Local media groups in the UK have announced the full launch of an initiative to promote public notices to communities and harness the local news sector’s massive online audiences.
The Public Notice Portal, which went live in a September soft launch, is backed by local publishers in membership of the News Media Association with others expected to come on board imminently, further strengthening the coverage of public notices across the UK.
The site now displays more than 10,000 live notices at any given time with an average of 2,500 notices now being added by local publishers every week. The portal has been developed by the local news media industry - including Reach plc which built the website - with £1m from the Google News Initiative.
Public notices are surfaced on the main pages of local news websites, further enhancing people’s access to and understanding of important information about planning, construction, transport links, roadworks, and licensing changes in their local area.
The portal is fully searchable by postcode, type of notice, and - in addition to operating as a standalone site - delivers notifications for users who have signed up to receive alerts about particular types of notices, or notices relating to a specific geographic area.
Media Minister Sir John Whittingdale MP said: “Newspapers remain a vital source of trusted information about local government decision making, including through the delivery of public notices.
“The Public Notice Portal is an excellent example of innovation from our local news sector which will support local democracy by boosting online visibility of this essential information.
“Ensuring the activities of all local authorities are recorded in the portal will be key to its success, so I encourage local authorities and local press to work together to bring the full benefits of this tool to people across the UK.”
Last week, in its response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report into the sustainability of local journalism, the government described the portal as a “welcome innovation” from the local news media sector and pledged to keep public notices in printed local newspapers.
"It is clear that print newspapers still play a role in providing transparent and trusted information to local communities about local government decision making," the response said.
The Public Notice Portal is designed to enhance the vital role of printed local newspapers in publicising public notices. Research from BVA BDRC shows that changing the requirement for local authorities to place public notices in printed local newspapers would see 10m people, many ofwhom are in vulnerable or elderly groups, cut off from viewing the notices, creating a serious democratic deficit.
Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker said: “Highly trusted local news media has a critical role to play in ensuring public notices reach as many people in local communities as possible, ensuring the fullest possible scrutiny of the information they contain.
“As a sector, we have invested in the Public Notice Portal to further enhance and strengthen the role of local news media in promoting public notices by leveraging our large digital audiences.”
Debbie Weinstein, VP & MD, Google UK & Ireland, added: “The Public Notice Portal is a brilliant example of innovation from the local news media sector, and we are very pleased to have played our part in this success.
“Local news titles are essential in ensuring that people can access important information which will affect their lives and the portal will strengthen this vital democratic role even more.”
Local news media is highly trusted by the public and reaches huge audiences. According to the latest audience data from JICREG Trust Local, the sector’s audience measurement currency, 40 million people (73% of GB population aged 15+) now read local news media in print and digital every month.
And, according to a separate survey by Newsworks/OnePoll, 81% of Brits agree that they trust the news and information they see in their local news media – local newspapers and their websites – a rise of 7% on 2018.
Piers North, chief revenue office at BusinessLive's parent company Reach plc, said: "As the country's largest local news publisher, we understand the essential role that trusted local newsbrands play in keeping communities informed, not only via our reporting but also by providing a widely accessible home for public notices.
"We were delighted to play a key part in the creation of the Public Notice Portal, by supporting this crucial investment with our industry peers and by taking on the challenge to build the portal website tech with our development teams."
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