Transcript of "Journalism futures: Hyperlocal news"
The Development of
By Abigail Edge
• What is hyperlocal news?
• Mainstream and independent hyperlocal news
• Criticisms and challenges
• The future of hyperlocal
What is hyperlocal news?
• Coverage of news, issues and events on an extremely
small, local scale.
• Generally produced by citizen journalists who are often
(although not always) unpaid.
• Emphasises reader input and interaction more than a
typical mainstream news site.
• Tends to be online - avoiding the costs associated with
a printed paper.
• Between 2005 and 2011, 242 local newspapers folded
• Declining revenue and circulations mean local
newspapers are not as capable of covering very local
news due to reduced resources.
• Powerful web platforms like Wordpress.com,
Typepad.com and Ning.com have made publishing more
accessible to non-journalists.
• Founded in 2008 to replace The Ann Arbour News in Michigan.
• Owners claim its bringing in $100k a year and growing 16%
annually (Anderson 2012).
• Started by the Washington Post in 2007 to cover Loundoun
County Virginia, staffed by two full-time journalists.
• Folded two years later – “not a sustainable model” (Ali 2009).
• In 2009 Northcliffe Digital launched 50 Local People sites,
maintained by paid community publishers.
• In 2010 Local People sites were franchised out for £7,000.
• Three free weekly Local
People newspapers were
launched in 2011.
• Replaced the 150-year-old
• The LP newspapers folded
just over 12 months later.
• All community publishers
axed from Local People
sites in June 2013.
• Now more than 400 Local
People sites across UK.
In 2010, the Birmingham Mail began publishing stories from
hyperlocal sites in return for access to its image library.
• In March 2010, Guardian Media launched Guardian Local in
Cardiff, Edinburgh and Leeds with paid, professional journalists.
• The project was closed a year later – “not sustainable in its
present form” (Pickard 2011).
• In January 2013 the BBC
launched Local Live as a pilot
project in Birmingham, London
• Aims to engage users on a
variety of platforms – text, email
or via social media.
• BBC Local Live also shares
tweets, Facebook posts and
blogs to interest and inform the
Independent hyperlocal publishing
in the UK: A 2013 snapshot
• Dave Harte researched
632 hyperlocal websites
• 496 of these sites were
‘active’ (published to within
5 months of study sample).
• The average number of
posts published was 15.5
Case study #1
• Former civil servant William Perrin founded the site in 2006
after witnessing an abandoned car set alight outside his flat.
• An average of 500 people now read the site every day.
• The West Londoner got 1.9m page views during the week of the
London riots, thanks to constantly updated coverage.
• Including 1m page views during a single 24 hour period.
• Aims to make local council more accountable for its decisions.
• Live-reporting of council meetings using free tools such as Google
Docs and Skype Messenger.
• Hyperlocal websites replacing newspapers - The Ann
Arbour Chronicle (US) and Clevedon People (UK).
• Hyperlocal news can help to broaden content and
coverage on regional news websites – Local People,
• Independent hyperlocals can be used for campaigning
and holding local authorities to account.
• Business directory model can provide revenue, though
still difficult to make hyperlocal pay for itself.
Discuss the criticisms
of hyperlocal news
Criticisms and challenges
• Untrained journalists may fall
foul of libel and defamation
• No quality control over
content, spelling or grammar.
• Continuity – it’s a big
commitment in terms of time
• Very difficult to generate
The future of hyperlocal
• Demand for hyperlocal
content is being driven by
increased usage of
smartphones and tablets
• GPS-enabled devices
might be a way of helping
people to find relevant
• Hyperlocal platform launched by Guardian Media - March 2012.
• So-lo-mo format (social-local-mobile).
• Aims to appeal to community publishers as well as journalists.
“A future no longer controlled by a single
newspaper but instead by an ecosystem
made up of many players with varying
motives, means and models working
collaboratively in networks.”
American journalist Jeff Jarvis, 2009
“Hyperlocal…has the potential to
trivialise a media organisation’s brand
and further saturate news sites with
myopic local (and frequently unedited)
content, perhaps at the expense of
foreign and national reporting.”
‘Really Local’ - American Journalism Review (2007)
Adapted from What Do We Mean By Local? Edited by John
Mair, Richard Lance Keeble and Ian Reeves (2013)
The Seattle Times launched a collaborative project on
graffiti with hyperlocal publishers in the area.
Community publishers produced and shared content
of graffiti on their patch.
The Seattle Times now partners with 54 local
news sites and blogs.
Relationships with local
• Explore opportunities for genuine two-way relationships.
• Many councils already benefit from content published on
hyperlocal websites, but it’s often one-way traffic.
• Council websites could link to a wider range of local
material – including hyperlocal content.
A trade body to
represent the sector
• Lead on work with government, policy makers and
• Help share best practice and promote cross-sector
• Lead on training and support (SEO, HTML5, business
• Smartphones and tablets are broadening the reach of
• New formats of hyperlocal news are GPS-enabled
• Recommendations – partnerships, relationships with
local authorities, representative trade body.
“This ‘hyperlocal’ website sector is evolving
rapidly in the UK, enabled by developments
in technology and changes in consumer
“It has the potential to support and broaden
the range of local media content available to
citizens and consumers at a time when
traditional local media providers continue to
find themselves under financial pressure.”
Ofcom's 2012 Communications Market Review
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