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How to compete with low cost local sites

Roger Green
Roger Green, Managing Director of Digital Media, Newsquest, will be speaking at AOP’s Microlocal Media Forum on Wednesday 9 December.

He joins speakers from Johnston Press, BBC Local, Guardian Local & Trinity Mirror - view full lineup.

Tickets for this event are just £40+vat for AOP members – Find out more and book online now.

Ahead of the event, we got his view on local: the 'zero cost' competition,
commercial opportunities, and the main threats and opportunities for digital

What do you feel are the main issues for publishers developing their businesses in microlocal?

Evolving the proven business models of their local media brands from a tradition of one-way broadcasting of news and relatively soft information to a place where there is more emphasis on hard data, collaboration and local conversation.

How can publishers compete with zero-cost base community developed and run sites?

Local media companies have been used to dealing successfully with low-cost competition in the low-tech world so competition is not a new concept. I don't believe that anything that is 'zero cost' can possibly have wide enough appeal, achieve an appropriate amount of awareness or grow enough sales momentum to be sustainable, whatever fashionable technology it is using.

Some seductive 'zero cost' initiatives are based upon the premise that they
shouldn't pay for intellectual property that clearly belongs to someone else.
This is an untenable and unsustainable business model. Not surprisingly they
don't last.

To compete effectively, publishers should assume the 'zero costers' will be
around for at least a while and apply the same free tools and techniques to
their proven brands, distribution channels and customer relationships. They
should also look out for opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. I'm
sure some will emerge.

Is there any sign of a robust commercial model to justify publisher investment?

The present regional media model is considerably more robust than it's often given credit for, having evolved to encompass many distribution channels - newspapers, magazines, events, radio, television, fixed and mobile telephone services and - since 1994 - websites. The nation's local media companies deliver trusted local news and information to 40 million print readers a week and 37 million web users a month - bigger audiences than many have ever had.

If real revenue opportunities arise through microlocal there's no reason why
they shouldn't be incorporated into the incumbents' commercial mix and attract
an appropriate level of investment.

Are publishers wise to be investing in microlocal at this time?

It deserves serious attention, but how much remains to be seen.

What do you think it takes for publishers to succeed in this area?

To adopt the best of the ideas that are out there and to leverage their advantages to do them better than the zero-costers can. There may be mutually beneficial opportunities in partnership.

What do you see as the main threats to publisher success?

The main challenge for incumbents in local publishing is being able to adapt in appropriate ways in a timely enough fashion. Avoid being Disco Dads, think things through. 'Appropriate' refers to things that are worth doing.

Ever since the internet went commercial publishers have been encouraged to do
things that frequently turned out to be a waste of time. Microsoft Channels. Be a
free ISP or a 'portal'. The high level of noise - peaking in 1999 and probably again in 2009 - obscured developments that took root quietly and turned into unanticipated outcomes - the most notable being Google.

The AOP Microlocal Media forum takes place on 9 December at Olswang's Offices - book your place online - tickets half price for AOP members.

'<-----' image by Whatknot

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