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Is the future of local media hyperlocal?


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delivered to #mac296 journalism students at Sunderland University on March 1, 2012

Published in: News & Politics, Business
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Is the future of local media hyperlocal?

  1. 1. Is the future of local media hyperlocal? @markwoodward head of newspaper websites Johnston Press
  2. 2. Johnston Press – Life is Local But is it hyperlocal?
  3. 3. FalkirkFalkirk Herald Peterborough
  4. 4. PUBLISH Falkirk Edinburgh241NEWSPAPERS BelfastPUBLISH Leeds211 NEWS WEBSITES Dublin PeterboroughEMPLOY OVER5,000 PEOPLE PortsmouthEMPLOY OVER2,000 JOURNOS
  5. 5. 209 ofthese One of these
  6. 6. Is the future of local media hyperlocal?‘What I do know is that the next generation of these leaders will be something involving mobile, local and social…’Eric Schmidt, CEO Google, 2011
  7. 7. Define hyperlocal“Hyperlocal refers to a burgeoning number of news websites that cover a geographically smaller area than local, regional, or national media. ”Josh Halliday, SR2 Blog 2009“Hyperlocal news is not about journalism in big cities. It is about neighbourhoods, hamlets, villages, towns and small cities.”Robert Washburn, Canadian academic
  8. 8. Is this hyperlocal? early_customers_find_boots_closed_1_35652 03
  9. 9. Hyperlocal?• TV region - BBC• City – The Guardian• Postcode – SR2• Town – Easington Hewer• Parish council• 15-mile radius• By interest – northeastgolfers, wearboxing• Device – postcode gazette, nOtice
  10. 10. There is no consistent definition • Local boundaries are not clearly defined and vary according to: – Individual perception – Location – Size of population – e.g. regional boundaries can be considered MY national in Scotland, Wales and Ireland COMMUNITY MY LOCAL AREA • As a result, definitions of community vs local vs regional media differ by individual MY REGION MY NATION UK Source: Ofcom qualitative research 200610
  11. 11. Common Characteristics1. More localised – both in terms of geography and types of content - than more mainstream media outlets such as commercial radio, TV regional news, BBC regions, or regional and local newspapers.2. Often seeks to fill gaps - geographical, special interest or demographic – audiences hyper-local producers see as unserved, or under-served, by mainstream media.3. Diverse sources of funding (if any). Including: advertising, subscriptions, grants from public and private funding bodies and in-kind funding from volunteers.4. The value and role of community media goes beyond the provision of content, with specific value often seen in the social capital generated by it’s production.5. May be single issue-based, or too small for commercial operators to merit ROI.
  12. 12. Typology Conclusions• No single definition; comes in many different shapes and sizes including: – Professional - e.g. – Citizen run/produced – – Hybrid – such as those produced by professional journalists/academics e.g. – Aggregator/Automated e.g.• Their purposes can also vary widely.• Therefore there is no such thing as a typical hyper-local site. Each one varies in tone, quality and ambition.
  13. 13. Drivers to hyperlocal• Ubiquity of information• Lower barriers to publishing – Lowering costs of storage – Technology – Super broadband/3G/wifi hotspots• Mobile growth• Advertising £ towards mobile• Long tail economics• More you know about an individual the more you can meet their needs
  14. 14. Top 5 hyperlocal issues to watch
  15. 15. 1. Finding a proven business model “To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art.” Chinese Proverb
  16. 16. Context: key business challengesFor small scale hyper-local operations, like many listed earlier, key challenges include:1. Discoverability.2. Audience perceptions of quality.3. Lack of single / group editorial vision and voice.4. Funding – very few commercially viable.5. Inconsistent coverage i.e. there isn’t one everywhere.6. Most hyper-local content is online – so 30% of the population are immediately disenfranchised. Big business doesn’t necessarily find it any easier…
  17. 17. 1.1 - Closure ofThe Guardian has announced the closure of local news websites (Leeds, Cardiff, and Edinburgh). “As an experiment in covering local communities in a new way, it has been successful and enlightening. Unfortunately, while the blogs have found engaged local readerships and had good editorial impact, the project is not sustainable in its present form.” Meg Pickard, head of digital engagement Source: “Despite years of talk, hyperbole and failed experiments in “hyperlocal” journalism, which has been championed by many including the Guardian Local staff, there remain few concrete examples of formalised such efforts becoming commercially sustainable. … GNM’s decision may be one more indication that there is no future for industrialised “hyperlocal” journalism.” PaidContent’s Robert Andrews Source:
  18. 18. 1.2 – Expansion of AOL’sAOL expanding its Patch US local news network to 837 sites across more than 20 states.Part of editorial expansion following February’s $315m acquisition of the Huffington Post. Source: sites have also introduced blogging for the first time, with each Editor being taskedwith recruiting 10 bloggers from their community as part of integration into Huff Po. That’s8,000 bloggers. Editor in chief Brian Farnham, gave them a week to achieve this target. Source :, Paid Content estimated the cost of Patch at $30m per quarter. Source: claims their websites costs 1/25 of the cost of a daily newspaper in the same town. Source:
  19. 19. 1.3 - Lessons from TBD in the US“Hyperlocals like TBD: More hype than hope” ( )said failure caused by:1. Small audiences;2. Big expenses;3. Small revenues; and4. Big losses.Rick Edmonds’ –Six business lessons from TBD’searly demise:1. Branding,2. Effective Ad Sales,3. Filling an existing need,4. “Pedigree does not equal strategy”,5. “Building out big is a risk” and6. “Fail Fast”.
