Media in Scotland’s communities: some reflections
On Friday 22nd April I had the pleasure of co-hosting a great event titled Media in Scotland’s Communities alongside the Media Trust (through their Scottish outreach worker, Peter Murray). This event was ostensibly organised to celebrate the end of the Media Trust’s Do Something Brilliant project but it also provided me and my UWS colleague Jennifer Jones a space to pause and reflect on where our own community media research and practice activities had got to and what the next steps might be. In this post I want to reflect on what I took away from discussions at the event and what that might mean for how we research and influence policy and practice around this theme. But first, here’s a really useful storify summary of the event put together by Jennifer Jones
I chaired the panel titled ‘The State of Scottish Media’ with my UWS colleague, Ewan Crawford, CommonSpace’s Angela Haggerty (@AngelaHaggerty) and the Young Society of Publishers’ Laura Jones. Ewan, coming from a ‘traditional media’ perspective emphasised some of the trends happening in legacy media, including declining readership, loss of traineeships, reductions in news staff and the move to online (disruptive). He suggested that, although some view the move to online as a panacea of some sort, there are just as many problems with this trend, including the difficulties in attracting advertisers, the problem of monetisation of news content online and the threat posed by social media – more content and more publishers – meaning that the need for distributors has been reduced in importance. Local news organisations have been affected deeply by these changes but Ewan concluded that there are also opportunities arising from these disruptions, including the likely establishment of a Scottish Six which would lead to an expansion of journalism jobs.
Angela Haggerty talked about the new media site, CommonSpace set up to provide an independent editorial line as a response to the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. Angela talked about the proliferation of ‘new media’ platforms that blossomed during the referendum with bloggers and others creating their own media. Whilst broadly viewing that movement as positive force, she argued that there was a need for a clearer strategic role for new media post-referendum and CommonSpace sought to fill that void with their news service. However, CommonSpace also offers a training and development programme and has secured 140000 unique users a month. And yet, as she concluded, the business model for a site like CommonSpace remains problematic – CommonSpace crowdfunded and expected to be be able to generate sufficient donations to ensure it could grow and sustain. That has proved difficult.
Both Ewan and Angela’s talks generated healthy debate with the audience around what I summarise here as three main issues:
- The idea of new (er) media platforms requiring a clear strategy and funding model to be able to exist beyond an initial surge of interest
- The problem of monetisation. Whilst consumers of content are happy to access content for free in a sharing web, there are implications for new media platforms if people don’t pay, subscribe or donate.
- The need for clearer delineation of the ‘new’ in new media. Several participants suggested that some ‘new’ media sites operated in a very similar way to the media model they were seeking to replace.
The first panel set the scene for great day of debate, discussion and demonstration on media found across Scotland’s communities. It is clear that in a period defined by declining sales of print, there exists a space where other forms of media creation and distribution are possible – though each has its own limits. Communities across Scotland are involving people from within their neighbourhoods to report on stories of relevant to their interests. Watch this space for more debate on the changing landscape of media in Scotland.