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  5. Trust in UK’s local news media grows for 40m monthly readers

Forty million people now read local news media in print and digital every month, according to the latest audience data from JICREG Trust Local, as a new survey shows that public trust in local news brands has grown sharply in recent years.

The latest audience data from JICREG Trust Local – the local media audience measurement currency – show that local media has a monthly total brand reach of 40 million (73 per cent of GB population aged 15+) with online audiences continuing to grow.

And, according to a separate new survey by Newsworks/OnePoll, 81 per cent of people across the UK agree they trust the news and information they see in their local news media – local newspapers and their websites – a rise of seven per cent on 2018.

Publishers have called on advertisers to divert more spend into trusted local media as a Freedom of Information request shows government ad spend with the tech platforms dwarfs spend in local news media, despite its huge reach and high levels of public trust.

According to a Cabinet Office response to an FOI request from the News Media Association, the government spent less than three per cent of its advertising budget in local news media in 2022, compared to 17 per cent spend with Google and Facebook.

In Scotland the situation is worse, where analysis by the Scottish Newspaper Society shows in 2021-22 the Scottish Government spent just 2.5 per cent of its £18m marketing and advertising budget on all Press, including nationals, compared to 30 per cent, approximately £5.5m, on tech platforms.

NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said: “Local news media is highly trusted and reaches huge audiences in communities right across the UK – a powerful combination for advertisers large and small.

“As one of the largest advertisers in the UK, government must urgently divert a much higher proportion of ad spend to local news media which delivers so much benefit to the public through its investment in trusted local journalism.”

SNS director John McLellan added: “More needs to be done at a UK level, but the situation is even more urgent in Scotland because the Scottish Government dominates the Scottish advertising market to a far greater extent, yet does even less to support trusted local media.”

Audiences spiked during the coronavirus pandemic as the local news sector played a critical role in keeping communities informed, both through local journalism and advertising campaigns.

JICREG chief executive Keith Donaldson said: “The trend of strong growth for local media’s digital audiences has continued in recent years, with a large spike during the coronavirus pandemic as lockdowns caused people to spend more time online.

“In line with other media, local news media has now settled back to a more normal pattern in 2022, retaining the vast majority of new audiences gained during the pandemic. It’s very clear that readers are even more engaged with content which they know they can trust and rely on.”

Craig Smith, GroupM trading director, said: “At a time of economic volatility, it is more important than ever for advertisers and media agencies to make the wisest possible choices when allocating media spend.

“As a highly trusted platform with growing scale, local media ticks all the boxes for boosting businesses. Advertisers and media agencies must ensure that they are making full use of this unique and powerful medium.”

JICREG audiences are calculated by RSMB using a combination of PAMCo, Comscore, and audited circulation data. Governed by a board of representatives from the News Media Association, ISBA and the IPA, JICREG is a joint industry currency used by all major publishers and communications agencies in the UK.