The decline & fall of local newspapers, Part 1

It’s probably time to plead that I wasn’t one of those hacks who failed to absorb Digital Britain in its full 230-page splendour.

Yes, I read it. Whether this makes me immune to Lord Carter’s charge of having regurgitated ‘bullshit”, I don’t know. It didn’t feel as if I was doing this. Hopefully, I would have noticed.

Coincidentally, I also read the OFT’s accompanying review of the local and regional media merger regime — twice.

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One of the creditable things about government reports like this is the hard data they contain.

Ofcom and the OFT could do worse than release all of this stuff into the public domain without restrictions. Yes, I mean the raw numbers in machine-readable formats, not just spreadsheets.

As Kevin Anderson pointed out at the Guardian recently, the relative lack of hard data on what’s happening to Big Media can be frustrating.

Perhaps Sir Tim Berners-Lee, newly-appointed by HM Government to prod Whitehall towards database openness, will shortly find himself leading the staff of Ofcom and the OFT in a chorus of ‘Raw data now! Raw data now!”.

We can but dream.

The infoporn attached to this post (and the next one) come from the OFT’s report. They evince a world of pain with which we’re anecdotally familiar, but from which our focus is liable to wander.

Scan them and ponder. For me, the key point is the fact that the long decline of the local press started five years ago.

The argument — still tentatively advanced by John Fry of Johnston Press and others — that we’re witnessing a cyclical correction has never seemed so hollow.



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