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The downward slide of local government advertising spend

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It’s only one council (Manchester) but the direction of travel is clear.

Snapshot of advertising spend from a council Many Eyes

Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show the extent of the drop in council spending on advertising in newspapers over the past three years.

The data shows;

* Trinity Mirror newspapers (MEN and associated weeklies) saw a less steep drop in revenue than the national press and took the lion’s share of the spend with £581,965.81 in 2009/10.

* Just two areas of advertising saw increased budgets over the period – outdoor advertising (billboards etc.) almost doubled from £65,096.04 in 2007/8 to £128, 427.33 in 2009/10 and digital advertising got a budget of £4,655 in the last year after previously having none.

* Online only recruitment advertising dropped to zero in 2009/10.

The full data set for this visualisation of advertising spend in £ is available here.

The figures were obtained by campaigner Zahid Hussain who is seeking to establish how decisions on advertising are made by the council. He has since submitted a further request for information .

Written by sarahhartley

May 3rd, 2011 at 8:21 am

Seven Manchester media moments from the last week


Here’s my personal pick of media related happenings from the past seven days.

1. Interesting to see city-based PR division of Amaze tasked to work alongside a university in-house communications team to highlight the opening of Salford University’s digital learning, teaching and research space. This report from The Drum says the space will be opening at MediaCityUK next Autumn and will be home to more than 1,500 students.

2. The MEN is reportedly looking to move into the space left by Crain’s demise in the city with a new business offering. HowDo carries details of the advertisement for a new position, “head of business”. to take on this task but has been unable to elicit any further information about the new publication(s) from owners Trinity Mirror.

3. Independent media sites for Greater Manchester became hypervisible last week with live blogs covering the Irlam gas blast (InsidetheM60), the Phil Woolas verdict (SaddleworthNews) and campaigning activity for Hope maternity hospital (Salford Star). Even a police press officer has blogged on the gear shift.

4. In true Sir Alan style, Democracy PR is looking to appoint an apprentice. Founder and MD Jennifer O’Grady explains more about the job on the company’s blog and promises ” to provide a lively working environment where you will make the best use of your strengths in our rapidly growing agency”.

5. The second birthday for Manchester’s Social Media Cafe took place at the BBC Club and there’s a full write up of the night from Jon Clements on the Staniforth PR blog.

6. Changes at the top of MEN Media as Trinity Mirror restructures its digital divisions which sees Dave Raywood, currently marketing director at MEN Media, take the role of digital commercial director of the company’s regional division with a brief to “accelerate delivery of the division’s digital plans”.

7. The How Do Public Services Communications Awards 2010 short list was announced ahead of next week’s judging. I was particularly interested to see those up for the Most Innovative use of New Media which I’ve pasted below. Good luck to all!

  • Marketing Manchester and Creative Concern/Manchester’s Digital Map
  • NHS Sefton/Looking Local: interactive health services by TV and mobile phone
  • Our Life, Smokefree Northwest (SFNW), Vivid, Integral Productions and PHD North/Smoke & Mirrors – See through the illusion
  • Portfolio/Rebrand of Manchester Jazz Festival
  • Sandwell Council/Recycle with the Savewells
  • SKV Communications/Pure Genius – cracking the davinci code
  • The University of Nottingham/Election 2010 blog
  • Wrexham Community Safety Team and Gencia Media/Sexual Violence Awareness Campaign

New food site, cameras at the ready

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Soon to be a new entry into the crowded Manchester online entertainments scene comes Love Grub. Part of the fledgling Love Manchester site, this food news and reviews site has one major difference – it’s based around video.

Heading firmly into Manchester Confidential’s backyard, the site is looking to provide honest reviews of the city’s restaurant scene by aggregating existing food blogs, and also encouraging reviews from customers.

One half of the couple behind the move, Gary Greenwood tells me that advertisers will be offered listings information together with a short video package to show off their premises. The reviews will be kept independent from these commercial video elements.

In addition there’s to be magazine style feature video content around food in the north west produced by Gary and his partner.

Early days yes, but one to watch.

I wonder whether it will prompt a three-way advertising price war between ManConf (as it struggles to persuade the market that paywalls are the answer), and the under-populated CityLife offering from the MEN?

Written by sarahhartley

March 7th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Online news service to launch in Manchester

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The city is shortly to have a new news provider, it was revealed at last night’s Social Media Cafe.

Inside the M60 will be soon be covering local news from across the city by linking up on the ground community reporters and bloggers in the latest hyperlocal project to move into the space left by traditional media’s retreating presence.

The journalists behind it, Nigel Barlow and Louise Bolotin, are well-known in the city’s social media scene and presented their plans at the meeting last night.

Nigel pointed to the low turn out for the last election in Manchester as a illustration of how a proportion of the city had become disenfranchised. Louise added that the move to the Deansgate HQ of the MEN Media weekly titles had led to a reduced local news service.

