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Help us shape next year’s PINF Index of Independent News Publishing

Two weeks ago, we launched the 2022 edition of our Index of Independent News Publishing, made possible by the efforts of 72 publishers who completed the survey.

Held on Zoom, the launch resulted in a lively discussion, with plenty of questions and suggestions. The Index team got together on Monday to review some of this feedback and share our own reflections. This blogpost summaries that feedback and looks at what could be next.

One caveat in advance: we plan to set an ambitious goal for the Index 2023. We want to receive 100 completed surveys. Getting to 100 respondents is the key to allowing more complex analysis: looking for causation as well as correlation. To do this, we think we’ll need to significantly shorten the survey – we think the length was the main reason for not completing the survey this year – so any new ideas will have to pass a high bar to entry. We’d love feedback on areas we could cut. With that in mind…

It seemed like revenue, impact and diversity were the standout areas of interest.

  1. Data on revenue is central to the report and is typically where we go into most detail. It’s also the area that generated most interest and most questions. Naturally, publishers want to know what works to boost revenue, and the Index sets out to help find answers. Could we do more on reader revenue in particular - what works to grow this at a local level? What more could we learn about public notices, a significant potential revenue source for publishers? On the other hand, we do already go into a lot of detail on revenue – they’re some of the most complex to answer – should we cut back on these questions?

  2. We asked about impact for this first time this year, following feedback from 2021’s index. This seemed of interest to everyone on the call and to those who’ve contacted us since – so what more could we do in this area? One attendee asked everyone what they could do to share this information to a broader audience – how can we tell the story about the social impact of indie news publishers? Could we produce a series of case studies? One attendee also suggested we look at what the international development community has already done on measuring impact, via organisations like BBC Media Action.

  3. The diversity of the sector is an important part of the Index for us. Attendees told us that they had heard similar data given before – particularly on the finding that more diverse organisations are correlated with higher revenues, they now wanted research on why? And what interventions are taking place to make news publishers more representative of the UK’s population? How much does pay affect diversity, for example?

And some of the other ideas coming up:

  1. Youth: We know some raw numbers on audience and we know most publishers make efforts to reach a diverse audience. One area we don’t much about is younger audiences, the under-25s for example - who is reaching them, and how?

  2. Languages: We know some publishers publish material in languages other than English, but are we missing those who don’t publish in English at all? Who reaches the large numbers of Polish, Romanian or Bulgarian speaking people in the UK? Do we need to translate the survey to reach these publishers?

  3. Founders: Who sets up independent news organisations? What do we know about them? Why do they do it?

  4. Mental health: More and more work is now being done on mental health throughout society – what could we learn about mental health among journalists and publishers in this sector?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above - please do get in touch via the usual channels.

Joe Mitchell is Head of Impact at Public Interest News Foundation.


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