Should regional newspapers talk to their readers or the readers?

The rush to be first with the story is never greater than when a ‘biggie’ breaks. The latest terrorist attacks on Europe yesterday were no different with Sky, BBC and the national newspapers all doing battle to capture the eyes and ears of online readers.

But as with so many of these big national and international stories, there’s also competition from unlikelier sources.

Twitter timelines – predictably – came alive with liveblogs, wire snaps, images and updates. Plenty of this content was being pushed by the online offerings of regional and local newspapers.

There’s no doubt that the digital landscape has moved the audience goalposts and created more militarized zones between the various outlets. But is this really the best use of manpower for local newspapers?

There’s no problem with localising a national story. In fact, it’s one of the things we expect of our regional and local press. But is a full on liveblog, complete with updates from PA, AP and other wires, really the best use of manpower at a time when newsrooms are increasingly finding themselves under pressure?

The evidence from the recent Rethink Media conference at Birmingham City University suggests the battle for eyeballs is part of the thinking. BBC News figures reveal that liveblogs generate 300% more views than conventional posts.

But the liveblogs themselves aren’t the problem. It’s the definition of what local media should be doing which is up for discussion.

The shifting of localism in a globally connected world is a much debated topic. But with this ability to do more and speak to a much wider audience, do local and regional newspapers risk losing sight of what their fundamental USP is? After all, if you’re not able to fully serve your local audience, how can you justify covering events for the audience which is not at the heart of your business?

For some regional media there is clearly a regulatory need to cover incidents:

And there’s clearly still the need to reflect a local angle:

But, for me, that local angle is the crucial bit – it’s making content important to your audience rather than the audience. Digital audiences for newspapers are growing, but are they growing at the expense of undermining the core readership?

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