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Ofcom’s latest media consumption data is in – and there are four key lessons for UK brands

12th January 2024

A few reflections on today’s reporting by the ever-excellent Press Gazette on Ofcom’s latest local news consumption research:

1. As someone who spends a lot of time advising clients how to reach audiences at grass-roots level, I’m heartened that two-thirds of Brits actively engage with local news in their area – something I’m willing to bet will increase given the scale and significance of elections across the UK this year.

2. We regularly speak with clients about the need to look beyond the Westminster bubble and today’s data shows that people living in the areas most disenfranchised by London-centric reporting are those that consume local news most keenly. Ofcom’s research gives Northern Ireland as the part of the UK that pays the most attention to local goings-on, although the finding that Scotland pays the least will, I’m sure, raise eyebrows among my Edinburgh-based colleagues…

3. For the 65% of UK adults that say they regularly engage with local news, the most popular way for them to do so is via social media, which highlights the difficult (existential, really) choices facing regional publishers and their strategies around advertising, paywalls and subscriptions*. The simple fact is, audiences want to consume news on social so local news brands need to be present on these platforms to maintain readership but end up losing out on ad revenue by doing so . The increasing use of social as a one-stop-shop for information of all kinds, including news, also underlines the importance of quality editorial as a counterpoint to the type of AI-generated fake news that we’ve seen become prevalent on social channels in recent years. For brands, the need to act as a trusted voice – and participate in a functioning democracy – has never been greater.

4. Only TV comes anywhere close to rivalling social media as a way that people are accessing local news. The businesses with well-trained, local spokespeople who can provide a voice for the communities they serve will prevail.

*Although the number of these subscription-based outfits is, encouragingly, growing. See also: Mill Media Co The Lead #OffToLunch.

By Alice Newsham, Senior Director at Citypress

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