National news organisations will increasingly try to provide online access to postcode-level data as readers demand stories that relate directly to them, according to one of the Telegraph editors who spearheaded the integrated Victoria newsroom.
“Our audiences are increasingly demanding information that is relevant to them personally,” said Telegraph Media Group assistant managing editor Rhidian Wynn Davies, speaking as part of a panel about the future of news delivery at this week’s Newstec conference in Brighton.
“Localisation and personalisation is one of the key things we’re trying to achieve in the next six to ten months.”
Telegraph Media Group has recently begun implementing personalisation features its website via its My Telegraph blogging platform and has recently published a postcode-searchable hospital guide.
Similar data-based could be created about the performance of local schools and “fun time” amenities, he said.
The drive towards locally-relevant content also puts regional newspaper groups in a potentially strong position, Davies stressed.
“Today’s local newspaper publisher is tomorrow’s community media publisher,” said Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler, another member of the panel.
Within the next decade, Bowdler said, regional news groups will increasingly become multimedia organisations with a different mix of integrated channels, including IPTV and IP radio offerings.
“We are going to be in broadcast, probably over broadband, but it takes us in this whole different arena. We will get better at it and more professional,” Bowdler said.
He said these efforts would bring regional publishers into conflict with the BBC’s own ultralocal broadcasting ambitions, but stressed that the former newspapers would enjoy a great advantage over the BBC in local newsgathering capacity. He claimed that an internal Johnston Press analysis had shown that its newspapers broke 19 out 20 stories ahead of the BBC.
“To have 60 regions in the UK and call it ultralocal is ultra-nonsense,” he quipped.
Both Davies and Bowdler said their groups’ failure to use their established and highly-trusted brands effectively online had been a major mistake in recent years.
Both their organisations have been working to correct this. The Telegraph Group included its newspapers’ gothic lettering in last year’s relaunch of Telegraph.co.uk. Johnston Press has been rebranding the editorial sections of some local sites that have been run under separate brands ending in “Today”.