Want better news provision in Wales? It’s up to you.

News provision is a business, just like any other. Don’t let people fool you into thinking it isn’t. Journalists generate news, through research, asking questions and looking at the facts of any certain case and then report on their findings, be that online, radio, TV or in print. Those journalists are supported by individuals who ensure their content reaches the public.

The funding for those journalists and support staff can come from a number of different sources.

In Wales, the BBC are by far the largest provider of news, their services are funded through the licence fee. When you read a news article online or hear a news report on the radio, it may feel free, but that report was funded by you as part of the £159 a year funding you provide the corporation on annual basis.

ITV provide news in Wales, on TV and online, and their output is funded through advertising.

The other two major providers of news in Wales are Reach Plc and Newsquest.

Reach publish the UK national titles The Express, Star and Mirror. In Wales they publish The Western Mail, Daily Post and South Wales Evening Post and the Echo in Cardiff, they have Wales Online and Daily Post dot co dot uk as their two digital offerings.

Newsquest publishes over 10 regional titles in Wales, their largest being the South Wales Argus, The Leader and the Western Telegraph. Each title has a website. They ran a national platform “The National Wales” for 18 months, on which I collaborated, until the end of August 2022 when the company faced global and national financial challenges.

Both Reach and Newsquest rely on two main sources of funding, sales of physical newspapers and the advertising those print products carry and online advertising. The ongoing cost of living crisis has had a massive impact on both sources of revenue.

As the graph below illustrates, annual revenues from digital advertising are forecast to overtake those currently received from print by 2026, and not because digital revenues are increasing, it’s simply down to the continued decline in print as circulations continue to fall year on year.

As the graphs show both companies, Reach and Newsquest, which is a subsidiary of Gannett Media in the USA, have seen their values decline substantially in 2022.

Despite modest recoveries in the Autumn, both companies’ share prices share a similar trajectory as we head into 2023.

The pressure to generate revenues from online advertising set against a terminal decline in newspaper sales could prove a tipping point in 2023 or 2024.

The reality is that news providers are coming under increasing pressure to fund their output. Online advertising relies on the need to deliver page views, which in turn places pressure on news sites to publish inconsequential content that delivers numbers.

Real news, the issues that impact our day-to-day lives, fall down the page and the resources once deployed to report it is now letting us know which are the top ten kebab shops in Swansea.

When I launched The National Wales with Newsquest back in March 2021 it was a subscription service that was forecast to break even in its third year of operation, generating profits from then on.

Unfortunately, the powers that be weren’t willing to give it the time and resources required for it to succeed. Sadly, they lacked a fundamental understanding of the news landscape of Wales and as a result, didn’t see Wales as a commercially viable market.

The fact is, compared to other parts of the UK, Wales is a challenging market for news commercially. When you read about billion-pound companies operating in Wales, I can assure you that very little of those revenues derive from their Welsh operations.

This financial fragility threatens the very future of news provision in Wales.   

The reality is that the provision of quality news requires investment, it needs the funding that allows journalists, and the required supporting team, to be employed in sufficient numbers and for the public to be made aware of their output.

This long-term funding can enable a public-interest news media business to grow and thrive.

That’s why Talking Wales will be launching a share issue in 2023.

As a Community Benefit Society, Talking Wales will be owned by you. Shares won’t increase in value, but they will attract interest. This initial round of funding will be critical as it will create the cash reserves required to employ the team who will deliver its services whilst other sources of income develop through subscription and commercial activities. Giving it the time required to become viable in the long term.

Community Benefit societies are required by law to reinvest any profits for the benefit of the community it serves, in Talking Wales case this will mean employing more staff and improving news provision in communities across Wales.

Our success will lead to better provision of news in Wales, ensuring Welsh citizens are better informed about the issues that impact their lives on a day-to-day and long-term basis.

We could set up a website, employ a couple of people and share news we have discovered elsewhere online and inconsequential “viral” videos. Wales needs and deserves more than that.

Following the closure of The National Wales it would have been easy to walk away from the news landscape of Wales, but the need for quality Welsh news coverage is needed more now than ever.

We hope that you agree. You can learn more about the kind of service we are planning on delivering on the website.

Whilst we complete our incorporation as a Community Benefit Society and prepare for our share issue, we want to start piloting the type of content we will be delivering on a daily basis post-launch. You can help us achieve this by donating to our fund that which will allow us to purchase the required hardware and software licenses, you can do so by clicking here.

Diolch

Huw Marshall

Founder Talking Wales

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