Building a media company that works for Wales

Much research has been carried out recently regarding news consumption in Wales. Ofcom produces regular research looking into how we in Wales consume news, how, where and at what level of interest. 83% of people in Wales are interested or very interested in learning about news in Wales. This month (November 2022) the IWA published its “Citizens’ Voices, People’s News: Making the media work for Wales” report which used a people’s panel of 15 to help understand the current news landscape in Wales.

What both sets of research tell us is clear. Audiences for news are fragmenting. The decline of newspapers continues at a pace. People are increasingly accessing their news digitally, from multiple sources in multiple formats.

The statistics show people are interested in Welsh news far more than our neighbours over Offas Dyke.

83% are either very or quite interested in Welsh news.

There’s clearly a demand so where are the services and more importantly how do people in Wales get to know about them and access them?

The news media landscape in Wales is part of the problem, but it also clearly offers opportunities. Indigenous news services in Wales at a national level are weak bordering on non-existent, a historic issue. We also need to look at the quality of the output and how it’s presented to audiences.

The Ofcom research shows that UK news services dominate in Wales, in particular, the BBC. Countering this dominance is a challenge, but with a lack of alternatives, it isn’t insurmountable.

The business models of traditional news companies have struggled to pivot from print to digital, particularly ones that are reliant on advertising. These companies still rely on sales of physical newspapers and selling the advertising they contain for a large part of their revenues. On their digital platforms, they are very much reliant on generating revenues based on page views.

The ever-increasing chase for eyeballs has placed pressure on news providers to publish content specifically designed to generate those page views in the numbers required. They are still publishing real news, and their journalists are committed to reporting on the issues that matter, but the sad fact remains, news about politics, local government and issues that really matter just don’t generate the page views needed to pay their bills.

So, what are the alternatives?

Digital news services need to be valued. To do so they need to provide value to their audiences. Several titles have achieved success through subscription.

With a subscription-based model generating big numbers of page views isn’t the priority. The priority is delivering a quality service, and reporting on the issues that matter. Sharing information that helps Welsh citizens navigate the world, helping individuals to understand the world they live in.

No more business as usual.

Most news companies are businesses. They employ reporters to report the news and fund them to do that reporting through selling newspapers and/or advertising. The problem with this model is what happens to any profits generated.

In the main news companies, today, exist to make profits for shareholders or owners. This has had a detrimental effect on the content they provide online, and this is why inconsequential news content has become so prevalent.

That is why we at Talking Wales are taking a different approach, a very different approach. We’re setting up as a Community Benefit Society. A CBS is a type of cooperative, you will be able to buy shares in the company and become a part owner and have a say in its running through an Annual General Meeting. Shares won’t increase in value, but they will attract interest.

The big difference with a CBS is what happens to any profits generated. Profits generated by Community Benefit Societies must be reinvested for the benefit of the community it supports, in our case, that means employing more journalists, and embedding them in the communities you live in.

It will also allow us to create new community radio stations that can join our national network, linking communities across Wales, and sharing stories that resonate in Gwersyllt and Bedwas, Groeslon and Crymych.   

It will also allow us to create video content that delivers news and discusses the issues that matter in Wales, using people’s real-life experiences, and hearing from the people involved in the issues of the day.

It will enable us to hold politicians to account, at all levels from local to national government in Wales and at Westminster. It won’t just platform politicians’ views and opinions, it will question their claims giving the audience a better understanding of the Wales in which they live.

What we are creating is ambitious, it has to be. If we are to challenge the dominance of UK brands in Wales it needs to be done at scale, professionally, and produce quality output.

More than anything else It needs to be a valued and trusted source of news in Wales, trusted by the public and valued by all.

We will be launching a pioneer share issue soon. This will provide the required resource to set up the company, develop the full share offer and start developing commercial partnerships.

You can follow progress on our website and through our social media channels.

With your support, we will make it happen.

Diolch

Huw Marshall

Founder Talking Wales

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