Regional print newspaper circulation continues to decline at a fairly significant pace, and Mintel forecasts this trend to continue. While other areas of print publishing have seen resurgences, namely print books, print newspapers continue to increasingly look to be part of a bygone era. The current exception for regional newspapers is the popularity of free titles, particularly ones serving heavy commuter cities, such as the Metro and the Evening Standard.
Publishers can be encouraged by the continued substantial growth of online audiences. Mintel estimates that daily unique browsers for online regional newspapers will grow by a further 27% in 2016 and forecasts a 154% increase between 2016 and 2021. There is still a strong appetite for regional news as well as an interest in obtaining the news from regional newspaper titles rather than simply from the BBC. The problem for publishers remains, however, how to determine the best method of monetising online platforms and content, which is becoming an increasingly urgent issue as ad blockers make a stronger impact on the news industry.
Some 68% of regular regional newspaper readers are willing to pay for print editions and 12% are willing to pay for digital regional content; the latter being an increase of four percentage points compared to April 2015. Significantly, a growing number of younger regional newspaper readers are willing to pay for digital content. Mintel’s Trend, Make it Mine, explores people’s increasing desire for and expectation of having personalised goods/services that are customised towards their wants and needs. National publishers, in particular, have been introducing many new features that are focused on creating personalised content or briefings, especially those with content behind a paywall. For example The Financial Times has launched the app, My FT, which is designed to be a personalised hub of content, including recommended reads, while The Economist has the Economist Espresso, which offers people personalised daily briefings of news stories every morning.
Mintel’s research shows the high interest there is in having such features for regional news. This interest grows significantly among tech-savvy younger readers, with 88% of 16-34-year-olds interested in receiving a form of personalised briefing from a local/regional newspaper website/app. Personalised briefings for local job opportunities are particularly popular with the aforementioned age group (35%).
Regional publishers should be looking to follow in the footsteps of national examples; creating mobile based, ‘easy to use’, customised daily briefings. Such a feature not only keeps readers engaged but the personalised nature of the content could help boost willingness to pay.