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What happened to news print media?


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#1 BigMouth

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 01:52 PM

As I approached the checkout at the local shop I felt guilty clasping only a box of six eggs in my hand.  The “support your local shop” mantra was going through my head so I picked up a Shetland Times, paid for my shopping and left for the walk home.  At least the faithful shopkeeper would eat tonight.

On arriving home I couldn’t help but notice how thin the Shetland Times has become, 32 pages, barely a thick pamphlet.  I bought the last about ten years ago in a moment of abject boredom.  This edition, a round up of the year’s news, this time over two issues, that old scam of the TV, radio and print media at the years’ end.  So much easier than getting out there and doing something.  Recycling of old stories is de-rigeur.  Back in the last century, across the UK, recycling in the newspaper industry used to be done by passing the unsold newspapers to the local fish and chip shops for wrapping material.

In the noughties I worked for Johnston Press, the then fourth largest producer of local newspapers, which was busily trying to buy up all the local titles.  They would then close down the local offices and report from places no longer considered local by the readership, items written by reporters with no local connection, to feed their presses 24 hours a day.  I remember staff being offered the option to buy shares in the company, “to buy into our futures”.  I was unimpressed by the offer.  I could see the newspaper trying to get it’s material online, but the boat was already sailing away.  The local mindset was “who would want to advertise their local cheese shop/furniture shop/cafe/whatever on the world wide web?”  In those days smart phones weren’t a thing, and your web browser had no idea where in the world you were.

To be called a newspaper there had to be at least a certain ratio of news to advertising.  You couldn’t get away with a couple of sheets of editorial and fill the rest with adverts.  A newspaper makes its money from advertising.  The reporters and sub-editors will try to tell you that people buy a newspaper for news, but the management know that what keeps the money coming in are those column centimetres of advertising whether they be run of paper or classified ads.  The news is mostly incidental to the business model.

Advertising in newspapers was never cheap, but newspapers executives were always looking for ways to screw a little more money out of the hapless customer, who had few places to go in those days.  They took to increasing the number of columns per page, thus reducing the width of the columns, to increase advertising revenue as ad space was sold by the column centimetre.

Worthing is at the opposite end of the country to us in Shetland.  A seaside town, somewhat run-down as a great deal of the south coast is.  Estate agents there were paying the local newspapers so much to advertise their properties for sale each week that they decided a better solution would be to create their own free “newspaper”.  It was a great success, targeted at a specific market, in an area where property was relatively cheaper than surrounding towns, and the paper given away free.

Johnston Press was recently in the news having gone into liquidation, then rescued by the shareholders.  Are they a company manned by people who are trying to hold back the tide of instant, mostly free news?  Bloggers can do the job better, publicising events to a wider world at the speed of light, capturing images, getting the news out there.  Many of them are doing this for free.  There has never been a worse time to be a paid journalist.

The local newspaper is full of week old news.  There are less shoppers in Da Street because people shop online; technology has moved on, and with it the shopping and news-reading experience.  I get the distinct feeling that there are now less people reading the local newspaper as they are getting their news fix online, with an immediacy that print media can’t match.  The Shetland Times adds bulk to its newspaper by advertising it’s printing services, busy book shop, and in this edition an almost quarter page ad for a reporter and trainee journalist.  It wasn’t that many years ago that newspapers would proudly publish their independently audited circulation figures n every copy they printed.  There is certainly no sign of them in the local newspaper these days.

 Take it from me, local reporting is a soul-destroying task, “being prepared to ask the questions that our readers deserve the answers to”, mostly boils down to ringing the local police stations every morning to ask for information about their incident logs, attending the local courts, attending local council meetings and writing stories about drink driving, wife beating, drugs and petty vandalism, and hoping that one of the local government organisations puts a foot wrong.  There are only 23,000 of us here and that equates to not a lot of news.

The Shetland Times has been around since the 1870s according to its masthead.  It tries to act like a big player with tough-nosed reporters sniffing out the latest hot scoop, but it’s glory days are behind it.  Most of its classified advertising can now be found on Shetlink and Facebook with a thriving sales scene.  Even the newspaper’s attempt at giving away free classified ads could not save its ad revenues.  There was never any real competition here in Shetland before Shetlink and Facebook, and the paper rested on its laurels.  These days it’s dwindling on life support.  Does it need to have DNR painted on the Gremista building? - Do Not Resuscitate.
 


