Will an integrated currency revive the regional press?

Locally Connected, the UK's first integrated print and online planning currency, launches on 24 November backed by top regional newspapers. But is it a silver bullet for the regional press?

NO - Fiona Hodges, Regional director, Mediaedge:cia
Locally Connected will help to drag the medium kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. It's long overdue and will allow regional media specialists to put science into their planning.

But if its developers believe it will cure all regional media's ills, they are sadly mistaken. There are bigger issues to deal with, such as the quality of the newspapers and websites.

We often hear of the doom and gloom in the regional press, with many closures and redundancies. As a consequence, some publishers have decided to cram as many ads as possible into their publications at the cost of editorial, and this will not have gone unnoticed by readers.

The quality and presentation of the regional press and its websites is vital at this time and having a good-quality product to show a client will help its cause much more than any integrated planning system.

NO - Charlotte Bell, Director, Feather Brooksbank
Locally Connected promises to be a valuable addition to the existing regional planning tools, but to suggest it will revive the regional press is a tad optimistic.Regional press is in such turmoil mainly because classified revenues, which make up 67% of its total ad revenue, have plummeted.

The recession has put a nail into the coffin of the three biggest sectors for regional press - motors, property and recruitment. But the truth is, their support for regional press was declining long before the recession.

People are turning to the web first to look for a job, car or property, so media agencies are just placing ads where they will be most effective. As we leave recession, these markets won't return to regional press at previous levels. Some say the new tool will prove the value of using press and online together, but for classified, we need more data on job, car and property seekers and their readership of the platforms in press and online.

YES - Les Middleton, Joint head, MediaCom Accent
This can help bring a bit of stability to the regional press marketplace. However, I am not sure it can reinvigorate the classified sections that have suffered most from lost revenue.

Regional online sites are becoming more and more important - and will now be more justifiable - to our regional and local campaigns. MediaCom Accent has been planning local cross-media schedules for some time, but Locally Connected gives us a credible tool/currency that allows us to justify to our clients the strengths of local media.

Publishers will be able to sell full cross-media platforms that can be measured through a recognised industry currency, which will enable agencies to negotiate a total audience package.

But publishers must not use the system to drive up online costs. Time will tell if the new currency revives the marketplace. I firmly believe it will.

NO - Paul Phelps, Managing director, AMS
No - but only because the question specifies the word "press".

The way we all consume media is changing and that applies to local news as much as national. I'm not suggesting a premature death for ink on paper, but I believe regional media owners have been complacent about life beyond newsprint.
Positioning themselves as purveyors of local news across multiple platforms must be a stronger future than print alone.

The evolution of measurement to incorporate these channels can only help generate new revenues - especially if the media owners can develop more aggregated and user-friendly access for advertisers to reach these audiences.

As local radio programming moves closer to network syndication, regional publishers have a clear run to grab and own all things "local". But successful monetisation of that opportunity will, almost certainly, not lie in the word "press", but in "digital".

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