Hyperlocal & the Media Landscape

“I remember when all this were paper.” Is that what you think when you stand looking out across the local media landscape? It often feels like the once-dominant local newspaper industry has been bulldozed to make way for a bright new media estate of tweets, blogs, microsites, listing sites, Facebook posts and just about anything else that can be used to transmit news from person A to person B. Except that it’s not quite like that because somewhere in the middle of this confusing new landscape still stands the local newspaper, like a listed building surrounded by new-build.

But even that’s not a totally fair assessment either, for two reasons. The first is that the local paper, in our case Ye Olde Richmond & Twickenham Times, is not just some thatched cottage totally overshadowed by the new. It still has an important role, significant influence and is trying to adapt to the new world. The second reason the thatched cottage analogy doesn’t work is that when the going gets tough, the local paper is not a listed building that can be propped up by English Heritage or Lottery grants for historical or sentimental reasons; it’s a business and could quite easily suddenly stop being one.

TIMES ARE CHANGING
Why mention any of that? Well, sometime ago, many months if we’re honest, a message reached us asking if anyone actually read the Richmond and Twickenham Times anymore and “wouldn’t it be good to do a survey about it”? The answers to those questions are yes and yes. People still read it, businesses still advertise in it and angry residents still write letters to it. But all three of those groups also increasingly do those things online. The business of making actual newspapers out of dead trees is in serious decline. It’s only a matter of time before the traditional printed newspaper is found only in the world of Hoxton retro-chic.

The R&TT did try to get down and local in the digital age by setting up a Twickenham Live micro-site to bring the ‘hyperlocal’ into its already local world. But it didn’t really work. Filtering existing generic content by keyword and hoping readers will chip in too wasn’t enough to create something that felt part of a local community. The site still exists but, it’s a bit of a case of read it and weep. Let’s move on.


TWITS

Phase 2 from the R&TT has seen their resident journalists take to Twitter using personal accounts to engage with the community. It’s been more effective than the Twickenham Live experiment and builds the kind of rapport with the locals (or at least those who use Twitter) that simply isn’t present when the paper’s @richmondtimes tweet-bot pushes out links to their online stories. And it’s that sense of being part of the community, or at least in it, that makes the difference. OK, so there have been one or two ‘learning experiences’ but the approach seems to be helping. Real news mixed with local banter? Don’t rule it out, we’ve heard it can work. But can it generate revenue? The jury is definitely still out on that one.

Twitter: the home of news?

Twitter: the home of news?

So what about the rest of the competition? Recent years have seen a proliferation of local websites operating on either no money or very little money. Twickerati, TeddingtonTown, StMrgrts, Totally Richmond, Best of Richmond, the Council’s own website, and even family focused sites and blogs like For Sanity’s Sake and Twickermum have all become sources of news competing to a greater or lesser extent with traditional local media. And don’t forget the power of Mumsnet as a local influencer and forum for discussion. Although not all of these would fall within the post-Leveson press regulation definition of news providers, some might. They’re certainly providing news and good competition for the traditional local press. Do they need regulating?

APP FOR THAT?
And if you don’t want to bother reading all these new-fangled websites you can simply search on Twitter or see what you’re local friends have been posting on Facebook. Or if even that’s too much, you might want to try your luck with a local app. There are already a few locally-focused mobile apps and the number is likely to increase. Big Local App is a franchise operation with a Richmond edition or you could try the independent and locally produced Twickenham App.

A BRIGHT NEW FUTURE?
Most new initiatives, whether website, blog or app, claim to be some kind of one-stop shop for local news and listings. But most aren’t. The reason they aren’t is that producing content is time consuming and sometimes boring. Doing everything well is very hard. And that’s why, when it comes to news, having properly produced, edited and prioritised local content remains important, even if people don’t want to pay for it. Taking a news feed of BBC content which happens to mention Twickenham is not enough. It’s not just about aggregating content, we still need people who can dig out intrigue at the Council (is there any btw?) as well as give us “Bus Hits Lamp Post” or “Village Fete a Success”.

If, or perhaps when, the commercial business model fails, then it might be left to the local hobbyists and amateurs to take over. Would that be so bad? There are already people out there filling in the gaps in local news and taking the power away from the traditional businesses. These hobbyists, amateurs, franchise operations and even the communities themselves are all creating a new local media landscape. Whether it’s actually any good, and whether they have the capacity or inclination to tackle the tough but important stuff, is a subject for discussion. But whether there’s still a sustainable long-term business model for ‘proper’ local content written by salaried local journalists remains just as debatable.

