The acid test

James Evelegh's editorial from today's edition of InPubWeekly.

By James Evelegh

The acid test

This week, Newsquest announced the takeover of NWN Media, publishers of thirteen titles, including the Flintshire Leader and North Wales Chronicle. In July, they acquired Isle of Wight County Press; next month no doubt someone else.

The rationale was the same for both acquisitions. Newsquest's CEO said: “We want to facilitate a structure whereby they can benefit from the scale and resources that Newsquest can provide whilst enabling them to carry on doing what they do best.”

If this means giving them greater access to digital know-how and capability, better economies of scale in production, the ability to secure more imaginative and robust distribution deals, then that will really help.

But what about editorial resource? Publishers ultimately sink or swim on the strength of the content they produce, so if the result of these acquisitions is more money (because it is about money) for editorial, then this could really be a turning point.

What are Newsquest’s editorial plans for the newly acquired titles? Will headcount go up? Will there be more reporters on the ground? Will wages match the skills required and be enough to attract the brightest talents? If yes, yes, yes, then these Newsquest acquisitions could be game changers. Hallelujah!

But if Newsquest adopts a penny-pinching approach to editorial; if headcount diminishes, reporters get chained to their desks miles from their patch, if increasing amounts of content are air-lifted in from outside, if wages stagnate, then the future looks bleak indeed.

Publishers needs to invest in the best editors, reporters and writers to produce content that is unique, compelling and relevant. Publishing by numbers doesn’t cut it.

Let’s hope the Newsquest takeovers result in an injection of resource, enthusiasm and expertise into these areas, sparking a sustained revival in local journalism.

Here’s hoping…