The UK’s local news economy is in dire straits. Local newspapers have had their ability to create relevant regional news slowly stripped away as newspaper groups attempt to cut their way to sustainability, and the mishandling of specific local television channels has been a source of controversy over the past few years. In the executive summation of the Cairncross Review, the UK government’s year-long review into the sustainability of journalism, Dame Frances Cairncross noted that the ability of local news providers to make a living among the huge digital giants that now dominate ad spend was far from a given. As the sales of local news titles in the UK has halved between 2007 and 2017, few would argue that it is not an unprecedentedly challenging time for regional news producers.
According to the 2018 edition of Ofcom’s ‘News Consumption in the UK’ report, only 40 percent of people in the UK regularly get their news in print, with less than one in four (23 percent) using printed local or regional newspapers. By contrast, close to half of people (48 percent) get their news from local BBC television bulletins and just under a third (32 percent) doing the same with ITV. That might be why, in the US, the Tampa Bay Times is attempting to use local television to increase newsstand sales (every little helps!).
Far and away the least used source of local news is social media, which Ofcom found was only a source of local news for 16 percent of people. That is likely due to a number of factors, from how few local newspapers actually maintain active social presences, to people’s propensity to use social media instead to communicate with either friendship groups or national news. Concerns about online misinformation are also primarily focused around social media, which may be a slight factor. Even as use of social media increases, its use for local news remains fairly limited.