So, how do you get your local news and what does anything mean basically?

TAKE YOUR PICK FROM OUR LINKS:

R&TT Journos:
* @Twickenham_Rach
* @AmyDyduch
* @clare_buchanan

Mobile Apps
* Big Local App Richmond
* Twickenham App

Websites:
* Richmond & Twickenham Times
* Twickenham Town Business Association
* TheBestOfTwickenham
* Totally Richmond
* St Margarets
* East Twickenham Village
* Teddington Town
* Teddington Town
* For Sanity’s Sake
* Twickermum

Copies of the R&TT on the pavement (photo: © @twickeman)

Copies of the R&TT on the pavement (photo: © @twickeman)

51 Comments

Filed under Features, Local Issues & News, Random Stuff

51 responses to “Hyperlocal & the Media Landscape

  1. tteditor

    Local newspapers really are facing an inevitable battle just like national press but as their reach & budget is smaller they have less answers to the problem.

    As Twickerati says, embracing social media is a good start – the ways in which people consume and find out news is changing massively and papers have to also change to keep up with the world. It does puzzle me why RTT don’t at least create proper hyperlinks when the list URLS, especially when it reports on charity stories and displays the donation pages – it’s not sending the readers to a rival site. Perhaps their CMS isnt’ that great!

    At teddingtontown.co.uk I sometimes get’s news from RTT and I always link back to the source of information. They will often get the inside edge from the police on criminal matters or official statements from companies, council etc- they are after all journalists by trade and people prefer to give them the news rather than a local website! Other times they will find out information from local websites, forums and Twitter (that they might have otherwise never known) – information flows both ways and I’m personally OK that we help each other out. If people only had information from social media it would be too unofficial and rumour-laden. I’m constantly astonished to see how much wrong information spreads like wildfire via social media – it can be as bad as it is good.

    I have also seen a handful of mistakes in newspaper reports that seem to be hastily put together or not well researched enough..Perhaps like anything similar e.g.cutting Police or NHS budgets, less people to create more work something will always suffer. Also sometimes there are requests for photos to accompany a story that anyone with a camera phone could easily take, let alone sent a photographer down for a quick snap. For time-sensitive breaking news then I think it’s fair-enough to use photos from Twitter etc of a fire, car crash etc – that’s the brand new digital age we live in now. But perhaps local media have cut back a little too much to employ enough photographers for less time-sensitive stories.

    I hope local newspapers can find a way to continue – as mentioned above not everyone is embedded with social media or even online and local newspapers still serve an important purpose for many. Long live The RTT!

  2. George

    From this week’s Guardian on the struggle another local/regional newspaper group is going through to adapt to the digital world:
    “Johnston Press’s Ashley Highfield inflicts ‘maximum pain’ on staff. Digitally charged vision for regional newspaper publisher lifted numbers but meant more than 1,300 staff lost their jobs” http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/mar/24/johnston-press-ashley-highfield-jobs

  3. And the rise and rise of digital is again underlined in some Google sponsored research which shows Richmond to be in the top 3 “e-commerce towns” in the country. There’s more info on this on Totally Richmond, here:
    http://www.totallyrichmond.co.uk/blog/digital-richmond/

  4. Boss

    My problem with the Rick and Twick, I’m afraid, is the standard of journalism. It used to be something you read to learn something but most times I look now I just get annoyed with the lazy reporting. Take today’s story about Lord Attenborough, which said he was moving to Beaver Lodge care home. Beaver Lodge is the name of the house he’s just sold. It then referred to his brother living in Isleworth – he doesn’t, he lives on Richmond Hill. There’s not much point reading further when you realise you know more on the subject than the reporter, I’m afraid.

  5. The R&TT still does a good job and you can see from the bylines on the stories and from those articles without a byline (presumably written by the same people) that there’s a small team producing a lot of content. A weekly printed local paper does currently still have a number of attractions to local advertisers but the rise of tablets and smartphones mean more and more people are consuming their news by looking at a screen not at a page. Five years ago, e-readers & tablets were very much the exception, now, perhaps 50% of commuters reading on the train are doing it from a handheld device. Advertising rates for digital are less than those for print or, as they say in America, it’s a case of “analog dollars turning into digital dimes”. This raises questions of long term sustainability of the paper edition – despite it being valued by many – and also whether a ‘digital only’ (or mostly) edition could sustain the same scale of operation. Perhaps the traditional stalwarts of local newspaper advertising, motoring and property sections, can help? Maybe. Although there are still adverts for cars and houses in the local press, most people will be doing any serious searching online on dedicated sites. A subscription model seems unlikely but are other revenue streams available? How about ‘sponsored news’?

