*We welcome Richard Tyrie as our first Guest Author for quite a while for this post*
Councils told not to use websites to compete with local media
Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, has told councils not to undermine local media outlets by trying to compete for readers and advertising revenue with their own websites and publications.
So here we are, still basking in the immediate after-glow of the rousing Obama inauguration speech last week. We heard about his plans for a new era of openness, transparency and trust in government (US government, anyway); a sole focus on policies that were beneficial to the electorate, and the scrapping of policies that were dogmatic and ineffective. Fantastic stuff. Whatever your position on OB, you can’t deny that his inspirational leadership style, and the spirit and substance of his plans (not to mention his oratory skills) will bring about significant change to the nature of government in the US.
And then we have our own government. .
In the last fortnight alone, we’ve had the Heathrow third runway debacle; the attempted draft bill to exempt MP’s expenses from Freedom of Information Act legislation, ergo: “we don’t want to tell you taxpayers what your £87.6 million pa is being spent on”, which, incidentally, our Gordon did a sharp U-turn on, following a *significant* backlash by the internet ‘massive’ (way to go tweeps and facebookers..). Now government has come over all ‘traditionalist’ with the announcement of the latest initiative from Ed Balls’ office telling councils “not to undermine local newspapers by competing for readers [with their own websites]”
WTF? Do what? Are you serious?
Err hold on a minute… Last time I heard, the careers section of a local authority website was reported as being the most heavily trafficked section of all LG websites; in fact SOCITM (the society of IT Managers) reckon that the jobs section of a .gov.uk website is likely to serve four times more page impressions than the next most trafficked section of a local gov site (which, incidentally is the rather fascinating ‘planning application’ bit…)
Speak to any local authority hiring manager that actually measures where their response comes from (there are a few out there - not many mind…) and they’ll tell you how little response they get from ‘trad med’. What little response they do still get is precisely what they don’t want: the same types they’ve always attracted (pale, male and stale are, I believe, the descriptors du jour amongst local government officers).
The fact of the matter is, the local press just isn’t a practical, cost-effective solution any more, nor does local press advertising generate even vaguely diverse shortlists. Local Governments historic use of press as a primary attraction method (and the subsequent nature of the local government workforce) amply bears this out:
So employers… no young people? Just loads of err ‘experienced’ people? Not enough applications from black and minority ethnic communities? You betcha!
Funny that, but then that’s the profile of local press readership..but then if you do what you’ve always done….
On the flip side, we have the web, which is now making the majority of hires out there (London borough of Newham make 86% of all hires online now). Its proving to generate a *massively* more diverse candidate pool – indeed, one LA reported over 1000% more interest from BAME’s (black and minority ethnic applicants) per pound spent compared to ‘traditional’ press advertising..
That’s a compelling business case for the web – non?
Local press is dying. Its Darwinian; survival of the fittest; natural selection. The truth is, inefficient, structurally weak, strategically adrift businesses die over time – and so they should. Frankly, if they don’t move with the times, they should be left to wither.. trying to prop them up is analogous with US congress bailing out Ford or GM. Utter madness.
So when the Newspaper Society bleats on about how important local press is, in “ahem, providing a voice for local communities”, I suggest you get with the program Mr Balls, and see what’s really occurring out there. Speak to local authorities. See what’s happening. We know it would be nice to keep the local press happy, but hey, this is about getting the right people to provide public services, not just currying favour with publishers with ever decreasing influence by ensuring them a few quid in advertising revs.
Do the right thing, and ditch the dogmatic stuff that isn’t in our interests any more.. Failure to do that, could mean you find yourself withering too, and probably quicker than you imagine.