It’s part of a journalist’s job in 2019 to think about how to make money

Keith Perch says it’s not enough for newsrooms to rely on programmatic revenues — and it’s time to stop debating whether it’s right to write with audiences in mind

Keith Perch

Which story from the local media will you remember from 2018 and why?

Any one of the many stories written by our students for our local newsrooms. We have worked closely with the various trending and sports teams in the East Midlands and have produced dozens of articles (sometimes in a single day) for use on their websites and live blogs.

I’ve also enjoyed watching the work of Eddie Bisknell, the local democracy reporter in Derby. Despite the criticism levelled at local newsrooms, it is interesting that when I go looking for a story I have heard about, I do almost always still find it on the local news site.

What has surprised you most about local journalism in 2018?

That we are still discussing the rights and wrongs of writing for an audience!

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing local journalism in 2019?

Finding a way to monetise local expertise and audiences other than through programmatic advertising.

It is difficult to see the sums adding up at the rate currently being paid and it seems likely that that rate will go down, not up.

What advice would you give to local journalists planning for 2019?

Specialise and accept that it is part of your job to find ways to monetise that speciality. Understand that your audience must pay for high quality content one way or another — expect that model to be different for different forms and topics of content.

What do you hope will happen in 2019?

That more will be done to look at alternative ways to raise money through local news. That we will find ways to monetise local niches using a variety of different models from programmatic advertising, to affiliate deals, to paid content … and a host of other ways that nobody has yet thought of.

I think they all have a part to play and we need to see more experiments with some transparency in the results.

What can local editors to make their newsrooms more attractive to students or people considering entering the profession?

Allow people to develop a specialism to go along with the requirements of the general business. Take advantage of the amazing specialist knowledge that individuals have.

What do you think local newsrooms are doing wrong at the moment?

Difficult to say as there are so many different local newsrooms. I am happy to see experiments both with revenue models and content — I would like to see more dedication to monetising local expertise.

If you had one piece of advice for a local editor, what would it be?

Pick a few different business models to experiment with alongside those being tried centrally. I think there are ways to make money out of local niches like maternity, planning applications, shopping, politics, eating out, and many other local specialities.

Don’t give up! Ignore people like me. I know, that’s three pieces of advice!

  • Keith Perch is Head of Journalism at University of Derby. Keith is a former editor of the South Wales Echo, Derby Telegraph, and Leicester Mercury, and managing director of the Daily Mail group’s Digital Publishing arm.