Posted by: rowenawilcox | April 30, 2010

Hype for local: Hyperlocal

Newspapers present stories to their target audience based on a pre-existing set of news values they have taken as Gospel for decades.You get the news editors believe you want to read about and national stories are made to appear local through selective information tailoring the event/personality to your region.

Yes, local newspapers have done a very good job of providing the local community they serve with local news that matters to them, with the emphasis on local, but times are changing – something the media industry knows only too well.

Local has become hyperlocal with doubly concentrated news and information delivered directly to you across multiple media platforms, although the web is surely what enabled the hype.

Hyperlocal sites like the newly established Your Ponty (an extension of Your Cardiff Llandaff News and Capture Cardiff have realised the hunger for selective niche audiences that micro-blogging heaven, Twitter supports.

You can develop your audience within a few clicks and provide your readers with the news you feel matters to them.

More importantly, they can also get involved.

Granted, the media have traditionally incorporated a ‘citizen voice’ by publishing readers’ letters in print publications and phone-ins on radio and TV but there is still and editor who chooses what the rest of the community see being discussed.

They become gatekeepers.

There is no room for gatekeepers in community media as the whole community need freedom over their comments.

In the interest of democracy, the right for freedom of expression overrides the need to shape public discussion to tailor it to suit a pre-defined news agenda and the masses of hyperlocal sites popping up all over the country reinforce the community spirit.

The Guardian launched a beat-blogging experiment in three UK cities and although on the surface this appears to embrace technological advancements, it is going back to the old-skool methods of journalism and sending a reporter out to cover a specific patch, speaking to the public and breaking exclusive stories.

Guardian Cardiff has been brought to us by Hannah Waldram and the website is going down a storm in the city.

Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do? and associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program and the new business models for news project at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism has said on his media blog: “The biggest battlefield is local and mobile (I combine them because soon, local will mean simply wherever you are now)… The winner in local will be the one that knows more about what’s around me right now.”

What Steve Outing said about #Tweet_Cardiff (© steveouting.com)

Whatever tools are used to get the news out there, the methods of journalism are consistent as the media serve the community and the community always needs to hear the news that matters to them and what is going on, on their doorstep. This is something Steve Outing, founder and director at Digital Media Test Kitchen at CU-Boulder, told #Tweet_Cardiff earlier today.

He said: “All of the small local and hyperlocal digital news entities that continue to spring up will help keep our community’s citizens informed and engaged, and in fact provide a richer community news and information experience as they mature. Some of them will grow and find business models, and perhaps evolve into being among the city’s most successful news and information sources.”

At the moment Outing is working on an innovative project – ‘Slices of Boulder’ - a melting pot of Boulder’s digital media that has been sourced from websites from the region’s daily newspapers, “all the way down to Twitterers in Boulder who are thought leaders in specific topics, or tweet (or blog) about their neighborhoods,” Outing said. 

“I’m not saying that old media, like the daily newspaper here in Boulder, are going away soon; I think that they will shrink at the same time that new, smaller startup entities grow to fill the gaps left by the decline of old media like newspapers and local TV news. And aggregation technology will facilitate this trend. (And if newspapers put up hard paywalls on their websites, it will accelerate the growth of the new wave of local/hyperlocal news providers,) he added.

This latter point is true. Through introducing paywalls to protect the monetary value of his international news empire restricting access to subscribers, Rupert Murdoch has paved the way for community media and new web start-ups to step out of the shadows of the big guns – traditional publishing heavyweights like the Times, for example, and into the spotlight as a valuable news haven to serve its specific and pre-defined community. 

Hyperlocal journalism, however modern or historic you believe it to be, is here for the long-haul.

Long live the local press…even if it does need a ‘hyper’ prefix.

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Responses

  1. Great article Rowena,

    Lovely update on hyperlocal developments since the model erupted last year – with a great Cardiff angle. You are right to note a return to ‘old-school’ tactics where being the man on the street really counts – but this is mixed in too with new forms of news gathering – being ‘the man on the web’ too (if we can clumsily coin a new phrase).

    Also interesting slant on how paywalls may indeed help hyperlocals to flourish. All exciting stuff – watch this space!

    Hannah x


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