    In favour of the continuation of “the local paper” is that a single high quality local paper / website could build a loyal readership due to the absence of serious, cohesive competition. So the concept may still have life in it but the economics are likely to mean that five or so years from now things are going to look considerably different. Perhaps we’ll see a hybrid digital model mixing professional editorial leadership with more user generated content and more of a community feel. It would be quite tricky to strike the right balance and reflect different voices fairly but not impossible. Add to that the possible ‘complication’ of using lots of freely generated content in a commercial operation (see bloggers’ reaction to purchase of Huffington Post by AOL for details). The times they are a changin’ and all of this can be seen as an opportunity as much as a threat.

    • Purple Haze

      Is this now a debate on the future of printed newspapers or an analysis of the R&TT’s business model and digital publishing strategy?
      The R&TT is owned by Newsquest, who in 2001, bought it in the sale of the Dimbleby and Sons group of newspapers for a reputed £8m. So it obviously had value.
      The idea of a hybrid digital/print model, mixing professional editorial leadership with more user generated content, and having a broader community feel is a very good one.
      If the printed newspaper became uneconomical, and a profitable digital business was firmly in place, a sustainable transition could go ahead.
      Twickerati and the R&TT share common and complementary interests and are probably the two best sources to obtain local news and information. They both could potentially attract healthy streams of online advertising revenue.
      So maybe they should discuss mutual opportunities?

    • In answer to your first question, a bit of both. The intention of the piece was to promote discussion about local media, the pressures it’s under and the opportunities too. It wasn’t particularly designed to promote debate about party whipping or otherwise at El Brute planning committee & elsewhere. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

    • anonanon

      There are some newsprint industry commentators suggesting that if the current rate of sales decline continues in newspapers and magazines sales will have completely disappeared in 10 years time – but it wont take that long – the business model will collapse well before then. Local/regional newspapers were experiencing sales decreases, even before all this internet mullarky came along, digital has just accelerated the decline. With regard to the R&TT free copy distribution, they have to give us these copies now we have stopped buying them. If they don’t their ABC figure (audited circulation figure) goes down, which in turn means their ad yield goes down, which in turn means they are not making any money. There might just about be a strategy in all of this ie 4/6 weeks sampling in a certain part of the borough, in the hope we will miss it sufficiently and buy it from the newsagent and then switching to another area, but my guess is they need as much free distribution as they can possibly get. Between 2009 and 2010 sales had declined by 19% (down to approx 40,000) this year they registered average weekly circulation of 38.529 – holding up ok you might think? Out of that 38,529, only 2,663 are paid for copies (Jul/Dec 2012 ABC). So in recent years they have lost their copy sales revenue. Ad revenue has declined due to: recession, competing media, reduced yield. And to make matters worse, they have added the cost of free delivery! If R&TT is making a profit, I will eat my iPad. I am sure Boris would endorse a watchful eye to see if something comes loose at the back of the scrum!

    • Purple Haze

      A useful reply, Anonanon.
      I am assuming that totally free newspapers such as The Evening Standard and The Metro group make a decent profit from their advertising revenue because of their huge free circulation. Or are they propped up by their online advertising?
      A large free circulation, where a single newspaper can be read by a multiple of people, might be attractive to advertisers, but does it guarantee it’s sustainability as a printed newspaper?

  6. anonymouse

    Does anyone find THE GOD SPOT a little bizarre?
    Why is it given just to one person with just one religious view?
    Is the writer the editor’s best mate or possibly even the editor undercover?
    I’ve no problems with a religious comments piece, but please give other people and religions a say?
    Name and address supplied!

  7. Purple Haze

    Don’t forget some folk aren’t internet users for one reason or another. The Richmond & Twickenham Times is still a valuable resource especially for those people who are not users, such as the elderly.
    Apart from delivering local news and a lively letters page every week it lists all local planning applications and where construction and highways work is planned, which means this information can be viewed very quickly.
    As a way of broadcasting neighbourhood and community news it has a great deal of value.
    It does carry a lot of advertising and some syndicated news but it has bills to pay. It’s generally not a campaigning paper but it still seems widely read and fairly well regarded.
    The rather random free distribution of the newspaper is disappointing, so if deliveries were more regular that would help, but I’m sure no-one would begrudge paying 55 pence if they want to buy a copy. Otherwise, if they want, they can read the online version and the e-newsparer.