  20. 20. 1.4 Sky going local• Tyne and Wear• Web and mobile only• 13 journos• No advertising• Brand expectations?
  21. 21. 2. Advertising "Advertising is on its deathbed and it will not survive long, having contracted a fatal case of new technology.“Roland T. Rust and Richard W. Oliver - The Death of Advertising
  22. 22. 2.1 – Ch-ch-ch-ch-ChangesOld models switch to digital “The digital marketplace is already twice the size of the total print market and some ten times larger than the segments of the print market Yell traditionally addressed.” CEO, Mike Pocock Source: models emergeHyper-local media buying agency Oxbury Media, has built up an ad network of 10,000sub local newspaper publications and sites representing a 10m+ audience.Offers to “broker advertising, by postcode, region or even village” in print and online.
  23. 23. 2.2 – Rise of hyper-local advertisingIn the US, local advertising is predicted to be the fastest growing ad sector• BIA/Kelsey forecasts U.S. Local Digital Ad Revenues to nearly double to $42.5B by 2015.• Up from $21.7B in 2010.• Digital media forecast to represent 23.6 percent of all US local advertising by 2015.• Local Search Advertising Revenues to reach $8.2 Billion by 2015.• By 2015, 30 percent of search volume will be local in nature. Sources: and
  24. 24. 2.3 – Huge excitement over local deals
  25. 25. 11845hl ttp://wwwhttp://www But not everyone thinks there’s potential: “Hyperlocal audience is hypersmall audience” • Heading from an article covering new research by Borrell Associates, a consulting firm that tracks local advertising in the US. • In its report, “How Unique is Unique?: Gauging the (Actual) Size of Local Web Traffic,” Borrell surveyed 16 local websites and found overall that: – 30% of a local website’s visitors don’t live in the market, – 20% of page views are delivered to “fly-by” users who won’t come back for a year, if ever, and – the average unique visitor count overstates the number of local users by a factor of five, meaning a site that sells local advertisers on a half-million monthly uniques is in the end probably only delivering 100,000 local users. Cited at:
  26. 26. 3. Location, Location, Location “I like to drink to suit my location.” Tom “What’s New Pussycat” Jones
  27. 27. 3.1 - Location Meets AdvertisingLocation Based Advertising• Predicted value $1.8bn by 2015, up from est. $43m in 2010 (ABI Research Sept 10).• Uses a mix of GPS, Wi-Fi, and /or Cell-ID depending on the product or service, the region, the consumers, and the location accuracy required.• Targets users with relevant local information, and ads for local businesses.• Google, says such ads already get 8% more clickthroughs than basic mobile ads.Already live in the UK• O2 customers signed up to O2 More receive messages pushed from Starbucks and LOreal, regardless of handset or contract, when they pass through locations pertinent to the companies.• Service is opt in. Launched 15/10/10.• No more than one message a day.
  28. 28. 3.2 - Location Meets News• In May Google announced the launch of a new U.S English edition feature for mobiles called "News near you".• The service works for Android or iPhone users, who – once they have registered their location – can use a default menu to tailor own news feed. Read more: Search Engine Land notes: “Google isn’t the first to offer local news like this. Bing’s iPhone app also has a section for local news under the “News” tab, and CNN’s iPhone app also offers local news (and weather) via the “My CNN” tab.” Source: Example created for someone in Topeka, Kansas
  29. 29. 3.3 - Location meets SocialLocalmind is an iPhone app that allows users to send questions and receive answers fromfellow users about what is going on—right now—at a given location.You check in with services like Foursquare, Gowalla, or Facebook Places you becomeavailable to be sent a question about that location.The service announced at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference that they would soon beavailable on Android. They’ve also created an API.Source: of the Localmind community, can earnkarma points when they answer questions, orcheck in, eventually moving up the ranks from beinga “Newbie” though to the highest level, (Level 4)where you become a “Localmind Legend”.
  30. 30. Or a combination of the above Information and entertainment services, accessed through mobile networks which harness the ability to identify the geographical position of the device/user.Characteristics• Share your location – and status - with friends.• Discover businesses and services near you.• Rate aforementioned businesses and services.• See if your friends are nearby, or invite them to join you.• Rewards / incentives to share e.g. badges, discounts etc.Best known examples: Foursquare and Facebook Places. Others, often US only: Gowalla, SCVNGR, Whrrl, Loopt and BrightkiteFacebook through Facebook Deals and Facebook Places merges the advertising and social.Director of Local, Emily White said: “Were building a product that is social from the ground up. All of these deals are things you want to do with friends, so no teeth whitening, but yes to river rafting.” Source:
  31. 31. 4. Democracy 2.0 "Technology is a queer thing.It brings you great gifts with one hand and stabs you in the back with the other.” English physicist and novelist, C.P. Snow
  32. 32. Does politics have an image problem? 1. Falling turnout 2. Declining trust 3. New Scandals 4. Declining party memberships Can the hyper- 5. Voter apathy, especially amongst the young.local web help?
