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Why free, good quality local media matters more than ever in this town

Genevieve Jacobs 2 July 2019 30

Genevieve Jacobs, Group Editor for Region Media. Photo: Daniella Jukic, wearefound.

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.

Region Demographic

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 gjacobs@region.com.au, or our commercial team at sales@region.com.au.


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30 Responses to Why free, good quality local media matters more than ever in this town
Max Robinson Max Robinson 5:51 pm 10 Jun 19

Great stuff. The Canberra Times was always a joke. Fancy thinking people will subscribe to it?

George Brenan George Brenan 3:17 pm 08 Jun 19

I like the riotact but it's a mile away from what a publication like the CT wants to do in part because it aims to be the 'village talk '. CT had its problems but having stood back and watched the media gut itself trying to make free work I'm very happy to pay the cost of a coffee each week in the hope of a sustainable business. I wish more people thought journalism warranted what is, after all, a very modest spend

    Ray Atkin Ray Atkin 4:31 pm 08 Jun 19

    My thoughts too George but I have problems with the media's bias. Over the past twelve months we've seen a good deal of articles leaning towards Labor, RiotACT did two pro Labor puff pieces in the week before the election. Additionally I am one of about 1 million firearm owners around Australia who are fed up to the back teeth with the outright lies, misrepresentation and sensationalism pushed by GCA and their camp followers which is taken up by media and published as gospel. I haven't written a letter to CT's editor for about four years, they don't like "right of reply" if it doesn't fit the lemming narrative. RiotACT ditto with their two pre-election articles. I'm prepared to pay Murdoch $32 per month for the online Aus. They have a stable of journo's and commentators covering both sides of mainstream politics, their articles are reasonably well balanced, at least to someone like me who sits just right of centre. Not prepared to pay $15 per month to CT, nowadays their stuff is immature, juvenile.

    George Brenan George Brenan 11:31 am 09 Jun 19

    Ray Atkin I can't believe you pay for newscorp. The standard has fallen so low I stopped some years ago

Colin Brown Colin Brown 12:32 pm 08 Jun 19

So what would be different from the CT? No point just proposing the same old newspaper model, even if predominantly focussed locally. Need to adopt a new paradigm using current technologies and approach. More out of touch, middle class, Rupert'ed journalists just ain't interesting.

Also, are you proposing to pay for content or this another exploit content creators business model.

Colleen Miller Colleen Miller 12:31 pm 08 Jun 19

OMG why the mean comments? Go Canberra Times give us what you've got and make Canberra proud.

Cheryl Gay Cheryl Gay 9:43 am 08 Jun 19

Most of the content of the CT came from the 2 other ex-Fairfax metro papers in Sydney & Melbourne. It lost me when it took its app away.

Marian Esler Marian Esler 9:04 am 08 Jun 19

I bought the CT a couple of weeks ago. Waste of money. It used to be a good paper, but not any more. Certainly would not pay to read it online.

Julia Evans Julia Evans 11:07 pm 07 Jun 19

Christa White You could do this!

Muhammad Ali Muhammad Ali 9:34 pm 07 Jun 19

Great article

Illyria Tyers Illyria Tyers 8:36 pm 07 Jun 19

So we get to pay to read information they've just lifted off Facebook in many instances ? :/

Ricky Bryan Ricky Bryan 7:14 pm 07 Jun 19

The Canny Times NOT being behind a paywall was the only thing that kept me advertising. Why would I advertise to speak to five people and a dog?

Denis Reid Denis Reid 4:33 pm 07 Jun 19

Am interested in sharing my battles with Ndis and now the poorly run centre link

Ali Geez Ali Geez 2:46 pm 07 Jun 19

Hellen Len you can be a writer

Gilavon 2:02 pm 07 Jun 19

“Good quality” media in this town: Yes well we do need it but Region Media/RiotACT will need to lift it’s game a tad. I expect the media to be impartial, free of bias. Regrettably during the federal election campaign RiotACT ran a couple puff pieces clearly biased to supporting Labor, didn’t impress me one bit and when the opportunity to comment occurred on a related article my comment must have been considered too harsh on what I call the “luvvoid” genre of this town.