  8. Jeremy Rodell

    Looking at the amount of advertising in the RTT makes me think that news of its impending doom may be exaggerated. But, if they’re right, it’s bad news. Despite the excellence of twickerati and other local sites, no-one can really dig out stories in the way a journalist does. OK, the RTT barely has that capability, but it’s all we’ve got. Without the media, local politicians – of both sides – and the council are free from scrutiny other than from their opponents scoring points. That’s not good for local democracy.

  9. twickerman

    I must confess that I quite enjoy the RTT letters pages. The degree of indignation and hypocrisy is often hilarious, if a little disturbing.

    Take for example planning committee chairman Cllr Linnette’s ‘Debacles of the LibDems’ letter on 01Mar, in which he states:

    “the planning committee is a non-political body….it’s members take decisions based only on the contents and merits of each application. The Solum application was given permission on its merits as a whole…”

    In the same letters section of the RTT Cllr Elengorn reminded us that:

    “No Tory councillor supported my motion [to refuse permission for sound planning reasons] and it was decided by 5 votes (all Cons) to 4 votes (all LibDems) and the scheme passed.”

    Surely it doesn’t get more political than that!!! The party whips must’ve been busy behind the scenes.

    The main drawback of the letters page is it’s snail’s pace. Letters have to be submitted 1 week before publication and it is rare that responses are printed in the following week’s paper.

    Yet again twickerati wins hands down for up to date info and comment. 🙂

    • Gareth Roberts

      On a point of pure information – the Lib Dem group isn’t whipped for either council or planning matters.

      As far as council goes the Conservatives are whipped within an inch of their political lives; on planning, I have no reason to suppose their stance is any different from ours.

    • Gareth Roberts

      A rather hilarious cluster of thumbs down there – seems that some people just don’t like the truth.

      I’ve done planning for 3 years now and have never been approached and told to vote in any particular way. I’ve even seen Lib Dem colleagues voluntarily leave a room during discussion of some particular issue for fear they may compromise their position by taking part in a discussion.

      As for the Tories being whipped on council issues – they are. And if they speak out on issues they get stripped of their much prized offices as we have seen.

    • Simon H

      You get thumbs down, Gareth, because you seem to think that party politics matters at a local level. It doesn’t. People want their councillors to concentrate on improving the area, not getting bogged down in a silly recreation of Westminster adversary politics (which is also increasingly irrelevant, anyway).

    • twickerman

      Hear hear.
      The continual yellow vs blues playground bickering is massively off-putting.
      With council elections just a year away local councillors (of all colours) should focus on positive ideas rather than negative sledging.

    • Alexis

      Councillor Gareth Roberts wrote: “A rather hilarious cluster of thumbs down there – seems that some people just don’t like the truth.” I do wish he wouldn’t be quite so assumptive in his condemnation of those who don’t agree with him – I think SimonH got it right and the tireless LibDem warrior, Gareth, hasn’t yet grasped the way attitudes have changed to local party bickering.
      As to party “whipping” – I would not like to have been a cabinet or committee member who dared to challenge ex-leader Serge Lourie and the eminence grise lurking over his shoulder any more than I would like to challenge current leader, Lord True.
      I’m with SGdB The RTT letter pages have been excellent and interesting, unfortunately editorial standards seem to have slipped and some are now far too long and rambling – does anyone bother to read them to the end? I don’t. Also, some recent issues such as the proposed Catholic School in Twickenham were allowed to dominate the pages for far too long – many letters were repetitive and obviously pumped out by the campaigners. Whatever your belief – editorial control was lacking.
      Alexis

    • Gareth Roberts

      Well on one level, Simon, I agree with you. Local issues are important and certainly nobody would deny that local area improvement is one of the key roles of any conscientious councillors.

      Where I disagree, to an extent, is whether party politics matters at a local level – I think it does. If there was less interest in the party system then we would surely have independent councillors – I know that there’s the whole idea of it being tricky to break through the party stranglehold but there’s no reason why it should be the case. A local pressure group should be able to muster the necessary man hours – I’ve mentioned RUG before, they should have been perfectly placed to field at least three canidates in Riverside in 2010 but they didn’t take the chance. Next time there’s an election, get yourself over to Thames Ditton or similar and you’ll see plenty of ‘Residents Association’ window stickers and stakeboards. It can be done.

