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Council accused of ‘cannibalising’ local press after £60k website revamp

oliver-cooperA council has been accused of “cannibalising” local newspapers after announcing it is spending £60,000 on revamping an entertainment listings website.

Camden Council, in London, says it is spending the cash on its Love Camden site, which features listings and rundowns about the best coffee shops and bars in the borough.

Love Camden was launched six years ago and currently gets an average of 31,000 page views a month.

The Labour-run council has insisted it is not attempting to “rival” any other media in the area – but opposition Tory councillor Oliver Cooper has accused it of “cannibalising our independent local press.”

Cllr Cooper, pictured above left, told the Camden New Journal: “Camden Labour needs to stretch taxpayers’ money as far it can go. Like the costly and under-read Camden magazine, this seems to duplicate our excellent local papers, whose print editions and sites are packed with culture listings.”

He added: “Love Camden is a great service but £60,000 will seem eye-wateringly expensive to duplicate our local press, especially while Camden Labour cut services, hike taxes and increase councillors’ pay.

“I’ve commissioned web redesigns, and high-performance, professional bespoke websites rarely come in at more than £15,000.

“Camden must make sure it’s getting value for money and not sign on the dotted line until and unless the administration has ensured the work can’t be done cheaper elsewhere and isn’t just cannibalising our independent local press.”

The homepage of the councl's Love Camden entertainments listing site

The homepage of the council’s Love Camden entertainments listing site

But Cllr Abdul Hai, the authority’s culture chief, insisted the Love Camden site was a “popular way of reaching both visitors and residents”.

He said: “Technology has moved on since the site was launched in 2010 and it has become outdated and lacked functionality. Some organisations fed back that they weren’t using the site for these reasons.

“The new site better represents our borough, its organisations and events and why people should visit. It also allows us to generate income through sponsored content, which we project will pay for the redesign cost within three years.”

Asked by the CNJ whether Camden would be competing for the same marketing budgets as local papers, Cllr Hai added: “It wasn’t created to rival other media and to that regard we would happily both work with and profile local media outlets on the site, should they wish.”

The CNJ has not responded to requests for further comment.


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  • November 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    This is not what local authorities should be spending their money on. They are not commercial operations but publicly funded and have no need to generate revenue from advertising, unlike our own beleaguered media organisations.

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  • November 14, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Except for the fact council’s have had their public funding slashed by around a third, while seeing ever increasing costs for adult social care. But yes, absolutely no need for them to look at other ways of generating incoming.

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  • November 14, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Corporal Clegg, I’m afraid I disagree. An important part of what local authorities are tasked with is promoting tourism and investment in their local area. They also own and run many museums and heritage sites which are reliant on events marketing.

    So, in the face of widespread public sector cuts, they absolutely need to look at generating additional income streams to keep public services running and people in jobs (why should the latter be the preserve of private business?)

    Regional publishers are focused on growing digital revenues, primarily from national advertising, by pushing content which gets the most page views. This is why we have endless debates about the value of ‘listicles’ and ‘clickbait’.

    Unfortunately, this focus is often at the expense of local entertainment/events content and is the reason why most newsrooms have drastically cut the features staff who would have previously helped local authorities to promote this type of content more.

    When ents-type content barely gets a look-in on your typical local newspaper website what choice do local authorities have? It’s either promote and monetise it themselves or cut services and jobs.

    Also, this type of website often flies under the radar of the local press when it’s arranged via a third-party through a process called ‘commissioning’ but, in the end, it’s always going to be easier on the public purse to do it in-house if the expertise is already there.

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  • November 15, 2016 at 1:18 am

    Good for the council and the entertainment rates payers. It will benefit the area.
    You can’t rely on local papers anymore for entertainment listings. Lack of staff means the papers suffer. I use websites to find something to do, none of which are newspaper owned.

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