The digital leap of regional media–what will change?
Digitalisation has had an especially strong impact on the media sector, in which consumer habits have moved to the internet and mobile platforms. A study launched at Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT, seeks solutions for how the traditional regional media can survive in the digital revolution.
LUT's study will analyse how the increased customer need for digital content can be translated into business models as well as what digital content production requires from organisations and journalistic work so that they can meet the readers' needs and expectations better. The study will be implemented as a case study in close cooperation with Kaakon Viestintä, a media company from South-East Finland that publishes five regional newspapers: Etelä-Saimaa, Kouvolan Sanomat, Kymen Sanomat, Itä-Savo and Länsi-Savo.
Collaboration with regional media is important as, according to the researchers, regional communication will continue to exist although its forms and business models will change amid the media revolution.
"Regional media plays an important role in people's everyday life. People need reliable news reporting that is located near them. As communication is dispersed and its quality varies increasingly, the importance of regional media becomes ever more important," says Postdoctoral Researcher Päivi Maijanen-Kyläheiko.
The researchers emphasise that the project is about how regionally valuable media, whose importance will not diminish, can organise its operations in future. However, they point out that they are not trying to save the media or solve the problem of its future.
"We will study the different possible business models, but the media must make their decisions themselves," says Maijanen-Kyläheiko.
In regional media, digitalisation has led to a situation in which changes in competition and media consumption direct an increasing proportion of cash flow away from the traditional media. In this situation, regional media has a possibility to renew itself and develop innovations to respond to the changing consumption habits and to ensure the profitability of the business.
"We urgently need to find well-functioning business models that entail the entire organisation. At the beginning of digitalisation, regional media regarded the web mainly as a continuation of printed material, but later, we have been able to witness that this is simply not the case. In this situation, we must introduce whole new ways to operate and think," stresses Professor Paavo Ritala.
The study is financed by the Media Industry Research Foundation of Finland. The project will take two years and its objective is to find resources for dealing with the digital transformation of regional media.
"Now is a good time to carry out this kind of research because the transformation of the media field is taking place and a lot can happen even during this project," Ritala describes the situation.
Professor Paavo Ritala, [email protected]
Lappeenranta University of Technology is part of the Digital Disruption of Industry –research project studying the the impacts of digitalization to the Finnish society through the lens of the industry.