Manchester media and PR shock – our views

The Manchester media (and b2b PR world by default) was in shock at the news today that a Trinity Mirror restructure will mean the end of the Manchester Evening News’ dedicated business and features desks. Senior business journalists have been made redundant, others are being absorbed into general news teams, and the features desk is expected to roll into the group’s shared content unit in Liverpool.

We’ve been discussing this at Skout HQ and thought we’d share out thoughts about what this might mean for Manchester businesses and local communities. Please do respond.

Generalist vs. hyper-local… One of the main thrusts of the changing media landscape is the importance of hyper-local in communicating targeted content to micro audiences. Despite this, consolidation in the traditional media industry seems to be heading in the direction of increased generalist – both in geography and subject.

We’re based in the town of Macclesfield (which comes under the MEN umbrella) and know first-hand that local people want local journalists who understand that Macclesfield is not Wilmslow or Stockport or anywhere else, but unique in its own right. The traditional media industry is taking its journalists away from the communities they are an entrusted part of. By design they are increasingly less likely to be able to report into local issues and support the local economy that is critical to the papers’ own success.

A Huff Post model for Manchester..? We think this move could trigger a different business model for regional media like the MEN. Look at the success of the Huffington Post – where the volume of independent contributors far outweighs the number of paid staff. The strength of this is the ability to cherry pick from a wide range of highly credible sources. We think regional media could go more this way too. For the Manchester PR industry and its regional clients this is an opportunity to contribute more directly to the media – spokesperson turned journalist perhaps?

Good local news is not enough… Just having a good business news story will no longer be sufficient to achieve coverage. There will need to be an increasingly consumer-focused angle or commercial link to any business media coverage. A business expansion story could for example be increasingly linked to job advertising (“ABC Widgets is expanding and taking on 1000 new staff – click here to apply…”).

Targeted content is king… Our final point is that PR is increasingly going to be about what you know, not who you know. Tied in with the observations above, Manchester businesses may need to think beyond their regional media supporters and straight news coverage. They will need to work harder to create compelling digital content that in its own right differentiates them and gets them on the page. Content will drive the future of their PR and communication more than relationships.

Local economies and businesses need to be able to hear the sound of the media’s jungle drums to keep momentum and we think any loss of focus on this could ultimately be detrimental to everyone. What do you think? Please feel free to share your views.

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