It’s particularly refreshing to see a media group being collectively proactive but alas, not on this Island.

All media are going through a torrid time, but some more torrid than others. A case in point would be the ‘Regional’ newspapers who have never really been flavour of the month with agencies and press buyers alike anyway and even less favoured in recessionary times.

Visions of a somewhat parochial and staid medium may be the cause of that, coupled with a body that is less than cohesive and certainly not boisterous when it comes to selling itself. Individually, there are many exceptions to this rule, but as a ‘medium’, they seem down the pecking order.

Considering the Regional papers collectively reach 44% of the population (63% if you exclude Dublin and Cork) the medium should be treated with a little more respect .

The parochial which it is sometimes labelled is certainly not borne out in statistics. More 15-18 year olds read a Regional paper than read the The Sunday Independent, Sunday World, Sunday Tribune and Sunday Business Post – combined.  They also deliver a combined audited circulation of 361,000. 

Our friends across the pond have over 1,300 local newspapers under a particularly proactive and innovative organisation in the form of the Newspaper Society (NS). The Society is charged with the promotion of the ‘local’ medium in the UK and they have just launched a new campaign that extols the virtues of local press.

Full page ads in the Regional press over Easter will try and show that people have a greater emotional attachment to that medium than to many others.

What an earth shattering idea!

In every respect they are miles ahead of our own ‘ragged band’ of regional papers. The NS also organises Local Newspaper Week. As you would expect it’s a week where the focus is firmly on the local press supported by local retailers and businesses.

The message of this campaign is to highlight the importance of local press and local journalism in the hope that it will raise the mediums awareness in the minds of agencies, media buyers and a sometimes apathetic public.

They have recently coordinated “Locally Connected’ which is

the UK’s first integrated print and online audience currency….It gives agencies the hard data they need to target local communities in print and online.

In order to achieve that they only take on publications that have and audited figure for both circulation and the internet. In our own case that would fairly much scupper the plan as a huge body of regional’s don’t have a current ABC audit for either circulation or web.

Aside from the latter, the others ideas are noteworthy, inexpensive, taken on a collective basis, and well worth a look at from an Irish perspective.

Perhaps the first steps in a transformation of the medium might be some internal steps.

Primarily: a one voice style campaign – under one umbrella, even if just for the promotion of the medium and nothing else.   

All references to this body of papers refers to “Regional”. Whilst it’s grammatically correct, it definitely has the dreaded parochial feel to it. Perhaps we take a leaf from the UK or US and refer to them as “local” or “weekly”.

Local Newspaper Week: Really, it’s not rocket science to see how this could be an extremely effective campaign if run in conjunction with multiples/symbols – everybody supporting the local community.

Joint promotion: again there is a simple and high visibility campaign in the wings. Give the winner of some entrepreneurial competition, say, €100k worth of advertising in the ‘Local’ Press. Run the promotion in conjunction wit local enterprise boards. get the Local press in the table with local and vibrant enterprise. And what really would that cost to each individual title? Marginal really.

Each participating title is charged with helping 5 individuals seek employment. It may sound so Dickensian, but in fact it can only highlight the power of regional press in local recruitment. Five people by fifty titles..nearly as many jobs as were used a hostages to publicity in the recent Airport debacle.

It’s so easy to see how you could promote and re-invigorate the medium. Leave aside the lobbying, collective bargaining, etc, etc.

Set up an organisation to aid the commercial side of the local papers and leave the other issues and infighting for another day.