World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

How local newsrooms are adapting to a digital environment

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

How local newsrooms are adapting to a digital environment

The report, titled “The Digital Transition of Local News”, is based on 48 interviews with editorial and commercial staff at newspapers and their parent companies in the UK, Germany, France, and Finland, and outlines the changes they are making to operate more effectively in an increasingly digital environment.

The authors, Joy Jenkins, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the RISJ's director of research, praise the news organisations’ commitment to experimentation and the steps they have taken, but acknowledge that “for all the impressive work already done, the digital transition of local news is still clearly at an early stage”.

“Local news is incredibly important for making sure people are informed about their communities and empowered to engage in them,” said co-author Ramsmus Kleis Nielsen.

“It is also clear that the business model based on advertising that historically has funded local news is seriously challenged today. That is why it is so encouraging we have identified several different examples of how local newspapers are working to reinvent their journalism and their business to adapt to an increasingly digital, mobile, and platform-dominated media environment.”

Some of the report's key findings include:

  • Local and regional news organisations are investing in a digital future, including creating digital first newsrooms and adapting to audience needs.
  • Local media groups are experimenting with revenue generation, including implementing paywalls or paid subscriptions, events, members clubs and e-commerce.
  • Like many news organisations, local and regional outlets compete for advertising with platform companies such as Google and Facebook, but also rely on these companies to reach online audiences.
  • Pace of change varies between countries, but all news organisations in the sample still focus on their print product for revenues, while acknowledging the need to transition to digital.

While most of the news organisations featured in the sample still generate between 80 and 90 percent of their revenues (and sometimes more) from legacy print operations, they are diversifying their business models, incorporating events or in-house marketing, and are exploring paid online content offers.

The report identified three different approaches to producing and monetising local news in the digital age – “national scale”, “regional breadth” and “local depth” – which shape everything from editorial decisions to newsroom culture and business models.

“All of these approaches are distinct from a more resigned strategy that is seen in some parts of the local and regional news industry, where companies focus on cutting costs to remain profitable even as legacy revenues decline,” the authors write.

“All of the approaches discussed here involve investment in developing new digital offerings and ways of engaging local communities that are not solely focused on extracting short-term operating profits from a declining print business.”

The full report can be accessed here.

This year's World News Media Congress, 6-8 June in Estoril, Portugal, will kick off with the annual meeting of Small & Mid-Size Publishers, and feature a session on what steps local news organisations can take to earn money and better meet the needs of their audiences.


Simone Flueckiger's picture

Simone Flueckiger


2018-04-25 12:13

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The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

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