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Should Liverpool Council dump local press and go online only after CIPR, PRCA row?

There’s an interesting story over at The Drum about a row having broken out between Liverpool City Councillors and the local press. In short, the council is banning their press officers from speaking to the papers. As you would expect, the CIPR and PRCA have condemned this, calling it daft.

But when you look at circulation and online presence, the council could go online and reach more people than they can through the traditional press. They’d also be more in control of the message. And this is the shape of things to come.
According to Facebook, 433,260 people are on the site and live within 16km of Liverpool. On Twitter, there’s at least 15,000 accounts registered in the city. Now that’s before we look at traffic to the council website, YouTube or other platforms. But it’s fair to say that a lot of people in the area are online.

Let’s look at the sales of the main papers. The Liverpool Echo does around 85,000 copies and The Liverpool Daily Post does around 9,000 copies. So, on the one hand Twitter wallops The Post but The Echo trumps that – though Facebook thumps them all.

The lesson for businesses, councils and press

The day is coming when an organisation in the UK will decide ‘sod it’ and stop speaking to a paper because they are fed up with a perceived lack of balance in articles or not getting their own viewpoint across properly and they’ll look at their own web traffic and platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and go “We can get our message out there to people. If we write it well and share it well, we can reach more people in our target groups than through the press. We might even be in more control of the content.”

And once the regional press is seen as useless for content, it’s not long after that it will be seen as useless for advertising, impacting on paper revenues and hastening a downward spiral.

But the press aren’t going away…

“The local papers will never vanish” people say. And for the short-term (next ten years) they are probably right. But there will be more cuts, more reporters out of work, less reporting carried out. And again, circulations, will fall and readers will discover that they can get more news by going online and following certain channels.

The other argument is that of “By doing it digitally you don’t reach everyone.” True. But look at the figures above. By using the traditional press you reach a hell of a lot less people.

The other lesson in digital engagement here…

That doesn’t mean councils and organisations should just jump on and push out press releases. Using digital right – and getting the high viewing figures or hits – means being more open and sharing issues, being more involved with your community and stakeholders. It’s the organisations who do that who will be the real winners online.

  1. I would imagine that local press also have an online presence and excluding them would arguably rule out their online readership. I’d argue that the best course of action is to include both local press and online. Online exposure is obviously great, but traditional newspapers still have a percentage of their demographic (an older one) that will miss out on digital messaging.

    Also, local press can just pick up from digital communications and spin stories to their liking. Isn’t it better to have a continuing relationship with journalists rather than completely ignoring them?

    Interesting post, but I suspect that including both traditional and digital media is still the way forward. Liverpool Council have overreacted; working with the local press is still important even though things are moving to digital and their relationships are a bit rocky. Perhaps in the future (like you say, at least 10 years from now) comms could move exclusively online, but I still think relationships are important with the press today. 

    • They might be able to stop their press officers from speaking to the local papers, but can they stop councillors (especially opposition councillors), opposition groups and all sort of interest groups?  If only one side is talking to the media, how can that help balanced reporting. And would it be fair to blame the press for unbalanced reporting if that’s the case?

      The advent of social media makes two-way communications easier and better – but that should be two-way communications with everyone.  Otherwise it’s propoganda.

  2. Cant agree there at all I am afraid.  Its all about balance.  Digital?  Yes absolutely.  Get the content right and we can socially make it happen.  But the traditional news papers reach a simply different audience.  May not be true in 3 years or 5 years.  But today an organisation – esp a local authority – servants of the local community – has to engage with the local papers.  Not to do so is doing a major disservice to a large element of the community they serve.  Be channel agnostic – just get the messages right.

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