This morning they’ve posted a full manifesto for the site here which includes the statement:

“In Manchester, the poorest communities live almost within shouting distance of the bright lights and investment of the city centre and yet have little or nothing in common with it. At the same time, technology has become alien to them and they are in danger of being on the wrong side of an increasing digital divide.”

The pair have already signed up some people to blog about the news in their communities and would now like to hear from people in the areas below who are interested in getting involved:

Crumpsall,Harpurhay,Cheetham Hill,Lighbourne,Moston,Newton, Longsight,Central and Hulme, Heath,Failsworth, Ancoats, Beswick, Bradford, Ardwick, Gorton, Levenshulme.

The timing of this project is interesting too- it will be live in time for the expected May election – and volunteers are needed to help cover across the city’s constituencies.

The blog is being created on a WordPress platform and a business model based around local advertising and other revenue sources has been drawn up.

Until the live launch, news of the project and coverage of the city council, is being tweeted @InsidetheM60.

To join in or find out more contact or

Written by sarahhartley

March 3rd, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Council coverage in local newspapers: Update


The project I started  in an attempt to benchmark the current state of play for the reporting of local councils has been running for a few months now, so it seemed timely to give an update.

I decided to look at this issue, using the HelpMeInvestigate tools, following the furore around this issue last year, and especially in response the vociferous comments on Roy Greenslade’s blog where readers were claiming their local papers didn’t carry out this type of bread-and-butter reporting any more.

It didn’t reflect my experience of working on regional and local papers, but I wanted to find out more by involving people from different parts of the country to widen pool of knowledge.

Sadly, the results so far don’t show a very healthy situation at those newspapers which have been analysed, with many seemingly pushing out local authority press releases or inserting the ‘usual suspect’ councillor quotes into stories which originate elsewhere.

Not all of the 31 people who’ve signed up to take part in this project have come to their conclusions yet, so perhaps it’s early days (or I’m an optimist!) but here’s the story so far with the first ten results submitted;

In alphabetical order and with a quote which I felt summed up what were often long, thoughtful posts from the participants;

  • It seemed that the investigation at The Banbury Cake found it hard to find much news of any type, never mind council news. Perhaps a worthy subject for a different kind of case study for having quite so much advertising in this climate!  “News coverage is by no means extensive, and although within the small space given to news, there are some council stories, they are either adapted from other group titles, or appear to be taken from press releases (not necessarily council press releases, but from other organisations who may have been involved with a council-run or funded scheme).
  • Birmingham Post, Mail and Sunday Mercury proved to be a mixed bag. The weekly Sunday paper didn’t prove to carry much council coverage (Just one story) although that’s perhaps not too surprising given it’s off-diary raison d’etre. In general, Paul Bradshaw’s initial impressions included; “There is actually a reasonable amount of the news ‘hole’ that refers to the council in some way,  however, almost none of the coverage is direct reportage, or clearly comes out of a council meeting or report” although this weekend he analysed a further two editions of the Mail and noted one 12 page edition with no council stories present.
  • The Cotswold Journal appeared to be suffering from the pressures of having a large geographic area and a small staff when the coverage was analysed leading to the conclusion; “Hence a reliance on press releases or short, less detailed, stories. Where there are longer stories, human interest seems to be a factor – profiles are popular. Often, the council perspective seems to be a last minute insertion or an extra quote, rather than being the nub of the story.”
  • I looked at the Darlington and Stockton Times and found it to be rude health as far as local council coverage goes. Being a regular reader, I can conclude that council coverage and council stories regularly make the big stories – often to the annoyance of the local authorities involved.
  • The Lancashire Evening Post didn’t fare quite so well with little direct council coverage found and a lack of questioning arising in the comments, leading Ed Walker to the conclusion. “Like others I’ve been finding there is little reporting of council meetings, more stories are created from council press releases and then a few quotes from councillors. It’s also not clear when these councillors were saying these quotes, although the councillors title and ward are always attached.”
  • The Oxford Times proved to do a lot of local health authority stories and provided a good service in a lot of areas but the analysis found it fell down on the local council: “We were slightly surprised by the findings, as we had been fairly confident that a newspaper of The Oxford Times’ size and status would contain a good amount of council coverage.”
  • The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald showed itself to be strong on both the quality and quantity of council reporting with the investigator concluding: “There is a distinct feeling with this edition of the Herald at least, that this local newspaper and its readers recognise the role of local councils and aren’t afraid to write about them.”
  • Sussex Express and The Argus were studied over four weeks by journalist Chie Elliot who found results in line with her expectations – about 4% of the content produced being council news (Note:the method of calculation used has provoked further debate, see full posting for more on this). She concludes; “When editors are under pressure to publish stories that sell papers (i.e. gore, crime, deaths, scandals) and move circulation figures upwards, stories about local government decisions, which are not controversial enough to stir a strong response from the reader, are likely to be given lower priority, or, might, at most, end up as a nib (news in brief) in a spare corner of the page.”
  • The Wilts and Glocs Standard didn’t impress too much and, although there were quite a few mentions of councils and councillors (press releases?), the whole package lead the journalist scrutinising it to conclude: “There is little evidence, as far as I can see, of monitoring council meetings or writing more in-depth pieces about local politics.”
  • The Whitney Gazette likewise appeared to be suffering from staff shortages as far as the journalist assessing it could tell, sadly concluding: “We did think that there might be a higher level of WODC (the local council) coverage in the paper, as the district council is based in Witney itself, and is a major employer in the town. But the Witney office is only open for fairly limited hours, and presumably there aren’t the staff in Oxford available to trek out to cover district council meetings.”

