Thursday, June 04, 2009


Leicester Mercury
Did you hear that? It was the sound of the printing presses falling silent in a desperate bid to cut costs as Northcliffe Media ("At the heart of all things local") switches printing of the Leicester Mercury to Derby (and of the Nottingham Evening Post to Stoke). How many kilograms of CO2 is that going to create each year?

Hear that? It's the sound of Keith Perch's P45 winging its way from Viscount Rothermere to St Georges Way. Because after this fails, the next way to cut cost is to consolidate local newspapers into regional newspapers, and the East Midlands Metro is only going to need one editor, not three.

I don't buy the Leicester Mercury, although I do use the website on a daily basis (whenever the RSS feeds aren't broken). My children are never going to buy the Leicester Mercury. Like the historical model for the newspaper industry, it's doomed. So why am I writing about it here? Well first, because I care about what's going on in my local community, but mostly because I watch dying newspapers and the publishing industry in general as a harbinger of what's headed towards higher education. Currently, the music industry is propping itself up with revenue from live gigs, the traditional publishing and distribution model having failed. And the live gig is all that keeps higher education afloat (plus the diminishing revenue from certifying qualifications).

So what's a struggling editor supposed to do? Well, the first thing is to employ a couple of undergraduates over the summer to show them how to produce a Kindle edition, then in the autumn, roll out trials of downloads and hyperlocal print-on-demand terminals. And of course, the most important thing of all is to get serious about the website and change it from a low rent car boot sale to a conduit that the local community cares about.

Or not.