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#2 Colin

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 06:45 PM

Haven't bought the Times in a lot of years but, I can remember when no work was done on a Friday because everybody was reading the paper and the Classifieds section had higher prices than Sotheby's !

 

Access to the internet has brought a massive change in the way we do everything..


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#3 MuckleJoannie

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Posted 05 January 2019 - 11:26 PM

The sports section in the Shetland Times has expanded greatly over the years. It was almost non existent when I was a bairn.



#4 Lerwick antiques

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 12:31 AM

The Shetland Times has changed a lot over the years.

 

There used to be two weekly Shetland news papers, the Shetland Times that came out on Fridays and The Shetland News that came out on a Tuesday if I mind right which stopped in the mid to late 1960s.

 

There are very little news in the Shetland Times now and the classifieds are basically non existent.

 

Despite the lack of news in it, the Shetland Times has suddenly gone from £1.30 to £1.50, that is £6 per month if buying one every week.

 

Suppose the lack of classifieds and adds have left the paper hard to pay for it's self so the team has to keep the cost of the paper going up. 



#5 George.

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 01:56 AM

When you bought your Shetland Times on a Friday you had to pay for it. As I understand it, and I've just checked it online, online it's free. Is that right or have I just missed the important bit :?:



#6 Frances144

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Posted 06 January 2019 - 01:36 PM

The Shetland Times are very cagey about what "news" they give out for free on FB and their own website.  I guess they are trying to keep some "news" for the physical paper itself.

 

I don't buy it. Haven't bought it for ages.  Not keen on its' angle and agenda, tbh.



#7 Muckle Oxters

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 08:16 AM

As I approached the checkout at the local shop I felt guilty clasping only a box of six eggs in my hand.  The “support your local shop” mantra was going through my head so I picked up a Shetland Times, paid for my shopping and left for the walk home.  At least the faithful shopkeeper would eat tonight.

On arriving home I couldn’t help but notice how thin the Shetland Times has become, 32 pages, barely a thick pamphlet.  I bought the last about ten years ago in a moment of abject boredom.  This edition, a round up of the year’s news, this time over two issues, that old scam of the TV, radio and print media at the years’ end.

 

Yun was a very good post BigMouth but I widna judge da Shetland Times on da festive editions. To my minding they've always been by far the thinnest of the year. I suppose a lot of da usual news sources (SIC, courts, LPA and idders) are operating we a skeleton crew for da festive so dirs a lot less to report on.



#8 Ian_H

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 10:53 AM

When you bought your Shetland Times on a Friday you had to pay for it. As I understand it, and I've just checked it online, online it's free. Is that right or have I just missed the important bit :?:

You missed an important bit, online is charged at cover price, so no saving by going digital. But it is available first thing on a Friday morning, and you don't have to fetch it from the shop.



#9 George.

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 11:45 AM

Just read the article about ferries being cancelled due to weather without paying a single penny.Wonder how I managed to do that? Think that I'll go back and read the rest of the news now.



#10 Muckle Oxters

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 12:52 PM

Da majority o da newspaper content isna published online, and quite often it's only shortened versions.

 

I expect dey mak their money from online advertising for da internet versions so you're paying for the news one way or the other, even if only through the cost of your internet connection and da electricity!



#11 Davie P

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 10:29 PM

I still buy the Shetland Times, a Sunday paper and occasionally a weekday broadsheet - I find it a more engaging experience than clicking on headlines and reading on a screen, and I don't mind waiting a day or two for a print edition.

 

The basic economics is that as fewer people buy papers and expect their online news to be free, then there's less money to pay journalists to do good journalism.


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#12 paulb

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 11:01 PM

ive bought it every week since we came up. never missed a week. but now ive stopped £1.50 is too much. i know price always rise but its been shooting up the last few years. 



#13 BigMouth

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Posted 12 January 2019 - 02:30 PM

How many pages this week? It's presumably a non-festive edition.

#14 BigMouth

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 08:05 AM

Just had a look in the local shop - 28 pages!

#15 Rivlins

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Posted 26 January 2019 - 03:12 PM

I've contacted the Shetland Times a few times with what I thought were interesting local stories which were never followed up by them and never appeared in print, almost as though they couldn't be bothered. And what's up with the dozens and dozens of typos and bad grammar in every issue? As a one-time proofreader it's like a poke in the eye - surely they have someone to do this very basic subediting?


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