Hyper-local news; does it work?


As we all know the local and regional press have been facing problems since the introduction of the internet and the new technologies that come with the digital world. Over the past couple of days I have been looking at two articles on the Guardian’sGreenslade Blog” to do with hyper-local news websites.

The first of the articles is by Ross Hawkes the founder of Lichfield Live, exploring what we mean by hyper-local and why it works. He suggests that “patch reporters” are a dying breed in the traditional media as a lot of the time journalists are too remote from their audiences, there isn’t enough interaction with the local community and therefore those communities cannot be expected to trust their local journalists. This is where hyper-local news comes into play in making the local media more accessible to the communities that they are writing about. Hyper-local publishers have the opportunity to gain an emotional connection with their audiences via the use of social media such as Twitter allowing journalists to interact with people in real-time making them the centre of the local social circle. Journalists can become known and trusted by the local community via their physical presence that so many big, traditional media publishers are missing out on by being so far away from the local community. Hawkes shows in his article how the hyper-local newsrooms work with technology rather than against it. For example, there is the opportunity to set up a newsroom anywhere nowadays with technology on our side but the downfall is that a lot of journalists and publishers aren’t utilising this.

The second article I looked at is by Richard Jones, the founder of hyper-local website Saddlworth news. Jones also points out the positives of hyper-local news websites referring to why he set up the website as public-spirited. He says that when he moved to the area their was little news coverage but the area had such a distinct identity that he chose to do something himself. One of the positives he noted was that he could publish stories faster than other outlet meaning that his number of unique users doubled overnight. Jones also mentions the negatives that are involved in creating hyper-local news websites, the main one being money.

I’m a journalist, not a salesman. And I found selling ads on Saddleworth News difficult. I think this was partly down to my own lack of selling skills, and partly because most business owners weren’t used to internet advertising.

It’s obvious that all kinds of local media are experiencing economic difficulties in a time where users can access news online for free. I think it’s evident that the local media needs to find a way of using the internet and technology to it’s advantage just like the successful national media publishers have done. The House of Commons “Future for local and regional media” report states that hyper-local news websites are positive for these reasons:

-Valuable service to community

-Interacting with the readership

-The exchange of local information

-Maintaining a local identity and discussing local issues

In my opinion, after reading the two articles and the report, I can see why hyper-local news websites are becoming popular and why they are developing. They seem to do a much better job than the traditional local media in relaying news, events and stories to the local community because they are embracing technology and interacting with their readers making sure that the community remains feeling like a tight-knit social circle. Maybe the traditional local news could take a leaf out of the hyper-local book?


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