After two decades of tumultuous change in the industry, local media is arguably more important than ever. Huge financial pressures have forced hundreds of redundancies and changed formats dramatically as traditional mastheads grapple with what the audience wants and how they can pay for their business models.
Today, as a result of those pressures, the venerable Canberra Times goes behind a digital paywall. It’s a long forecast move and comes on the back of multiple redundancies towards the end of the Fairfax era and the consequent diminution of a local institution.
Crashing reader numbers, a commercially unsustainable print model and changing audience habits have all played their role and from today onwards, readers will be limited to five free articles per month or annual subscriptions ranging from $180 to $228.80. The paper’s syndicated content deal with Fairfax also has a limited lifespan after its sale to other interests.
Any decent journalist passionately believes in the value of competitive, strong local media. Readers care first and foremost about their own communities, and credible journalism should play a role in calling power to account and providing balanced and fair coverage of the events and people who matter to us.
This week’s raids on a News Corp journalist here in Canberra and the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters, seeking material related to potential wide-ranging powers to spy on ordinary Australians and on whether Australian special forces committed human rights violations, demonstrate how pressured the media environment can be.
And increasingly, mainstream mastheads who are struggling to pay the bills choose to rely on content from elsewhere. It’s cheap to produce and can provide useful access to national news if you care about that. But it also means multiple links to irrelevant stories from as far away as Perth.
Here at Region Media, we believe that grassroots local journalism is more important than ever. It’s absolutely fair to pay for quality, but there is more than one way to do that. Through our connection with the local business and community sectors, we believe we’ve found a way to fund high-quality, well-connected local journalism that will remain free and is without commercial or political bias.
When we posed that question this week, the answer was unequivocal: when asked whether you would pay for news online, 86 per cent of respondents voted to make the media smarter, not more expensive.
We also hire experienced journalists who live and work here: this is a growth model and we are actively seeking strong contributors. We do not and will not syndicate material from other providers: our commitment is to quality local content generated by us in our Canberra and regional newsrooms.
RiotACT‘s parent company, Region Media, has one of the largest and fastest growing digital audiences in the Canberra region, now regularly connecting with more than 300,000 unique visitors each month and an additional audience through our About Regional platform.
We are actively reinventing a local media business model in a company that is owned by locals and staffed by journalists who are from the Canberra region who understand our community.
If you’d like to engage with us as a contributor, an advertiser or know more about what we do, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or our commercial team at email@example.com.