Canberra Times used to carry the slogan “To Serve The Nation’s Capital and Through It The Nation”: Hmmm. Nowadays it’s “Independent Always” (If I got that wrong it’s because I haven’t gone near CT or “Fairfax” for a long time). Trouble is that it never lived up to either slogan because of Left biase. Similar criticisms are true of the ABC too hence I haven’t tuned into 666 for probably seven, eight years, nor views ABC Tube (since the 4 Corners program on the live export trade to Indonesia).

So yep, if RiotACT can stay truly impartial and balanced I’m all for it.

justin heywood 10:34 am 07 Jun 19

Print media has become increasingly polarised over the past decade- The Canberra Times, along with The Age and the SMH, nowadays report almost exclusively from a Green/Left standpoint, while The Australian and other News publications promote a more conservative view.

This effectively cuts their potential readership in half. I can no longer read the Fairfax papers, and I’ll bet not many lefties can read The Australian.

To many, ‘independent’ journalism means freedom to promote one’s particular worldview, whereas it SHOULD mean freedom to step outside your worldview and fearlessly seek the truth, whatever the consequences for your political side.

Hats off to Region Media for success whilst allowing all sides of a debate to get a hearing.

Jess Oh Jess Oh 9:30 am 07 Jun 19

Do you ever pay writers? I can’t find any rates info on your website

Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 7:32 am 07 Jun 19

I am dissapointed in this post and some of the comments. The Chronicle is local and free and it goes straight in the bin unless I need a plumber. Canberra needs both TCT and RiotACT to be viable and we need the ABC as well. I subscribed yesterday. I also support The Guardian and would support RiotACT when the time comes so that it's kept free of ads, local and independent. The time will come when we will have to pay for everything on the internet that's worth looking at... its the right thing to do... get used to it.

    Jess Oh Jess Oh 9:50 am 07 Jun 19

    Jorge Garcia that’s it. Free content is awesome but someone always has to pay for it. And if it’s not the readers, advertisers, or government, it will be the writers and editors...

    Adam SNancarrow Adam SNancarrow 10:14 am 08 Jun 19

    Jorge Garcia you can apply to stop having it delivered, I have and they have only accidentally left a couple on my lawn in the last five years or so.

    Jorge Garcia Jorge Garcia 12:26 pm 08 Jun 19

    Adam SNancarrow thanks for the suggestion. I used to go through it on weekends... but that was a while ago. Lately they are putting full page ads on the front page... seriously...

John Moulis 5:51 am 07 Jun 19

I had a subscription to RiotACT before Region Media bought it. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I didn’t need to pay anymore and I’d be able to keep my picture avatar.

Since then RiotACT has improved greatly and I’ve hardly noticed the loss after we cancelled the subscription to the Canberra Times. I can get intelligent, contemporary commentary at RiotACT from people with a fresh perspective rather than jaundiced, biased nonsense from old Vietnam War protesters and former editors who were sacked by previous owners. Not to mention eccentric ANU academics who began contributing in 1975 and haven’t had an original thought since.

Peter Kloska Peter Kloska 12:10 am 07 Jun 19

Pity before TV Agregation we had much more local content. Then we had a weekly local Canberra based 7:30 report. A guy called Tony cut that out. You could almost think that the last politician that really loved Canberra was Menzies perhaps. Fortunately we have many Canberra based FB pages like Riotact, HerCanberra et al. That keep us informed about local issues and not issues only relevant to Sydney or Melbourne.

Jim Hosie Jim Hosie 11:58 pm 06 Jun 19

A strong, independent and free press is essential to keeping the bastards honest. Go you good thing!

Tim Cole Tim Cole 11:25 pm 06 Jun 19

I've always got an opinion. Doesn't mean it's newsworthy 😊

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