  33. 33. 4.1 - Government encouraging interaction“Council meetings have long been open to interested members of the public and recognised journalists, and with the growth of online film, social media and hyper-local online news they should equally be open to ‘Citizen Journalists’ and filming by mainstream media. Bloggers, tweeters, residents with their own websites and users of Facebook and YouTube are increasingly a part of the modern world, blurring the lines between professional journalists and the public.” Local Government Minister Bob Neill in a letter to local authority leaders Source:"Opening the door to new media costs nothingand will help improve public scrutiny.The greater powers and freedoms that we aregiving local councils must be accompanied bystronger local accountability.”Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles
  34. 34. 4.2 – Interaction by Elected OfficialsEngagement by Elected OfficialsEast Dulwich Liberal Democrat Councillor James Barber won the award for online councillorof the year from the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU).He has published more than 1,300 posts and his thread on the East Dulwich Forum viewedover 40,000 times. “Formby First” started May 2007, by Sean Brady, a Parish Councillor. Formby, is a small seaside town in Merseyside.
  35. 35. 4.3 – Examples of Web 2 interactionTweetyHall is an online aggregator for Councillors who tweet.It’s primary aim is to encourage “participation and open conversations, promoting betterand more transparent communication between voters and elected representatives.”Grassroots Reporting• SE1 website carries AudioBoos of Southwark council meetings• Ventnor Blog who have been live-blogging Isle of Wight proceedings since 2007.• Inside the M60 tweets from Council and Executive meetings of Manchester City Council.
  36. 36. 5. Data 2.0"The goal is to transform data into information, and information into insight.” Carly Fiorina, former Chair of Hewlett-Packard
  37. 37. 5.1 – Open Data and AccountabilityGovernment transparency agenda includes a commitment to make public all CouncilExpenditure over £500, salaries of Public Servants earning £150,000+ and organograms.CLG are encouraging financially literate citizens to act as ‘Armchair Auditors’scrutinising Council expenditure in a similar manner to the way that the Guardian askedpeople to help them review MP’s expenses. Adrian Short’s Website for the Royal Borough Of Windsor & Maidenhead
  38. 38. 5.2 – Using Data to Understand ServicesBournville News took public information but presented it in a useful way for residents, bytproducing a map of Birmingham City Council gritting routes in Bournville.“I thought the potential grit shortagemight mean that some roads would stopgetting gritted should the cold spellcontinue and knowing which roads weremeant to be gritted would be usefulknowledge.‘Will my road get gritted?’ is an easyquestion to answer since the City Councilhas a alphabetical list of all the roads thatare gritted in order of priority.”(With thanks to Dave Harte for this.)
  39. 39. 5.3 – Using Data for Civic Action• Residents group set up site with help from Talk about Local and the Council.• Detailed discussion about traffic data following this repeat accident.(Thanks to Will Perrin for sharingthis example and images)
  40. 40. Putting this all in context…Hyperlocal is being shaped by –and is part of - wider media and technological changes …
  41. 41. Wider trends include:1. More choice – more media outlets and sources than ever before2. Personalisation tools like or Trove3. Filters - from who you follow on Twitter, through to Google Alerts or dashboard services like Netvibes4. Social News – stories shared by your social network friends, or via email5. Social Search and Social Q&A like Quora or Gootip6. Social Bookmarking like Delicious or Digg7. Declining trust in journalism and traditional media8. Online communities so we can talk about, debate, question, and meet people who think about the world in similar or different ways.
  42. 42. “When we change the way wecommunicate, we change society.” Clay Shirky
  43. 43. Is the future of local media hyperlocal?It’s not either, or – it’s bothIt’s where you live,And where you workAnd where you used to liveAnd your hobbylocal – regional – national - international
  44. 44. Ones to watch• Village Soup• Main Street Connect• The Alternative Press
  45. 45. Hyperlocal news profitable?Online only• The Alternative Press – New Jersey – Cash flow positive year one – Profitable year two – Margin 25% – Portal to 14 towns – 50,000 uniques a month – Employs freelance writers – Teamed up with local university• Main Street Connect - Connecticut – 10 sites – soon to be 41 – $1m turnover first year – ‘annual visibility package’ – One journo and one salesperson per 20,000 popn – $250 cpm – 60 FTE editorial – Break even in 12 months, repays investment in 24 months
  46. 46. Hyperlocal news profitable?Print and online• Village Soup - Maine – Single cms – 21% revenue from online – Integrates content from pro and ugc – Franchise (7 sites) – Started life online only and now got print versions – Easy self-serve admin for advertisers – Content aimed at 25,000. ads aimed at 150,000
  47. 47. Thanks for listening.And thanks to @mrdamian76. Any questions?