Outside of the work on HelpMeInvestigate, local democracy and access to that information continues to be under the newspaper spotlight in the north west.

And away from the mainstream media organisations, the push to open more data and democratise town halls continues apace in towns and cities up and down the UK, so it looks as if the reporting of local decision-making will continue to be a hot issue in 2010.

If you want to join this HMI project, sign up here. If you’ve any news about the reporting of local authorities please feel free to share it in the comments below or contact me direct,

2009: A year of turmoil for Manchester media

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Community reporters at work in Salford in 2009

There can be no doubt that 2009 has been a year of turmoil with plenty of surprises, some shocks – and a few treats as well – for media folk in Manchester.

As we bid it farewell and look forward to 2010, I’vestarted putting together this timeline with some of the events which came across my radar during the past 12 months.

TIMELINE. 2009: Manchester Media

Perhaps predictably for me, the comings and goings at MEN Media as well as the ongoing emergence of the Media City with all the hopes the BBC move brings for the city, have been constant themes running throughout the year.

But there’s also been the ongoing successes of digital media fixtures such as the Big Chip in its 11th year and the Manchester Blog Awards in its fourth year, as well as relative newcomers Social Media Cafe Manchester marking its first anniversary.

It’s not as detailed in some months as I’d like it to be (mainly because I’ve worked away from the city at points during the year) but it’s an attempt to keep a record for the future, so, if you’ve got anything to add, please drop me a link to include.

And here’s to 2010!

Written by sarahhartley

December 28th, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Notes from DEN April 29; Making money

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This post is some brief notes and thoughts from yesterday’s Digital Editor’s Networkget together at UCLAN, Preston.

At this new blog, I’m doing things a little differently from my norm and putting into practice some of the lessons I’ve learned and promoted over the years. Publishing some notes and thoughts in this way may lead to a more formal article at some point – may not. There may be themes I return to – may not. What happens to it next could be down to the responses but the process of what happens (if anything) will all be trackable.

OK first up on yesterday’s meeting. Where were the girls?
Just myself and my colleague Alison White from the Reading Evening Post (and I invited and drove her there!). Hardly representative of the industry but not that unusual at this meeting. The DEN Facebook group shows that almost a third (22) of the 70 members are women. Yes some are abroad and some are not digital editors, but a third would seem to be a more representative number in my experience of the industry so what’s going on here? The issues not of interest? No time? Unable to get away from work? Love to hear.

The theme of yesterday’s meeting was money making. The session was “off the record” so I’m restricting these notes to what’s already in the public domain although I’d just add that nothing commercially sensitive actually arose.

First up my colleague Peter Boler who talked through the MEN Mediacommercial startegy by running through all the online formats we offer online – affiliates, display, MPU, video pre-roll and classified.

Secondly Rick Waghorn who left a newspaper job and set up The speech was mostly the one given at the Jeecamp event in Birminghamlast month. I had the same response to it this month as last. While Rick is probably a good example of a journalist who has become a brand that people trust and follow (re-occurring theme at the moment), the revenue model is based on a series of local relationships and hand-holding of advertisers. While this may work for those small traders who remain nervous about digital, what will happen when they wise up and find ebay? 

Andy Dickinson gave us a talk about video, while being filmed for a video. He mentioned a great case study which I’m eager to find the source of. A media company which publishes all its activity online as an internal resource, in the place of wire feeds etc. Products within the organisation take what they will of it and then publish their re-packaged versions of the content online. Then any journalist that adds value further with links, new interviews, videos etc. gets a byline for that further activity and it is published online again. Goes into an area I’m researching creation V curation and seems the type of workflow you might come up with if you started out as a media group without print production background. He also mentioned this report on video;

Finally, a Hitwise presentation. Fairly standard stuff showing the type of statistical information and marketing assistance the company offers. Interestingly showed that users often put the question “How do I place an advert in (insert your newspaper tittle)” into Google. Well they would wouldn’t they? Trouble is that many newspapers don’t have an information page to answer that most basic of customer queries. Any journalists reading this, try it with your newspaper title – I’ve done a few and the results aren’t pleasing.

I also did this with the MEN. Using the well-accepted abbreviation “MEN” I got this as the top search result; using the “Manchester Evening News” I got this slightly better (but still out-of-date) result;

What an obvious starting point for money-making - think like a customer.

I know the first thing I’ll be doing when I get into work this morning. And so do you.

Written by sarahhartley

April 30th, 2008 at 7:07 am