Why local journalism like The Oban Times matters

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At the start of the pandemic in March we took the decision to make online access to our news free of charge by taking down our paywall. At a time where accurate information about Covid-19 was vital to our community, this was the right decision – even though it meant a drop in our income. In order to help safeguard the future of our journalism, the time has now come to reinstate our paywall, However, rest assured that access to all Covid related news will still remain free.

To access all other news will require a subscription, as it did pre-pandemic. The good news is that for the whole of December we will be running a special discounted offer to get 3 months access for the price of one month. Thank you for supporting us during this incredibly challenging time.

We value our content and access to our full site is only available with a  subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device.  In addition, your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.

Just want to read one issue? No problem you can subscribe for just one week (or longer if you wish).

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With headlines dominated by Covid and the Brexit negotiations, and local democracy still curtailed by social distancing restrictions, the independent scrutiny and accountability provided by local and national news publishers has never mattered more than it does now.

Television and radio don’t get close to the same level of detail and spread of subjects as newspapers and with the suspension of proper community consultations, local publications are often the only way people find out about major changes being made to their districts by their local authority.

Newspapers like The Oban Times bring a sense of cohesion to communities large and small, guiding them through this troubled and confusing era, a reassuring presence that local life still goes on in all its forms, for good or bad.

This week a new Journalism Matters campaign aims to remind people of the role their newspapers play, but also to ensure decision-makers are fully aware that the sector is under the severest of threats as vital revenues dry up.

News publishing is hardly alone just now in facing a fight for existence, but the difference is that there is no shortage of demand for the services they provide and no shortage of money to support it. The problem is that despite massive readerships – more than 90 per cent of people read newspaper content monthly – the advertising revenues that traditionally supported it are now being sucked up by a handful of overseas-owned technology companies who benefit from, but do not pay for, the stories news publishers produce.

Search alone was worth £8bn in the UK last year, a market almost totally dominated by Google. And remember, when you are watching a YouTube video instead of STV or the BBC, you are watching a Google subsidiary.
Well over 3,000 jobs are supported by Scottish news publishing, but companies like Google and Facebook hardly employ anyone here. Yes, their services are extremely popular but there is a price to pay for the free social media communication and search services they provide and the disruption of valued media cannot be regarded as small change.

Much work is going on to find solutions, but such is the power these vast digital monopolies enjoy that they pay only lip-service to fair dealing and in Australia they are orchestrating a campaign to oppose a statutory code which simply asks them to pay a fair price for the news content they use.

You can help by taking out subscriptions to your favourite publications – digital access for a week rarely costs more than the price of a half-pint of beer – but you could also contact your MP and MSPs and ask them what they are doing to preserve the journalism you enjoy.

Journalism really does matter, so please act now before you realise just how much you miss it.