Community News boss backs future of local media

Community News boss backs future of local media

Grassroots community media would continue to have a future, but publishers needed to make tough calls to ensure they survived, Community News chief executive Paul Eteen-Bliss said Friday.

Mr Eteen-Bliss yesterday reaffirmed his company’s commitment to 12 printed newspapers, and digital news coverage right across the greater Perth metropolitan area.

Community News had exhaustively examined all its titles in light of economic conditions, the public’s many available platforms for information, new and old competition and changing habits.

The Western Suburbs Weekly, Melville Times, Fremantle and Cockburn Gazette, Southern Gazette, Weekend and Kwinana Courier, Canning Times, Eastern Reporter, Stirling Times, Wanneroo and Joondalup Times, Weekender, Guardian Express and Coastal Times had all been scrutinised and it was determined they had strong community engagement and were sustainable as printed products.

This week the company announced five newspapers – the Comment News, North Coast Times, the Hills and Avon Valley Gazette, the Midland and Kalamunda Reporter and the Advocate would close. The North Coast Times will continue to receive local news coverage from the Weekender while all areas would continue to receive local content on the communitynews.com.au website and via social media.

Final deliveries of these papers will take place in the week commencing September 3, 2018. Existing Community News mastheads will be expanding their footprint into some suburbs no longer serviced by closing mastheads.

While the decisions were difficult, Community News Group had needed to ensure the long-term future of its local news media business in Perth.

The company said that in today’s fragmented media market, there was more competition and economic pressure than ever before. As a result, Community News was aware it must continue to reshape its business to meet the needs of our audiences and commercial partners with a focus on delivering engaging and sustainable mastheads.

Mr Eteen-Bliss said: “The company retains its position as the market leader in the delivery of local newspapers and digital news and will continue to cover the majority of the Perth and Mandurah regions via 12 masthead titles. Community News has been undertaking a rejuvenation of its products including improvements in content, layout, fonts and structure to improve the reader and advertiser experience. This innovation in our products will continue”.

Our digital offering, communitynews.com.au, has more than doubled its reach and engagement in the year to June 30, now boasting an unique audience of nearly 500,000 and more than 1.1 million page views per month.

Mr Eteen-Bliss said the five titles had done a great job of serving the communities they had operated in for many years, but a decision had been made to focus investment on the papers where we have a solid readership and strong advertising market share to ensure the sustainability of these titles (and our business) well into the future.

“Community News will continue to regularly review all aspects of the business to ensure our continuing mastheads have an engaged audience and robust advertising revenue which will enable CNG to deliver a sustainable business model.”