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Council criticised for selling advertising on website

A council has come under fire after appointing an advertising agency to sell space on its website.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead will allow companies to buy advertising on its website from June, after the move was approved by the council’s cabinet last month.

But the move by the authority has been criticised by Lynne Anderson of the Newspaper Society, who said councils should not compete for readers and advertisers with local newspapers.

Wandsworth Council has also announced this week that it will also be accepting advertising on its website soon, with the aim of generating revenue to keep council tax down.

And at Slough Borough Council, the authority will continue publishing its Citizen newspaper six times a year, despite new government guidelines which were brought in saying there should be a four-a-year limit.

Ms Anderson said: “Local authorities must not use public funds to compete for readers and advertising with the only voices which can hold them to account – independent local newspapers and their websites.

“This would never be tolerated at a national level and should not be tolerated locally.

“The local media is reliant on advertising revenue to fund its journalism – revenue which has been under severe challenge as the industry fights its way out of the economic downturn.

“The local council should be supporting local businesses, not competing with them for vital advertising revenues. The reason the Government introduced the new Local Authority Publicity Code last month was to stop councils competing unfairly with local newspaper businesses.”

At the Royal Borough, an independent advertising agency will work on a commission basis and each advert will be vetted by a cabinet member to ensure it meets strict standards which have been brought in.

Anthony Kemp, director of resources at the authority, said: “We are not in any way seeking to emulate local newspapers which we fully support for their valuable and independent role in our community.”

Wandsworth Council says it also has strict guidelines on what kinds of advertising will be accepted, and an independent advertising representative will sell space on a commission-only basis, focusing on local companies.

And Slough council leader Rob Anderson said more than 90pc of residents found its Citizen publication useful for finding out about council services.

He said: “One of the main reasons for seeking to limit council publications is where they are in direct competition with local newspapers, but as the information in Citizen is different to that in local papers they complement rather than compete with each other.”


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  • April 28, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Advertisers on the web are interested in one thing above all else – traffic. Newspaper websites have that traffic, but these websites are really not very good, very messy, and adverts get lost. Plus, and this is from a bit of experience and a bit of guesswork, papers will charge more for their advertising than a council website.
    So – lower costs, cleaner website and plenty of traffic means a good place to advertise.
    I also don’t see why a newspaper should have a special role in an area. Websites run by committed people that are far more relevant to modern society and the needs of their community don’t get any help in any way. The one I work for doesn’t anyway and it is head and shoulders above the traditional media in terms of enaging with the community, especially young people. Newspapers etc are not sacred cows anymore

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  • April 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    All that Harold writes above is true. However, a local authority is financed by the people and businesses of its area in order to provide essential services and administrative functions for those people and businesses. Is it appropriate for such a body to use its position to squeeze local enterprise into submission, à la Tesco? I would suggest not.

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  • April 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    This is special pleading from the Newspaper Soc, dressed up as concern for all local businesses.

    The great majority of those businesses would be very happy if they had a good, cost-effective means of reaching customers.

    In other circumstances, the local media would be more than happy to see council tax being held down. It’s different when their own revenue might be affected.

    It’s up to the media to offer good content, attract readers and sell their own space on the back of it.

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