This is the third and final blog from Alastair Blair from the Potent Mix discussing the future of Public Notices in Wales. The first two can be read here:
With the rise of the internet and the consequent decline of newspaper circulations (of which more in a later blog), newspaper publishers had to consider how to respond. Nothing much changed at first. Recruitment, the cash cow that underpinned many local papers, slowly and then rapidly declined, its demise (suicide or murder?) not being helped by the publishers being too slow to develop their own online offer to complement the traditional print channel. The rise of the job-boards, with Monster in the vanguard initially, led to the public sector eventually realising that it might be a good idea to develop their own portals, thus cutting out its massive expenditure on newspaper recruitment advertising. It’s worth noting that, apart from Monster, and now Indeed, the vast majority of job-boards are published by a ‘main-stream’ publisher with a large print portfolio.
It is generally acknowledged, by itself as much as anything, that the public sector is slow to change. This partially caused the slowness of response from the publishers to the rise of the internet: they were still getting substantial amounts of print advertising and revenue from the public sector. However, across the UK it’s now the case that most Councils, and also large parts of the education and health sectors, make much use of their own job-boards. Some of these are very successful, such as NHSjobs and myjobscotland (the latter won the UK Public Sector Digital award for Shared Services two years ago) and with their success came a concomitant decline in newspaper rec-ad revenues. It was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of doing the same thing with public notices.
The local government sector in Scotland, having already established myjobscotland as a text-book example of an online portal which reduces local authority spend whilst improving efficiency by reducing associated costs and administration, is the UK leader in this respect. Several years ago, the Improvement Service (IS), a quango that works to support the work of the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), was given the task of organising a tender for a portal for public notices. At much the same time, an attempt was made in the Scottish parliament to change the law requiring public notices to be placed in newspapers. This was debated in January 2010 and the parliament voted against the proposal. A huge amount of lobbying had taken place by the newspaper industry to try (successfully) to affect this result. A lot of this lobbying, unsurprisingly, made use of data which were chosen specifically to support their case. In addition, again unsurprisingly, elected representatives were told that the papers a) employed lots of local people, b) were important for local democracy, and c) that lots of people who can’t use the internet would be deprived of essential information. This, of course, begs the question of why the publishers were, by now, investing heavily in their own online offering.
Despite this, the new public notice portal, www.tellmescotland.gov.uk, went ahead, and the IS embarked on a major training programme to get the Scottish Councils to make use of the portal. Subsequently, the IS employed thePotentMix to deliver training to all Scotland’s Councils to advise them on how to reduce the content of their statutory and non-statutory notices. As a result, hundreds of thousands of tax-payer pounds are being saved each year (although more still could be saved – as I’ll explain in a future blog): a figure which more than covers the cost of the portal, thus refuting some of the reporting of the debate at the Scottish parliament which implied that the cost of any digital solution would mean that there would be no saving.
The views here are my own. If you want to learn how you can save money on your public notice advertising, please visit: http://www.thepotentmix.co.uk/services/public-notice-advertising