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Highfield: Trusted local journalism is our USP

ASHLEY Highfield has said that growing concerns among advertisers about the placement of ads alongside unacceptable content and the rise of fake news have made the local press’ unique selling point of high quality, trusted local journalism even more important.

Announcing Johnston Press’ financial results for 2016, chief executive Mr Highfield said: “Amid ever growing concerns from advertisers, both big and small, about the placement of their brand alongside unacceptable content, and increasing uncertainty around fake news, we believe our strategic focus on providing readers and advertisers alike with news platforms that serve as a trusted source of truth and insight, put together by teams of professional reporters who know their communities, is becoming an ever more important USP.

By combining digital innovation with real news value, we will continue to see further growth in monetisable audiences,” News Media Association (NMA) chairman Mr Highfield added.

Amid widespread concern about fake news and the placement of ads in inappropriate environments, the NMA has called for a meeting with government to discuss its “digital first” communications policy and the “safe, trusted environment” for advertising provided by newsbrands.

In a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer MP, the NMA said that more than a third of the government’s digital ad spend had been channelled into programmatic and that checks to ensure ads appear in appropriate environments were failing, leading to taxpayers unwittingly funding extremists through advertising on Google’s YouTube.

In its results this week, Johnston Press announced audience growth. Monthly unique users across the publisher’s network of regional press websites were up by 15.4 per cent from 19.5 million in 2015 to 22.5 million in 2016, following mid-year re-launch of entire web portfolio of 173 sites.

Sales volumes for the i were up by five per cent year-on-year, the publisher added, and its circulation revenues were up 20 per cent year-on-year. The paper’s website inews.co.uk was reaching average 1.4 million unique users per month in Q4 2016.

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