Saving local news, one newsletter at a time

Local newsletters for local people, as The League of Gentlemen never said. Plus, AMP is dead, and Threads is rapidly developing…

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Newsletters are the future of local news, cont.

Two interesting announcements. First up, the publisher behind the Manchester Mill, flush with new investment cash, continues to expand:

The Birmingham Dispatch, the fourth launch from Manchester Mill publisher Mill Media, hopes to target readers “alienated” by Reach in the Midlands city, company founder Joshi Herrmann has said. Funded by fresh investment and set to launch on 1 November under the editorship of former Birmingham Mail Local Democracy Reporter Kate Knowles, The Dispatch describes itself as “Birmingham’s new quality newspaper”.

A month into its life, it's hit over 4,000 subscribers.

Meanwhile, Reach's mass layoffs continue to birth new competitors:

Online magazine The Lead is planning to launch ten weekly email newsletters with a focus on politics and culture, with initial editions being piloted in Blackpool, Bolton, Teesside and Stoke-on-Trent. The project will be led by Ed Walker, former audience and content director for Reach, with the help of Luke Beardsworth, former editor of Lancs Live.

I'm convinced that this is the model for building a new local news industry:

  • Use an off the shelf subscription platform like Substack or Ghost to build a combined newsletter, website and membership offer, to minimise your publishing and IT overhead.
  • Use social media and good search optimisation to find readers, and convert them to newsletter subscribers.
  • Concentrate on developing a mix of revenue models: subscriptions, advertising, sponsorships and maybe event events.
  • Focus on the sense of serving and building a community.

There's still some gaps in the market to be explored here. Good as the Mill model is, for example, it still tends towards local news for comfortably-off people. And so finding ways of using membership revenue and ads to provide more service journalism to local communities feels important in dealing with news deserts.

I'm not saying that any of this is easy. But it's a route forward that makes much more sense that that being adopted by many big publishers.


AMP is dead 🪦

Can we just call Google's AMP a failed project now? Ghost, the platform I use to publish this, is warning users that it's dropping support for Google's mobile-friendly pages format:

We’re removing the AMP integration in Ghost 6.0. Users will begin seeing inline messaging about our intent to remove AMP in upcoming versions of Ghost.

AMP made sense when most publishers were stuggling to produce good mobile pages. Now that most (but not all — looking at you here, Reach…) publishers have solved that problem, AMP just doesn't make sense. Why maintain a second set of template structures if you don't need to?


Quickies


Events

(Apologies to international readers: these are both London events)

Being LBTQIA+ in Media

On Monday evening here at City, we have a free evening on navigating the journalism, media and creative industries, with a panel discussion and networking afterwards:

Navigating the creative industries and media sector as an LGBTQ+ person: an evening of discussion and networking | City, University of London
Discussion on working in the creative industries and media sector as an LGBTQ+ person

Dorothy Byrne on the relationship between politicians and journalists

On Wednesday evening, the annual James Cameron Memorial Lecture will be given by Dorothy Byrne, who will be talking about the relationship between journalism and politician, drawn from her decades of experience, especially her time as head of news at Channel 4.

James Cameron Memorial Lecture with Dorothy Byrne | City, University of London
This year’s lecture will be delivered by Dorothy Byrne

(I covered the Cameron Lecture four years ago, when Isabel Hilton was the speaker, talking about China and media manipulation.)


And finally… life in the fragmented social media age

Once again Nieman Lab are marking the festive period by getting more opinion pieces published than any working journalist can feasibly ever read. So, I'm committing here and now to reading them all and sharing the most interesting ones with you. Let it never be said that I don't suffer for your benefit…

One that's guaranteed to be worth a read is this one from Condé Nast's Sarah Marshall, who is one of the most insightful practitioners working in audience now, and an old friend, and somebody I really owe emails to (sorry, Sarah). Dive in and enjoy:

We get past “post-platform”
“With a seemingly limitless number of platforms on which to meet and engage audiences — but still a finite number of hours in the day — teams will need to develop frameworks to understand where to start, stop, and pivot.”
newsletterslocal journalismAMPsSocial Media

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 25. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.

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