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December 17, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:52am

Survey shows people more likely to trust local news produced on patch – and willing to pay average of £1.30 per month

By Charlotte Tobitt

A new survey has revealed how much more likely people are to trust local news if it is produced locally.

Almost six in ten (58%) said they would trust a news organisation covering local news in their area that is based locally, compared to 31% who would not – making a positive trust rating of 27%.

By contrast, less than a third (31%) would trust a news organisation based outside their area but producing local news for their area, with 55% saying they would not trust it – a negative trust rating of 24%.

The weighted poll of 2,000 British adults was conducted by Opinium between 29 November and 2 December for the Public Interest News Foundation, which is a charity supporting public interest news organisations through research, grants and leadership development.

The local polls compare to a trust rating of 2% for national news organisations, with 46% saying they trust them compared to 44% who don’t.

Jonathan Heawood, executive director of PINF and former chief executive of press regulator Impress, said: “The public have a marked preference for homegrown local news. This could explain why small, independent news publishers are attracting large audiences in local areas across the UK. And it should encourage policymakers and funders to build the capacity of these genuinely local publishers, who urgently need investment to capitalise on their trusting relationships with audiences.”

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The survey also revealed that people would be willing to pay on average £1.30 per month for a quality, independent local news service.

Four in ten said they would not be willing to pay at all but 43% would be willing to pay some amount.

Some 15% said they would pay between £1 and £1.99 each month, while 12% would pay between £2 and £4.99 and £4 would pay more than this. PINF said these results should “provide some encouragement” to local publishers hoping to attract reader revenue.

Younger people were more likely to appreciate the importance of paying for news, with 18 to 34-year-olds willing to pay an average of £2 per month compared to £1.20 for 35 to 54-year-olds and 90p for 55-and-overs.

A fifth of younger people said they would pay between £1 and £1.99 compared to 13% of over-55s.

[Read more: Survey shows broken link between reach and revenue as 56 independent publishers reach 10m but earn just £5.4m combined]

Matt Abbott, deputy director of the Independent Community News Network which represents more than 100 hyperlocal publishers, said: “Communities are constantly fighting to have their voices heard in a landscape dominated by London-based media. As local newspapers centralise their newsrooms in ‘content rooms’ two or three counties away, they leave behind the trust of their audiences.

“Audiences feel isolated, ignored and misrepresented. However, this survey has shown that audiences respond positively to local news that is produced by journalists who are embedded in their communities, who can provide nuance, accountability, lived experience and ultimately better journalism.”

The survey also asked whether public money should be used to support local news as many publishers continue to find it more difficult to raise enough money through advertising.

Some 42% of respondents said public money should not be used to support local news, while 29% said it should. Younger people were again more open to the idea, with 35% backing the use of public money compared to 25% of over-55s.

PINF has previously produced research showing the broken link between reach and revenue with its findings that 56 independent publishers reach 10m people but earn just £5.4m combined.

Picture: Getty Images

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