A future for independent news in Wales.

Wales has suffered historically from a lack of independent national news services. The news we consume, by and large, originates from London, from an industry geared towards serving 84% of the UK population residing in England. Devolution and Welsh affairs feature low on their agendas which is why we hear so much about the UK Health Secretary and UK Education Secretary despite jurisdiction for both roles being limited to England and the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.

The limited media we have in Wales often feeds off the right-wing, and often anti-Welsh, output from London’s dailies amplifying the bias shown towards Wales from the media based in England in order to generate page views.

The situation in Scotland is different with four national dailies and two regionals with substantial reach. Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee each have evening papers and all of the national and local titles have strong digital presences.

In Wales, the “UK” editions of The Daily Mail and The Sun are the two most widely read newspapers. In Scotland, all the nationals, bar The Guardian and FT, have full Scottish editions.

We have no Welsh editions of the UK nationals. This is a ridiculous situation for Wales to be in in 2022.

Makeup of the UK population.

The population of Scotland may be greater than Wales, but it isn’t such a huge margin, 5.5 million (8% of the UK population) to Wales’s 3.2 million (5% of the UK population).

Wales has a sufficient population to sustain multiple National news services.

One could argue that the existence of indigenous national news providers in Scotland has led UK nationals to serve Scotland in the manner they do.

News in Scotland is discussed from a Scottish perspective not as an afterthought or as a tab on a UK news site this ensures Scottish citizens are better informed about how their own government operates and performs.

A healthy news media is a key component of a healthy democracy.

But Wales lags Scotland and the UK on another couple of fronts, radio and TV.

Was it Scotland’s more mature democracy and strong national media that led the BBC to set up a new dedicated TV channel, with enhanced news coverage, only a few years ago for Scotland? Whilst Wales was supposedly given greater exposure on network TV through more Wales-based dramas?

BBC Radio 2 is the most listened to radio station in Wales, again serving news from a primarily UK, therefore English, perspective and we are served by two national radio stations that ape BBC Radio 2 from a Welsh perspective in Welsh and English via Radio Wales and Radio Cymru.

The rise of talk radio via LBC, Times Radio and Talk Radio have created spaces where politics and current affairs can be and are discussed. But once again all these stations broadcast from a UK perspective only sometimes taking in perspectives from Wales.

The provision of news in Wales and space for discussions around politics and current affairs is under threat due to the continuing cost of living crisis. Newspaper circulations, which still provide a substantial portion of news companies’ revenues continue to decline with many of Wales’s local titles likely to become unviable in the coming months.

The decline in newspaper circulations since the start of this century.

News is and always has been a business. From its earliest days, news publishers employed journalists to write the news for their newspapers and paid their wages from the sales of those newspapers and generated extra revenues by selling advertising. The profits were either reinvested in expanding their operations or to line the pockets of owners and shareholders. The most successful managed to do both.

As news publishers grew, becoming listed companies on stock exchanges across the globe, the pressure to deliver profits, and in recent times show the potential for growth, has seen the pressure increase on businesses to diversify.

Companies have attempted to pivot from print to digital by replicating the advertising model that generated their profits for decades in print. Whilst they are now generating online revenues through advertising, publishers are increasingly relying on page views to deliver these revenues.

It is projected that digital ad revenues will pass those derived from print within the next 5 years as revenues from print ad revenues continue to fall in line with falling circulations

Unfortunately for the traditional industry digital ad revenues have remained largely static for the past 5 years and aren’t expected to increase. The abundance of digital spaces beyond news sites will make generating revenues even more challenging as the years go by especially when page views for news content remain challenging.

The statistical evidence shows that politics and current affairs don’t deliver those page views in sufficient numbers. News publishers are coming under increasing pressure to deliver those page views, meaning that news relating to our day-to-day lives, and local and national politics, current affairs, is falling further down the digital page with stories on reality TV, court appearances and lists of best pubs and chip shops becoming increasingly prevalent.

The pressure is on newsrooms to generate these page views, journalists are given targets and bonuses are linked directly to the number of page views they generate.

This isn’t healthy for democracy.

That’s why sustainability within the news industry is vital for its future and that’s why Talking Wales is developing a sustainable business model comprised of several revenue streams.

It would be impossible to deliver a service of quality, at the scale required, based on ad revenues alone or by relying on the generosity of the public for donations.

Where news publishers have found success, in relative terms, is through subscriptions. This has seen the transactional element of purchasing a physical copy of a newspaper transformed into a digital format.

Subscription. A subscription to Talking Wales will allow subscribers to invest in the service whilst receiving exclusive content in return. It will enable us to report Welsh current affairs across a range of policy areas on a range of platforms enabling us to reach as many people as possible including, importantly, those Welsh citizens who do not currently engage with Welsh news because it isn’t currently produced and shared in relevant formats on the various platforms they reside digitally.

Invest. We are setting up Talking Wales as a cooperative which will allow you to own a stake in the company. As a Community Benefit Society, the value of CBS shares does not increase but they do attract interest. They most certainly won’t make you rich, but they will give you a say in the running of the company and allow us to deliver news objectively, challenge governments and report the facts.

Any profit generated by the company will be reinvested in the communities Talking Wales serves, this is a requirement by law. It will ensure that as Talking Wales grows the services it provides across Wales will improve. Allowing us to develop new services at more local levels.

Advertising. We want to work with private and public companies and organisations and the third sector to ensure that their messaging reaches an appropriate audience, we want to offer access to an engaged audience who values the quality of our output. We won’t chase numbers in order to potentially let people know “how this lady from Port Talbot/Llanfrothen/Bedwas afforded a Ferrari”. We will offer advertisers opportunities to gain exposure across a range of platforms including our radio, audio and video output.

Commercial partnerships. We will seek sponsors for our different online news and content strands, again ensuring we offer value by connecting sponsors with a relevant audience. Sponsorship opportunities will also extend to our events and multimedia platforms.

Creative Digital Services. We will employ a small digital team which will allow us to create, record and broadcast content across a range of platforms in a range of formats. This team will be available to create content for third parties.

We’re building a news and media service that Wales can be proud of. One that encourages good governance at national and local levels, one that informs and educates the citizens of Wales, enabling them to take educated decisions.

A platform for Wales, one that exists to serve you and is owned by you.

Diolch.

Huw Marshall

Founder Talking Wales

www.talking.wales

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