We’re back to Wales for the latest interview in our Hyperlocal Voices series; as Jack Davies tells Damian Radcliffe about the community website for Tongwynlais in Cardiff. Launched in Summer 2012, the site covers a village in the north of the Welsh capital.
1. Who were the people behind the blog?
I created and continue to run the site entirely on my own. I’ve considered recruiting new contributors but at the moment I have the time and energy to do it myself.
2. What made you decide to set up the blog?
I moved to the village three years ago and felt it wasn’t being adequately promoted as a place to live and to visit.
Many people don’t realise we are in Cardiff.
I started off with the idea of creating a tourism site with just photography and basic information.
I decided to include news and features so there would be fresh content to attract and retain visitors.
3. When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?
I’ve just celebrated the site’s 2nd birthday: it launched in August 2012.
I’m an experienced web developer so setting up the site was straightforward. I set up social media accounts, contacted local groups and created the visual identity before the site launched.
I carefully manage the scheduling of posts to ensure the work is sustainable and to fill gaps if news is slow.
The site’s been updated consistently since launch with at least one post a week.
4. What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?
I wasn’t aware of hyperlocal sites when I started so I wasn’t influenced by any before launch.
In the last two years I’ve been in touch with many other hyperlocal bloggers and I love reading their sites and seeing what they do.
5. How do you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?
I’m not a trained journalist but I like to think I operate within general journalistic principles.
The site has no political affiliation and I write articles from a neutral point of view. I’m fastidious with fact checking and attributing sources.
I predominantly cover local news that the bigger publishers don’t so there’s no real competition.
6. What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?
The importance of the site became apparent when I was sat in a planning consultation and a member of the public asked a question about the village. It turned out they’d only heard about the plans by reading the site.
I’ve been involved in helping a new community group with communication and publicity. They are working really hard to improve the village so I help out where I can.
7. What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?
Traffic has steadily increased over time. I started posting more frequently at the beginning of this year and now get around 3,000 unique page views a month.
8. What has been your biggest challenge to date?
I’m always aware of keeping the content relevant.
There’s not a lot of news in such a small village so it’s very tempting to stray from hyperlocal to local and write about things happening in other areas of Cardiff.
Getting readers to engage and participate is a challenge. I’ve experimented with new ways to get users to generate content and submit news but they haven’t been as successful as I hoped.
There are lots of other ideas I have to try, which is part of the fun really!
9. What story, feature or series are you most proud of?
I stumbled across an American gentleman who has made hundreds of castles out of Lego, including 12 Welsh castles.
One of the castles, Castell Coch (Red Castle in English), is in Tongwynlais and a Cardiff landmark. I published an article featuring all the castles and it was really well received throughout Wales.
The story was picked up by a national paper, which gave the site some more exposure.
Caerphilly Castle, made from 32,000 bricks of Lego
10. What are your plans for the future?
I started getting site sponsorship from local businesses last year and have raised a little bit of money to give back to community projects.
I’m looking into more ways to raise money such as selling merchandise and photographic prints.