The IPI global network of journalists, editors, and publishers has released the first global comparative report on how local news media around the world are renewing and rebuilding in the digital age to answer a big question: how might we sustain the vital journalism that serves communities where they live. 

The report has found that, right now, local news media is both the most disrupted sector and the most important for journalists to get right. The good news? It’s also where the most exciting experimentation is carrying local media through the digital transition.

Read the ten takeaways here.

The research is a real-time qualitative report led by the IPI network’s head of network strategy and innovation, Jacqui Park. It’s based on in-depth discussions with more than 30 journalists, editors, media leaders and entrepreneurs from 20 media organisations – either transitioning legacy media or creating new local-media voices across the United States, Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Europe. 

As a companion to the report we are publishing deeper dives into how different local media around the world are facing up to the challenges and making it work. 

Take a deeper dive into the stories of local media who are securing the future on the new IPI global network for journalism Medium page.

Across countries and regions, the report says, “local news media” means different things. In India, it could mean news media reaching a hundred million people across several states. In southern California, it could mean the 25-odd million people who live in greater Los Angeles. Or it could mean the 10,000 or so people living in the Val Pellice in Italy’s Piedmont region, or small country towns in the mastheads gathered together in Australian Community Media.

While last century, differences of size were often greater than the similarities, now news outlets that target geographically constrained audiences (big and small) have more to learn from each other, than not. 

The IPI report covers how news media is responding to the opportunities of transition to rethink the journalism, news products and business models. It demonstrates how local media is throwing up an effective dam against the pollution of misinformation.  

To explore and share how different media are experimenting with journalism formats, products and different business models we’ll be hosting a series of online events.

Watch the virtual launch event here.

The research finds that successful local media have a clear sense of their mission, editorial vision and audience (or potential audience). This confidence is guiding a reimagining of journalism to meet the needs of their community and creating products and revenue strategies aligned to this mission. 

The big shift is happening in the business model (with a revenue shift from advertising to readers), 

in product experimentation, in the relationship with the community and, most excitingly, in the journalism itself.  This brings its own challenge where disadvantaged communities risk being left behind. 

Among the big challenges is unequal access to transition support institutions and infrastructure: support from universities, NGOs, philanthropic agencies, early movers, the tech platforms and parent corporations is more accessible for media inNorth America and Europe than in Asia and Africa, for example. Finding ways to extend or replicate this support to where it is needed is vital.

Read the 15 recommendations here.

The report makes practical recommendations for how the journalism community (and the IPI Global Network in particular) can support local media leaders and entrepreneurs to know and understand their audience and design news media products that serve their needs, and to find ways to involve them in their journalism.

It also finds there are real limits to reader revenues in low-income and disadvantaged communities, and that not all communities can sustain the media they need at the local level. The donor community needs to understand that long-term support for basic news operations is what is needed and be prepared to sign up for the long term.

It says local news media need to find ways to build trust and support in their communities, including through greater transparency, explaining their mission and values; their challenges and opportunities; how they operate and why the community should support them. 

The relationship of trust that local media builds with their community makes them central to the fight against misinformation and disinformation. It needs to be effectively leveraged to rebuild a society’s broader confidence in news media. Local media, then, need the resources and best practice know-how to meet that challenge.

Read the full report here.