Eight hyperlocal news titles have launched a new advertising partnership with the Scottish government.
The deal will see the publications, all members of the Independent Community News Network, run a three-week campaign advising people who are shielding due to coronavirus that they no longer need to do so.
The campaign follows an announcement made in mid-May that the Scottish Government was increasing spending in Scottish national, regional and community news publications to £3 million.
The adverts will be carried by the Edinburgh Reporter, Shetland News, Lochside Press, Midlothian View, The Ferret, Broughton Spurtle, Lang Toon Times and My Turriff.
Shetland News managing editor Hans Marter said: “The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be the biggest story we have ever covered. It stretched our very limited resources to the absolute limit.
“Shetland recorded a number of very early Covid cases which led the community going into a ’near-lockdown’ situation long before lockdown was ordered nationally.
“As an online organisation having always worked from a home office, we were able to respond quickly and flexibly to the crisis by providing accurate up to date news and public service information such as rapidly growing lists of shops that were closed and events that were cancelled.”
Hans said traffic to his website more than doubled from February to March 2020.
He added: “While the workload increased daily we, like any other news organisation in the country, started losing advertising income. Thanks to the tremendous effort from ICNN we eventually managed to secure at least some public health advertising from the Scottish Government.
“It is not much and certainly doesn’t compensate for the loss in advertising revenue, but it is, hopefully, the start of something new in that the Scottish government and its advertising agencies beginning to recognise the value of the small, independent news publishers.
“There is no doubt that the news sector is significantly more diverse these days than the long-established newspaper industry, and a different approach from government and it agencies is needed.”
During the pandemic, ICNN has also lobbied the UK government for more support to be given to its members.
In early April, the Welsh government awarded emergency grant revenue funding of £8,500 to each member of ICNN in Wales.
Edinburgh Reporter editor Phyllis Stephen said: “This Scottish government support is absolutely crucial to us as an independent news publisher. We have watched the ‘big boys’ getting support in the form of advertising all across the UK, and thought all was lost until ICNN stepped in to lobby on our behalf.
“While our main advertisers continue to support us, it is difficult to keep on writing the news to meet the demand for that, and chase reluctant advertisers at the same time.
“We are also very mindful that some businesses and organisations just do not have any spare cash, so it is essential that public bodies offer this support.
“Our July 2020 visitor numbers on our website broke all records in the ten years we have been reporting to the Scottish capital, and it looks as though our annual traffic will be about double what we have achieved before.