Print is key for hyperlocals

ONE of the big messages to emerge from last week’s ground-breaking community journalism summit in Cardiff was the demand for print from readers and advertisers.

Several hyperlocal publishers who are currently working online exclusively explained how hard it is to get local advertisers to back their websites. But they said those same businesses told them they would advertise if the publishers launched print versions of their community titles.

Encouraged by this demonstration of commercial support for print, some publishers are now considering introducing newspapers – and some are finding that a daunting prospect. In particular, they are concerned about the production issues raised by going into print. Page layout, design and pre-press processes have to be got right and they all take time.

However, this need not be a stumbling block for hyperlocal publishers and it shouldn’t hinder the growing resurgence of our new, independent community press. Several successful community newspapers and magazines were represented at Thursday’s Building the Future of Community Journalism conference and their owner-publishers were bullish about their prospects. These pioneers are proof that you can make a sustainable business out of local print journalism.

Even so, some fledgling publishers fear that the production know-how and the heavy lifting required to assemble their newspaper and get it onto a printing press on time could be a threat to their business. In particular, is there enough time within the publishing cycle to not only gather content but to organise it onto pages, add the adverts and transmit the whole package safely to the print site?

Help is at hand. There are journalists around who have lots of production experience and can provide advice, training and encouragement. They can design, sub and lay out pages cost-effectively week in, week out, or they can design a bespoke publication, complete with a set of page templates, and, after a period for familiarisation and practice, they can hand it all over to the publisher.

That’s exactly what I do. And I’d be happy to help any local publisher who faces this challenge.

I learned a lot from the Centre for Community Journalism’s excellent conference last week and was encouraged about the future for media’s new wave. One of the things I learned was that print will be essential if publishers are going to build sustainable enterprises to serve their communities. I hope the newly-launched Independent Community News Network will encourage more and more community journalists to make print a rewarding and profitable part of their operation. It’s what readers and advertisers seem to be asking for so let’s give them what they want.

Read Tim Dixon’s regular blog at

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