      More independents, more parties, more everything would be good.

    • boanerges

      In response to Gareth’s more recent comment (re independent cllrs etc): he must know that the fact is that no independent has been elected since this Borough came into being. His example of RUG in Riverside ward is not a good one; one reason people supported RUG was because of their stance against building houses on the old poolsite (the latter being opposed also by the Conservative, Labour and Green parties). If RUG had stood, it would have split the anti-housing vote and very probably let in his LD colleagues (which of course is what he would have wanted).
      Local parties do not necessarily follow the Westminster line (remember Gareth that LD and Conservatives are at present working together in Parliament): I recall ex-Cllr Lourie saying just that in the Council Chamber, and Cllr True has opposed some of the new planning edicts.
      Of course local government matters – all the money they spend has been earned by us, and we must have some say in how this is distributed. It is very depressing to see “no free papers”, so many unread by locked blocks, and above all less than 50% taking part in elections

    • Alexis

      Ever the conspiracy theorist, LibDem Councillor Gareth Roberts says:
      “I’ve mentioned RUG before, they should have been perfectly placed to field at least three canidates(sic) in Riverside in 2010 but they didn’t take the chance.”
      Yet another of Gareth’s assumptions masquerading as fact. RUG never had any intention of becoming a political force or fielding candidates, they were a pressure group who formed to try to restore honest and open consultation about issues within our borough and stop Lourie’s Twickenham Riverside sell-off. With the defeat of the LibDems, they achieved both objectives and promptly disbanded. Since Lord True supported RUG’s motives, Gareth, who seems to have a bit of an obsession, branded them Tory stooges – well, he would wouldn’t he!

      As a group, RUG never had any interest in challenging the two party stranglehold, they were ordinary members of our community who came together by word of mouth from all walks of life and political persuasion to challenge an oppressive regime and won – I know, I was one of the awkward squad who distributed the referendum (93.5% support) but we never did anything like the idiot LibDem webmaster who posted the “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” photo gaffe which hit the headlines in the R&TT. That probably cost them a lot of votes and convinced people that local politics was not for them.

      Alexis

    • anonymouse

      RUG was predominantly Conservative with a number of aspiring councillors on its committee.
      It came as no surprise that it disbanded shortly after Lord True seized power.

    • jimbo

      Anonymouse – please give evidence for your statement about the membership of RUG

    • jimbo

      anonymouse has given a link showing 3 people; how does he know how many RUG members there were, and what their political affiliations were?
      (I am sorry that this message does not follow the main heading, but people really should make categorical statements only if they can back them up with proof; opinions are one thing, facts are another)

    • Jeremy Rodell

      This debate about whether RUG was or was not a Conservative front organisation illustrates a problem that I assume applies to any local campaign group. It is certainly an issue for Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign. We have been accused of being a front for a humanist plot to destroy religion (because I’m a humanist), and of lying when we pointed out that the wide range and large number of RISC supporters include some Catholics. It’s frustrating to have the information to disprove both points, but being unable to use it because it is confidential, and we promise supporters not to reveal their names. I guess RUG and TRAG are in exactly the same position (though inclusive schools is perhaps more personally sensitive).

      OK, Scott Naylor is a very tribal Conservative (and a strong opponent of RISC), and he won a seat in Twickenham Riverside. But he did a good job for RUG, and his involvement proves nothing about the rest of RUG’s supporters. In any case, they were pushing at an open door after the disastrous decision by the LibDems to make the election a referendum on their flawed riverside plan.

    • anonymouse

      Jeremy, Jimbo et al,

      I agree that RUG did a good job of campaigning against the Riverside proposals.

      Focus on this issue led to a polarisation of RUG’s political position, resulting in more than one RUG committee member standing for the Conservatives in the 2010 elections.

      I said that RUG was predominantly Conservative which will come as no surprise to most people. But, I didn’t suggest that all of their committee members were under the influence of the Conservative Party.

      The simple fact is that RUG succeeded in overturning the LibDem Riverside proposals by overturning the Council. Job done, RUG disbanded shortly after.

      If RUG had wanted to continue as a campaigning group it wouldn’t have been short of issues would it (school, station, heatham house, taap, sorting office etc etc)?

