Regional Papers Websites

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I was looking at offerings of some of the regional web sites and, in general, how they try and market themselves through the web (for both print and online). It’s was an interesting exercise and some of my observations are posted here. The print edition of any of the regional newspapers is bounded by its franchise area.

Some manage to get a little further than that, maybe even as far as the news stand in Easons on a weekly basis. But it their information franchise, their local information franchise, extends much much further. Look at the Irish/County Diaspora – they are scattered to the four corners, not only globally, but nationally as well. There would be a natural curiosity in any migrant (see previous post on Polish Websites) to seek out information from ‘home’ and not only national but local as well. As part of my look at the web offerings of the local papers (I’ll return to that expression again!) I looked at two simple expressions – “[county] news” and “[county] newspaper” to see who scores well under these terms in their franchise and why. The terms are particularly broad and wont suit every local paper. Here is not the platform to go through each local nuance, so I have to be broad.

Also, I edited it down to the top two websites in each county, otherwise the list would be simply too long. Should anyone want a more comprehensive list (and why!) – just contact me and I will get you what I have. In the main most of the regional papers scored well when the county terms were used. There were a few anomalies county by county but rather than go through that chore line by line, I have attached a PDF. Before you peruse the list: some of the regional papers are ‘local local’ – dealing specifically within a large town or conurbation in a county – The Tuam Herald for example. Because we were using “[county] news” and not “[town] news” some of those papers don’t show up on the list because of the search phrase. However, it would be my assertion that, in the land of the internet, regional papers’ web sites should be trying to reach a broader audience online and optimise their sites to capture that extended audience.

Individually the regional sites make an effort to attract eyeballs, but these glances are sometimes averted prior to landing on the actual regional papers site. An issue that has to be contended with are ‘secondary sites’ and/or “aggregated news” sites who take the headlines and some body copy from regional news sites and repackage them as their own. The sites don’t disguise the fact that they reuse material or only act as referral sites, but some of these secondary sites have plenty of advertising on the back of someone else’s work. Regional papers have to make every effort to out rank these sites at all costs, traffic flows heavily for the first This was problem was further compounded in that fact that one of the “aggregated news” sites had an advert for a sitting Ireland East MEP looking for re-election on their site. 

If the regional papers (as a body – which seems to no longer function?) were thinking in concert, they would have a cooperative advertising deal together, which could have, collectively, given audience numbers and hovered up that advertising. But again, that’s another discussion altogether. I really believe that Regional titles are sitting on nuggets in the information they gather. Perhaps they would consider co-operating together and have a quasi Regional news agency where anyone could access and get information from practically every county in Ireland in one place. They would collectively fund such a site, maintain it and share any of the spoils.

This process also gave me a chance to look at most of the regional websites albeit more a scan than a study, but it did throw up some interesting points

  • The quality of the websites was, in the main reasonable and they provided information in a very structured and navigable way. But in some cases some of the websites were absolutely tragic.
  • While all the local news was at hand in many cases some information was particularly hard to get. Basic information that, if I were a potential advertiser, I would require.
  • In many cases there was a complete lack on information about advertising opportunities both in print and internet.
  • This many cases there was some very spurious information regarding circulation numbers of the main printed title: publishers statements and ‘print runs’ don’t cut it and are at best a disguise. There is really only one standard and that’s the ABC.
  • Not having any circulation data or vague geographic data is a drawback.
  • Having an ABC figure on your website that was three, and in one case four years out of date because it’s a higher number than your current six months :that’s really stretching it.
  • Putting up an ABC figure where you are not currently audited at all. well that will just leave a very bad taste in someone’s mouth.

This type of ‘marketing,’ where you are screwing about with your circulation figures reflects very badly on the publications and when its seen on numerous sites, it a poor reflection on regional papers as a whole.

In terms of SEO a lot more could be done on many of the web sites to get them to increase their web ranking and traffic. A lot of the websites were not utilising even their home page title to get the county news information in the title and the optimisation they have done is narrowed focused.

Many of the papers relied solely on ‘brand terms’ ie the papers title and are missing out on searches conducted using specific geographic terms. Regional papers are missing two great opportunities: Firstly getting their sites optimised properly and most likely getting editorial staff more familiar with the search process and then how to optimise articles for the web. Secondly I do think that there should be a cohesive effort to promote the medium, to sell the medium and to get some much needed advertising revenue both in paper and on their respective web sites.