When we launched The National Wales it was in partnership with Newsquest. We had investigated setting up as a cooperative, but at the time partnering with an existing news organisation which already employed a substantial number of journalists across Wales, around 50 at the time, meant that in order to launch only a small core team needed to be employed, and editor, and two dedicated journalists.
This would have allowed the central team to be grown in line with subscription growth, employing journalists with specialities and filling in geographic gaps that are currently underrepresented. Sadly, as I have written about previously, the worsening economic situation meant that wasn’t to be.
But the main reason for not setting up as an independent entity was the size of the Welsh media market at the time. With Reach Plc serving Wales through The Western Mail, The Daily Post, The South Wales Evening Post in Swansea and The Echo in Cardiff. Newsquest had around 15 titles covering a large geographic area of Wales and Tindle published The Cambrian News and titles in Monmouthshire, launching a new venture in competition would have been a challenge commercially.
So what’s different now? The knowledge gained from developing the original business plan for The National combined with the knowledge gained from its running has been invaluable. Still, the big difference is the size and state of the market in Wales.
The cost of living crisis that led to the closure of The National offers, perhaps perversely, an opportunity.
The traditional news industry is in crisis, you only have to look at the Year To Date performance of the share prices of the major news companies, Reach Plc, Gannett Co. the parent company of Newsquest and National World, formerly Johnston Press. They are heading in one direction.
These businesses have been overly reliant on revenues generated from physical print sales and the advertising they carry. Circulations have fallen year on year, print costs have increased 100% following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and distribution costs have rocketed.
In the coming months as purse strings are tightened these traditional businesses, who at the end of the day exist to provide dividends to shareholders, will see the drop off of physical newspaper sales accelerate. As companies prepare to make cost savings in order to remain viable during the next 18 months advertising revenues will fall.
Digital news sites will come under increasing pressure to return increased page views for diminishing returns. Serving real news will become a lower priority with content specifically designed to drive traffic becoming the focus for journalists, expect more clickbait and fish and chip shop reviews.
This contraction within the news industry in Wales will allow us to fill the gap left for unfiltered, balanced, objective news coverage from Wales and grow as the economic situation improves.
In the next couple of weeks, we will establish the Community Benefit Society which will own the business and begin the process of raising the funds required for launch.
You can support us as we turn the plan into reality by signing up as a supporter below.