of their sites. They engaged with, supported and drove the audience to participate. Take them away and you’re left with a ship minus its captain – sooner or later it will hit rocky ground and disappear beneath the waves to become a rusting hull.

    Don’t forget that Monty told the troops that he would be following the example of Norwegian online sites because “…you will in some cases be able to smell the salt air…”. I can smell something from Local World now and it certainly isn’t sea air.

    Reinventing local journalism? I think not.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 11:52 am
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    Thankyou…and goodbye. Many of the sites were feeble but the few good ones stood out and were a credit to the hard-working professionals behind them. Sad to see these people treated so shabbily.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm
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    Jamie, I agree that with certain types of reporting, court and crime reporting for example that there is no replacement for trained reporters.

    However for the sort of stories you get on community websites, covering the likes of fun runs or festivals, or brief news items like transport problems etc I don’t think that the lack of qualification made much difference to people – in fact – sometimes it was a distinct benefit being part of the community that you were reporting on.

    I can remember when I did a community publishing stint, that many times when I visited a club or local group, they often thanked me for taking an interest when the two local newspapers in the area ignored them. (in fact the ‘local’ newspaper decamped their offices approximately 24km away)

    If regional newspapers want to be taken seriously by the communities they serve, they do, at the very least have to have an office in the town they are reporting on.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm
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    Hmmmmmmm has anyone actually visited these sites? Take the one quoted above – the Clevedon area. Click on the news section and there have been 8 uploaded stories in the last 11 days. Eight. Is this the future of cutting edge news? An average of less than 1 story a day?

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  • June 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm
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    My spies tell me that LW is rapidly becoming a train wreck with a business plan based on glib digital model mumbo jumbo.

    Basically they are all working hard to generate income for printers they no longer own. There is no digital lifeboat for the regionals because there is no real audience the above just proves it.

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  • June 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm
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    “sufficient users to sustain itself, which was always the plan.” – this is an excuse to say they just can’t be bothered with them anymore – as well as the 1% rule.

    Back before July 2012 when each town had its own published on £500 a month, you’d have somebody spearheading each site. Photos and videos of flooding, the Diamond Jubilee, school fetes, theatre groups and so forth.

    What kind of person in the name of UGC would think : “It’s 3:20am, I must go out and take a photograph of severe local flooding for my Local People website….”

    Or when the Jubilee was taking place “I must go a make a video of all the local events in the name of user generated content…”

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  • June 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm
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    RIP quality regional journalism. Glad I’m out of it!

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  • June 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm
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    The issue will be when the local busy-bodies get fed up or sadly pass away. The new generations post things to facebook, twitter and youtube, they are time poor, they are NOT going to suddenly start posting things on yet another website, duplicating what they have already done.

    Plus, the ‘news’ that the local busy-bodies fill up these sites which in turn most younger people off completly. Do I really care that the local primary school is going on a ski trip to italy? Am I bothered that the local hair dressers is having wine & nibbles for their 27th anniversary? (Both examples that I have had in the last few weeks of people wanting a ‘story written about them’)

    Oh and the more we let users post UGC for free, the more they use it to advertise local events & services free and further decrease our revenue streams. Just look at the ‘community’ pages on the thisis websites……. full of business’s that are effectivly advertising themselfs and their events and not paying for it…..

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  • June 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm
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    I’m not really surprised by this – it’s one of the reasons I walked away from my site a year ago when they got rid of 75 CPs rather than applying to work across five or six sites. I couldn’t see how that could succeed without affecting the quality considerably and it was obvious that it was only a matter of time before Northcliffe (as was) would abandon them altogether.

    The design and layout of the sites was terrible and not very inviting to users, which may have had some impact on the numbers of people who visited them. We were promised redesigns that never materialised.

    Technically they were very poor – uploading a photogallery could take hours and unless you knew the special knack, uploaded stories looked a mess.

    In spite of that I loved working on my site and think it’s a real shame they weren’t invested in properly and now are being left to their own devices.

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  • June 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm
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    Heartily endorse most of the above comments. LW suits blather blithely about vast quantities of UGC filling up its sites, either blind to, or deliberately ignoring, the inconvenient facts that a) the Us don’t really have time or enthusiasm to G that amount of C for nothing and that b) even if by some miracle half the population of the British Isles decided to stop what they were doing and spend a week filing copy to their local LW site, the technology is so overstretched already, and the architecture so chronically awful, that you couldn’t find it even if you wanted to. I don’t believe the demand’s there. Northcliffe used to have something called the Beehive, I remember, which was a portal for posting precisely this sort of community guff, and it withered on the vine a decade ago, which should have told somebody something had they but eyes to see. But then I don’t believe the point of LW is to save local journalism anyway, whatever they might say.

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  • June 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm
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    Yes, the IDEA of these sites certainly had some potential. Like several people commenting, I was a highly experienced and trained news journalist who – in early retirement – was delighted to be able to work from home and provide information and up-to-date news for my neighbourhood. I think I did a good job because I was on the spot seven days a week with good local contacts – a bargain for £500 a month!
    But the site always seemed a bit of a work-in-progress and there were many frustrations. The oddest thing was that the site had nothing to do with the local newspaper under the same ownership. If we had co-operated on ads and editorial, surely that would have been more economical?

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  • June 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm
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    Local World scoops awards for services to the clothing industry

    You’ve all read those florid (or is it flaccid) stories about how a certain newspaper group has scooped all the journalism, print and design awards in a particular region – published on the assumption that you didn’t know that their titles were the only ones eligible to enter.

    Now Local World has entered a new sphere – or should we say “platform” – and it appears to be the rag trade.

    According to Hold the Front Page’s respondee RH on 11th June, “the Local World wolf has already shed Grandma’s clothes”.

    At least Red Riding Hood’s granny had some raiments, unlike Danny Kaye’s king. To precis, a vainglorious and fashion-conscious king was duped by swindlers into believing that they were providing an inestimably beautiful new suit, but in fact it was all an illusion.

    His courtiers, and the vast majority of his subjects, were persuaded that NOT seeing this invisible suit was a sign of their disloyalty and foolishness, so they all joined in praising the outfit.

    But one little boy, who hadn’t been properly instructed in the need for this false praise, disrupted a
    huge occasion by proclaiming, loudly, that the king was stark naked.

    The Transformation Room in Kensington is frantically scanning its digital screens to work out what’s “trending” where – sadly Pippa Middleton’s celebrated bum didn’t quite cut it at the Cheltenham race meeting, where fewer hits than hoped were recorded as people were interest in racing, and there was some surprise that the Chancellor’s budget speech wasn’t followed as avidly in the LW regionals as it was on the BBC news site (quelle surprise, as Long Gone says!) Breathless multi-daily reports on the digital results are beamed to less than eager regional centres, whose journalists (remember those??) are more keen to do their own work, while they still can.

    The LW shirts (and short skirts) in Kensington are so busy convincing themselves that they are doing a wonderful job that they are ignoring what is really happening to their titles. But when the advertisers get wind of the fact that the hitherto-dependable readers and spenders are finding other ways to use their time, what will happen to those bonuses?

    No more Louboutins or Armanis.

    Clothes Horse

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