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Hyperlocal Online News Sites: Where’s the Diversity?
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Hyperlocal Online News Sites: Where’s the Diversity?


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This preliminary research on hyperlocal online news sites was presented at the Broadcast Education Association in April 2013. The work is part of the Media Deserts Project, Dr. Michelle Ferrier, …

This preliminary research on hyperlocal online news sites was presented at the Broadcast Education Association in April 2013. The work is part of the Media Deserts Project, Dr. Michelle Ferrier, principal investigator.

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  • Overlapping service areas for 12 newspapers in NC. 3 newspapers in our pilot did not have ABC data for multiple years, and I added the Wilmington Star-News to the original list.
  • Same map with interstates and select NC cities (Asheville, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Wilmington). To me this looks like more red in some rural areas, with some gain in growth areas like Cary/Carrboro
  • Transcript

    • 1. Hyperlocal Online NewsWhere is the Diversity in Ownership/Representation?Dr. Michelle Ferrier, School of Communications, Elon University, Elon, NC@mediaghosts;
    • 2. • Associate ProfessorSchool of Communications,Elon University, NC;;Twitter: @mediaghosts• Founder,;Twitter: @localize_nc• For More Information onMedia Entrepreneurship Vision:•• Media InnovatorDr. Michelle Ferrier
    • 3. Media Deserts Project Using GIS tools, we map“media deserts” --places where freshnews and information islacking. Multi-method studyusing quantitative,qualitative andethnographic researchmethods.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 4. More than 120 newspapers have ceased operation inthe United States since 2008. Our map will helpmonitor the system over time and focus attentionand resources where they are most needed. We’re using GIS tools to create a “climate” map thattracks changes in the reach and depth of communitynews. We’re using open geographic information systemssoftware to overlay existing daily and weeklynewspaper circulation data, hyperlocal online newssites, demographic and community data.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 5. What is a “Media Desert”?Working Definition A media desert is ageographic area that islacking fresh news andinformation. This condition may be as aresult of a lack of content,access, language barriersand other issues.Framework of Analysis I use Lawrence Lessig’s conceptof communicationsarchitecture: CODE: Language, spoken orwritten or computer languages CONTENT: News, information,images CONDUIT: Newspapers, radio,mobile.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 6. Mapping Newspaper CirculationDr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 7. Overlapping service areas for 12 newspapers in NC. Three newspapers in our pilot did nothave ABC data for multiple years.Mapping Circulation DataDr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 8. Average Annual Changein Circulation-4% 0% 4%Newspaper Circulation Change: 2007 to 2011Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 9. Results for PiedmontTriad Region Contrary to our hypotheses, theoutlying reach of the newspaperimproved or held steady. In the coreof Guilford County, we see erosion ofthe circulation, an area that was amore circulation-rich region for thenewspaper. The newspaper lost themost subscribers right in their backyard. We then analyzed the locales withthe greatest change againsteducation level and income levelsusing 2000 census data to determineif correlations exist. Statistical analysis using OrdinaryLeast Squares Regression suggests avery weak positive relationshipbetween Median Household Incomeand Change in Circulation (R2 = 0.16,p < 0.1). A $10,000 decrease inMedian Household Income results ina %0.02 larger drop in Circulation. Similarly, the data suggest avery weak positive relationshipbetween the % of people with AtLeast Some College and Change inCirculation (R2 = 0.12, p < 0.05). A10% reduction in the number ofpeople with some college results in a%0.08 larger drop in Circulation.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 10. Hyperlocal Online News Sites created a databaseof hyperlocal online newssites. Like, it isan attempt to identify who iscreating content where. Maps are still pinpoints aswas the case with thenewspaper changes.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 11. I found the CJRGuide to OnlineNews Startupsprovides state-leveldata in theirsearches, but nodemographic reachdata for its entries.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 12. Hyperlocal Online News LayerEthnographicResearch:Engaged incommunities ofinterest formore than 5years.FB: Local IndieOnlinePublishersrepresents themost formalizedof these groups.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 13. Local Indie Online PublishersThis closed grouphas 144members:From the avatars,126 haveidentifiable facialfeatures or areknown to me.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 14. Local Indie Online PublishersOnly 7 of theavatars/knownpeople arepeople ofcolor…or 5.5percent of thisemerging newsenvironment.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 15. Hyperlocal Online News LayerQuantitative Analysis We examine the geographicfootprint or reach of132 online hyperlocal newssites. We identify the zip codescovered from this data. We collect demographics fromcensus data and from site-specific demographics asavailable on gender, education,HHI, and ethnicity.Qualitative Analysis We are collecting “home page”screen grabs of each of the 132sites for 14 days. Our content analysis focuses onstory coverage and on a visualanalysis of the sites. The resulting report will look atthe representation of thecommunity in the content ofthe site.Dr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 16. The student work is collected into a wiki, where we can map our geographic footprintsand aggregate the content analysis for each hyperlocal online news site.Hyperlocal Online News LayerDr. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts
    • 17.  Associate ProfessorSchool of Communications,Elon University, NC;;Twitter: @mediaghosts Founder,;Twitter: @localize_nc For More Information onMedia Entrepreneurship Vision: Media InnovatorDr. Michelle Ferrier
    • 18. MediaDeserts:Dr.MichelleFerrierWe’reusingGIStoolstocreatea“climate”mapthattrackschangesinthereachanddepthofcommunitynews.Morethan120newspapershaveceasedoperationintheUnitedStatessince2008.Papercutsshowspinpointsofnewspapersthathaveclosed.Wearecreatinga“mediadesert”mapwithreachdataforexistingmediathatshowswherepeoplelackaccesstonews.We’reusingopengeographicinformationsystemssoftware.Wewilloverlayexistingdailyandweeklynewspapercirculationdata,demographicandcommunitydatathroughESRIandanetworkanalysisofhyperlocalonlinenewsproviders.JustastheUSDAfooddesertmaphasgalvanizedcommunityconversationandactionaroundremedies,webelievevisualizationofcommunitymediasystemswillhelpilluminatewherenewsislacking.Ourmapwillhelpmonitorthesystemovertimeandfocusattentionandresourceswheretheyaremostneeded. Michelle Ferrier, Elon University, @mediaghosts