The Caledonian Mercury was launched at the weekend. It’s an online newspaper, set up by ex and disaffected journalists from the Scotsman mainly. I find this very interesting as for a while now I’ve been complaining about the state of the media industry in Scotland and the quality newspaper section in particular has come in for some deserved criticism. The newspaper industry’s response to falling circulations seems to be to fire journalists. Yeah, it cuts overheads but you just make the paper worse. The argument about local media in the digital age is a long and difficult one, but I know instinctively that there is still a market for local news here. Even as the world gets smaller and news travels faster people are still as interested in what happens on their doorstep. I really don’t see that changing in my lifetime either. One of the things overlooked when analysing the success of social media is the fact that it allows people to create their own micro news, delivered exclusively by the people who know them best. It doesn’t get any more ‘local’ than that.
What has changed is social habits and technology. I no longer buy a daily paper far less a morning and evening one as I once did and I know I’m not alone I this. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know local news, it’s just I’ve found better ways of consuming it, namely the internet and TV. The fact that in the UK TV stations have developed the best internet news sites as well shouldn’t come as a big surprise. So I welcome the Caledonian Mercury, I like its aims and the fact it is going to be about journalism can only be a good thing, its content is vital to its success. From our perspective a site that can deliver the demographic that the Herald and Scotsman used to will attract advertisers, a strong local media scene is in everyone’s interest.
It was Burn’s night last night and as usual I heard lots of patriotic talk, most of it nonsense, but if the guys behind this new venture can make a success of it then they’ll have done the Scottish media industry a turn well worth remembering each year.