Journalism futures: Hyperlocal news


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A lecture I delivered on the history and development of hyperlocal news to third year journalism students at the University of West England (UWE) in Bristol.

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Journalism futures: Hyperlocal news

  1. The Development of Hyperlocal News By Abigail Edge @abigailedge
  2. Summary •  What is hyperlocal news? •  Mainstream and independent hyperlocal news •  Criticisms and challenges •  The future of hyperlocal
  3. 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.
  4. Why hyperlocal? •  Between 2005 and 2011, 242 local newspapers folded (Ponsford, 2012). •  Declining revenue and circulations mean local newspapers are not as capable of covering very local news due to reduced resources. •  Powerful web platforms like, and have made publishing more accessible to non-journalists.
  5. Mainstream and independent hyperlocal news
  6. •  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).
  7. •  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).
  8. Northcliffe Digital •  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.
  9. •  Three free weekly Local People newspapers were launched in 2011. •  Replaced the 150-year-old Clevedon Mercury. •  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.
  10. Trinity Mirror In 2010, the Birmingham Mail began publishing stories from hyperlocal sites in return for access to its image library.
  11. •  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).
  12. •  In January 2013 the BBC launched Local Live as a pilot project in Birmingham, London and Derby. •  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 audience. birmingham_and_black_country
  13. Independent hyperlocal publishing in the UK: A 2013 snapshot •  Dave Harte researched 632 hyperlocal websites (Harte 2013). •  496 of these sites were ‘active’ (published to within 5 months of study sample). •  The average number of posts published was 15.5 per site.
  14. 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.
  15. •  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.
  16. •  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.
  17. Summary •  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, Birmingham Mail. •  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.
  18. Task: Discuss the criticisms and challenges of hyperlocal news
  19. Criticisms and challenges •  Untrained journalists may fall foul of libel and defamation laws. •  No quality control over content, spelling or grammar. •  Continuity – it’s a big commitment in terms of time and workload. •  Very difficult to generate revenue.
  20. The future of hyperlocal •  Demand for hyperlocal content is being driven by increased usage of smartphones and tablets (Nesta 2013). •  GPS-enabled devices might be a way of helping people to find relevant content.
  21. •  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.
  22. “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
  23. “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)
  24. Recommendations Adapted from What Do We Mean By Local? Edited by John Mair, Richard Lance Keeble and Ian Reeves (2013)
  25. Partnerships 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.
  26. Relationships with local councils •  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.
  27. A trade body to represent the sector •  Lead on work with government, policy makers and regulators. •  Help share best practice and promote cross-sector debate. •  Lead on training and support (SEO, HTML5, business plan).
  28. Summary •  Smartphones and tablets are broadening the reach of hyperlocal news. •  New formats of hyperlocal news are GPS-enabled ( •  Recommendations – partnerships, relationships with local authorities, representative trade body.
  29. “This ‘hyperlocal’ website sector is evolving rapidly in the UK, enabled by developments in technology and changes in consumer behaviour. “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
  30. Bibliography Anderson, M. (2012) Four years later, the Ann Arbor Chronicle is still weird and wonky — and it’s growing. Nieman Journalism Lab. Available from: [Accessed 17 October 2013]. Ali, R. (2009) WaPo Closing Hyperlocal Site LoudounExtra. Paid Content. Available from: [Accessed 17 October 2013]. Gillmor, D. (2004) We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. USA: O’Reilly Media, Inc. Harte, D. (2013) Hyperlocal publishing in the UK – A 2013 snapshot. [blog]. 11 October. Available from: hyperlocal-publishing-in-the-uk-a-2013-snapshot [Accessed 20 October 2013]. Jarvis, J. (2009) Let's build an ecosystem around hyperlocal bloggers. Available from: [Accessed 17 October 2013]. Jones, J. and Salter, L. (2012) Digital Journalism. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
  31. Bibliography Kings Cross Environment. About. Available from: about [Accessed 16 October 2013]. KI1AND (2009). Local People Media Briefing. YouTube [video]. 02 July. Available from: [Accessed 18 October 2013]. Lambourne, H. (2011) Freelance publishers axed from Local World sites. Hold the Front Page. Available from: [Accessed 17 October 2013]. Mair, J., Keeble R. L., and Reeves, I. (2013) What Do We Mean By Local? Suffolk: Abramis. Ofcom Communications Report 2012. Journal Title [online]. 1.9 Hyperlocal websites. Available from: CMR_UK_2012.pdf [Accessed 17 October 2013]. Neilson, S. (2005) Seattle Markup [photograph]. In: Flickr [online]. Available from: [Accessed 23 October 2013]. Nesta (2013) UK Demand for Hyperlocal Media [online]. Nesta. [Accessed 15 October 2013].
  32. Bibliography Radcliffe, D. (2013) Where hyperlocal media should focus its attention. Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2013]. Pickard, M. (2011) Guardian Local - an update on the experiment. The Guardian. Available from: guardian-local-update [Accessed 16 October 2013]. Ponsford, D. (2012) PG research reveals 242 local press closures in 7 years. Press Gazette. Available from: [Accessed 16 October 2013]. Shaw, D. (2007) Really Local. American Journalism Review. Available from: [Accessed 17 October 2013]. thepodger (2006) What is it with the English and their garden sheds? [photograph]. In: Flickr [online]. Available from: 84152798 [Accessed 17 October 2013]. The West Londoner. Media centre. Available from: media-centre [Accessed 16 October 2013].