#soe09: Hyperlocal, mobile and experimentation for newspapers, say Brittin and Newland

“We must try any way possible to keep what we do alive so that in the end when the advertisers come back for quality we’re still here,” Martin Newland, editorial director of Abu Dhabi paper The National, told the Society of Editors conference today.

Newland said state subsidy, paid-for content online and new forms of advertising should all be considered – but in a vein of experimentation.

“Is there a model in what you are doing?” asked fellow panellist and Evening Standard editor, Geordie Greig.

“No,” said Newland, who had earlier apologised for ‘moving East’ when his industry in the UK descended into crisis. “But we’re experimenting.”

As such The National is developing a website with verticals, on of which will be news, and all of which can be separately branded and advertised around, Newland said. This is to cater to the more promiscuous habits of online news consumers and serve different people’s different tastes, he added.

Newland’s plea for experimentation was subtly back by fellow panellist Matt Brittin, UK director of Google, who stressed the potential of mobile for newspaper publishers and local media.

“What could be most useful to the UK newspaper industry is the mobile internet (…) We’re seeing the beginning of people paying for news applications and using micropayments,” he said.

The geotagging capabilities of mobile also provides ‘a major opportunity for local media’ in particular for serving up targeted ads and building relationships with local businesses, he added.

“We will see subscription-based content, micropayments primarily mobile-based, and subscriptions through mobile (…) But there will also be a significant proportion of content remaining free.”

Newland also stressed the importance of hyperlocal as a future model for regional newspapers: “Going down, down, down is the way to go.”

“If you are in the local market, going even more local is probably the way to go (…) Could advertising that has fled be brought back with hyperlocal sites?” he asked, citing the potential for reverse publication of hyperlocal online content in a print product, which could carry advertising.

Times editor James Harding, who spoke to the conference about the paper’s plans to charge for content online, added his own support for hyperlocal or ultra-local news coverage by the local press.

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