    • Jeremy Rodell

      That’s fair. And continuing my analogy, campaigning groups may or may not continue when the main issue that created the campaign has gone away. RUG stopped. RISC is continuing (plenty of issues). TRAG – too early to say.

  10. Yvonne Hewett

    Good, insightful article as always. The problem with the Rich and Twick – for me – is that they’ve lost the listing of coming events, which were tremendously useful, and they’ve stopped carrying much relating to local activities, including reports of meetings, very often with interesting speakers. With the vanishing localness, as Stella mentioned, went previews and reviews of local arts activities, which engaged people and interest them. OK, they may not have been big revenue spinners, but they were important.

    • artsrichmond – an independent charity that has been in operation since 1967 – has a very comprehensive WHAT’S ON section on their website. It also host reviews of local events to try and fill the gap left when the R&T stopped publishing these several years ago. Copies of their monthly newsletter/listing paper are available FREE from local libraries or for an annual subscription of £18 it can be delivered to your door.

  11. SGdB

    Although I do reckon to read the R&TT when it is delivered, I am disappointed by the amount of space taken up by stuff which isn’t really local at all. There is too much syndicated material, rather than actual local information. For instance, despite there being numerous drama societies in the area putting on excellent productions we no longer get reviews, and very rarely advance information on them. I would prefer that to reviews of films showing locally, which will have already been reviewed in the national press so that I don’t need further information.

  12. twickerman

    Unfortunately, the R&TT generally only provide a historical record of past events that we might have attended had we been informed of them!

    The main reason I started using twitter a year ago was as a source information on upcoming local events.

    twitter and some of the excellent local blogs, such as twickerati, provide excellent information on events before, during and after they happen, as well as offering a great opportunity to comment.

    Although RTT has an online version, this is painfully clumsy because of the huge number of irrtitating adverts. It is also notable that if any slightly controversial comments are made, especially about El Brute, the article concerned is swiftly archived.

    On major drawback of following the R&TT reporters on twitter is that one often gets the same damn message about an online article in triplicate or quadruplicate! #drowninginjunk

    Keep up the great work twickerati (and other local blogs).

  13. You can sign up to receive a daily email of headlines from the RTT at:
    http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/emailbulletins/
    The online version of the print edition, including the letters page, is at:
    http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?pbid=c7955673-549d-44a9-9a9c-a642bedeaef8
    Some estate agents have boxes of the paper edition.

  14. Here’s my all-time favourite front-page headline from the Richmond & Twickenham Times: “Park Gate to Remain Closed”.

    (Twickerdad & I spotted this shortly after we’d moved into the area and it made us lol at our new ‘hood.)

    • Walkinthepark

      My favourite was the article about a ‘glamour model’ who got caught in a high tide , like just about every other Richmond and Twickenham resident who walks or runs on the towpath has at some time or another, but in her case this involved her videoing it with a wall to wall commentary of screeched “oh my god, oh my god” and a trip to A&E , this time wasting attention seeking self indulgence all faithfully reported by RTT with accompanying photo of her leaping in the air, her assets leaping independently. She apparently splits her time between London. Norwich and LA. The comments from the usual suspects sympathising with the “bonny lass” were even more ridiculous.

      Doesn’t really help you take the newspaper seriously

  15. BSTwick

    p.s. You forgot to add a link to Mumsnet Local …. http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/local_richmond_upon_thames

  16. BSTwick

    In my experience, everyone loves and values the Richmond & Twickenham Times, and misses it when it stops being delivered through their door. It doesn’t generally occur to people to go into a newsagent and buy it. They’re just too busy, and they probably don’t even know what day it comes out.

    The trouble is that the freebie delivery process seems to be completely random – it’s delivered regularly for a few weeks, then it stops; some streets get it, others don’t. What governs that? I’m assuming its a combination of fluctuating advertising revenue, and the reliability of the delivery team.

    Some people might be tempted to moan about how everyone expects their news for free these days, but actually I think people would be prepared to pay for it, if it was made easy for them.

    Is there a solution? I would like to see the RTT stabilising their free delivery areas, and then communicating with local newsagents to keep them informed of which areas are covered by that and which aren’t.

    If the newsagents had that information then, if they were enterprising enough, they could go round the doors and say to people “Hello, I’m your friendly local newsagent, and I operate a good old fashioned delivery service; would you like the RTT delivered through your door every Friday?”. I suspect a reasonable number of people would be prepared to pay for that service. The newsagent could even employ a teenager to do the deliveries, like they used to back in the good-old-days.

