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Editorial chiefs eye ‘post-pandemic comeback’ amid ‘renewed interest’ in local news

Tim Robinson

Two regional editorial leaders have shared their view that the Covid-19 pandemic may ultimately benefit the industry, hailing “renewed interest” in local news.

JPIMedia managing editor Tim Robinson, left, says the move to increased remote working could provide a print boost for local publishers.

In a piece giving his thoughts on the future of print for InPublishing magazine, Tim said the end of commuting would lead to fresh interest in content relevant to where people live.

Meanwhile John Holliday, MD at Cumbrian publisher Barrnon Media, said the pandemic had “weirdly” helped small publishers by bringing communities closer together.

Explaining why he thinks more remote working is good for the local press, Tim wrote: “The boundaries of our physical world have shrunk and working from home means the end of commuting for many.

“This will undoubtedly mean a renewed interest in local place, property, leisure, food and drink, health and content relevant to their changing lives.”

Time noted the “battle for breaking news was won by the internet long ago” and said people were “no longer opening a newspaper at breakfast time”.

But he wrote: “Weekends, however, are a different story. Readers want distraction, ideas for things to do, read or watch and places to go. Getting the right package of curated leisure, news, opinion, background, nostalgia and sport will make weekend (and pre-weekend papers) an habitual purchase.”

Tim added: “In local media, that USP, to state the obvious, is local content. But not just the same old local content – we’re having to re-evaluate everything.

“Just because we’ve covered a subject, a sport or an activity since time began, it doesn’t mean people are still interested.

“Example: thousands of people take part in park runs, something we never really covered, whereas a lower-league football touchline increasingly empty of spectators was seen as an essential part of our sports mix.

“This – and much else – is changing and the huge amount of data about online readership is helping to inform these print choices.”

John HollidayJohn, left, whose company publishes the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald and Keswick Reminder, shared his views in the company’s annual statement to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

In the statement, John wrote: “Our mission is to create a sense of connection and belonging in the North Lake District community that is hard to come by in some other way.

“We are trying to find a sustainable model for local news, which we think has tremendous value for local democracy.

“Weirdly, I believe Covid-19 has helped. Helped bring communities closer together. Helped focus on families and the important things in life.”