    The result? Happy teenager, happy newsagent, happy residents, happy RTT. To make it happen, all it needs is good communication, and some positive action.

    Cue: lots of cynical comments from people saying it would never work. However, if I was the RTT editor, I’d give it a go. What is there to lose?

    • twickerman

      Dear BSTwick,

      You could help stabilise the local delivery service by applying for a newspaper delivery job. The RTT are currently advertising! 😉

    • BSTwick

      Yes, I saw that. Age 13+. Job for a teenager, as I said!

      Probably lots would be interested if it was a big ad in the window of a newsagent, rather than a small-ad at the bum-end of a newspaper their parents no longer even read 🙂

  17. Two further points:
    1) Although many people still prefer the print editions of the paper they’re in slow decline. The ultimate determinant of how long they last is less likely to be about how much people prefer them and more about how long advertisers will commit to them. Obviously the two are connected but as soon as advertisers think they’ll get more bang for their buck elsewhere, they’ll go. It’s a question of when rather than if. But there is still likely to be some kind of market for paper shoved through the door otherwise we wouldn’t get all those pizza and taxi flyers. Next stop: the local printed paper as a 4 page handbill, perhaps?

    2) In terms of new media use, it’s interesting how the R&TT journos are present in Twitter in their own names. This certainly helps build identity, connections and rapport. But the profiles usually say that their views may not represent the views of their employer. Eh? When the majority of tweets reference back to R&TT stories or calls for journalistic information, the extent to which this disclaimer would apply in the event of something going a bit wrong is questionable. If it’s fundamentally a work account then surely it’s part of the job? It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

  18. Can’t beat the local free paper for a comprehensive roundup of news. I for one would really miss it. We did notice big bundles of the paper dumped on the corner of Queens Rd a couple of months back though so guess distribution can be a problem.
    On another matter – trees! Has anyone noticed that the cherry trees on Church St have been cut down also two lovely exotic mature trees in Holly Rd Cemetery exterminated! Does the council suddenly have an anti-tree policy that we don’t know about?

    • Rufus McDufus

      I didn’t realise there were any free papers any more. We last got the Informer or Guardian maybe 10 years ago and never the R&T Times. I’m in Talbot Road near The Green.

    • jimbo

      Informer and Guardian stopped being published some time ago. You can pick up Rich & Twick from several places free of charge – or even buy it.
      Lots of people seem to be uninterested in local events, judging by the number of “no free papers” signs of their doors. And yet there are often cries of “nobody told us “. Can’t have it both ways!

    • Rufus McDufus

      I read it online now, though have to admit I tend to avoid it now as it does seem to mainly be an outlet for council press releases. The letters pages were always pretty good but maybe I’m getting a bit jaded, but week in week out it seems more and more as if the letters are generated by a computer program.

    • Gareth Roberts

      I think as far as the letters pages go they can still be pretty good – far too much of the ‘Name and Address Supplied’ though

    • SGdB

      I agree that the letters pages are worth reading – although I tend to give up on the really long letters – and these at least are almost always properly local. The letters section is the best part of the paper.

    • Yvonne Hewett

      Lee,
      As far as I know, the trees in Church Street are on private land, not the council’s. The trees in the Holly Road “Garden of Rest” (I kid you not) I thought were OK, but were taken down as part of a general revivification programme for that space.

    • Revivification! Great word, thanks for enlightening me Yvonne.

    • Yvonne Hewett

      A poor thing, but mine own.

  19. Thanks for an interesting read, as ever.

    As I twote earlier, I think that print media still holds more credibility and weight amongst most people, but this is slowly changing as even the traditional broad sheets are increasingly being read online.

    As for the local micro sites and blogs – you’re right about the hard work. Even within a small geographical area, maintaining something that is useful and accurate, with any sort of quality, is no mean feat.

    Of the sites you mention, I think that we all have a slightly different usp to one another, even those that seem similar on the surface. Given the effort required it would be madness to try to be all things to all men. People can choose to read whichever sites best hit the spot for them, with a tone that suits their liking.

    The friendly interchange between the online community is one of the best things about our local web scene, I think.

  20. Don’t forget to look at artsrichmond.org.uk for the most comprehensive listing of arts/cultural events in and around the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames from over 100 local societies and organisations that are affiliated.