Tag Archives: ultra local

2011: the UK hyper-local year in review

In this guest post, Damian Radcliffe highlights some topline developments in the hyper-local space during 2011. He also asks for your suggestions of great hyper-local content from 2011. His more detailed slides looking at the previous year are cross-posted at the bottom of this article.

2011 was a busy year across the hyper-local sphere, with a flurry of activity online as well as more traditional platforms such as TV, Radio and newspapers.

The Government’s plans for Local TV have been considerably developed, following the Shott Review just over a year ago. We now have a clearer indication of the areas which will be first on the list for these new services and how Ofcom might award these licences. What we don’t know is who will apply for these licences, or what their business models will be. But, this should become clear in the second half of the year.

Whilst the Leveson Inquiry hasn’t directly been looking at local media, it has been a part of the debate. Claire Enders outlined some of the challenges facing the regional and local press in a presentation showing declining revenue, jobs and advertising over the past five years. Her research suggests that the impact of “the move to digital” has been greater at a local level than at the nationals.

Across the board, funding remains a challenge for many. But new models are emerging, with Daily Deals starting to form part of the revenue mix alongside money from foundations and franchising.

And on the content front, we saw Jeremy Hunt cite a number of hyper-local examples at the Oxford Media Convention, as well as record coverage for regional press and many hyper-local outlets as a result of the summer riots.

I’ve included more on all of these stories in my personal retrospective for the past year.

One area where I’d really welcome feedback is examples of hyper-local content you produced – or read – in 2011. I’m conscious that a lot of great material may not necessarily reach a wider audience, so do post your suggestions below and hopefully we can begin to redress that.

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Opportunities for local news blogs: Trends in Blogging

In the last year or so there have been a number of new blog / news sites developing which provide commentary for a geographically identified area, covering politics but also giving a more rounded view of life in the area.

The site which has drawn my attention recently is The Lichfield Blog, which I mention on the Wardman Wire or on Twitter (follow me to keep up to date) from time to time. There are examples of sites with a similar ethos established for some time, including some personal blogs, and I’d mention Londonist and Dave Hill’s Clapton Pond Blog (Hackney), but also sites such as Created in Birmingham (Birmingham Arts, mainly) and Curley’s Corner Shop (South Tyneside).

Some areas have a range of local blogs. The tiny Isle of Thanet, for example, has Bignews Margate, Thanet Life and Thanet Online, in addition to the more idiosyncratic Thanet Coast Life, Eastcliff Richard and even Naked in Thanet. It’s worth noting that – once again – this set of blogs are all edited by men.

And if you think that Thanet is small to have all those local blogs, try the Plight of Pleasley Hill, an ultra-local blog specifically created to foster community in an area of 3 or 4 streets in the Nottinghamshire village of Pleasley Hill, near Mansfield. I did a podcast interview with Mark Jones, who has triggered the project, for the Politalks podcast. One interesting point is how the creation of a website has helped “institutionalise” a small group internally, but also how it can help externally in the process of persuading large bureaucracies (e.g., the local council) to engage with the group.

Some of those sites have political stances, and some don’t. The common factor is that they provide coverage of local life and grounded politics, and don’t pay unnecessary attention to the Westminster Punch and Judy show.

Occasionally “ultra-local” has been used to refer to areas the size of a London Borough, or a provincial city. I’d suggest that we need to think in *much* smaller areas. I wonder if the one-horse-town newspaper of settlers’ America, but written by local people for themselves, is where we are going to end up, and then with sites covering larger communities, areas and specialist themes which are able to draw an audience.

I’d suggest that there is also a new opportunity opening up for these independent commentary and reporting sites due to a pair of current trends:

  • The drive by national media sites to find new ways of persuading their readers to pay for parts of their web content – pay-walls, charges for special services and anything else they can dream up. As the editor of an independent “politics and life” commentary site with a number of excellent contributors, I can’t wait for the age of “Pay 4 Polly” to arrive.
  • The continuing liquidation of our local newspapers and regional media.

Locally focused blogs with a more rounded coverage may provide an answer to consistent criticisms made of “the political blogosphere”:

  • Political bloggers only do partisan politics (which is wrong, but it can sometimes look as if it is true).
  • There is too much coverage of the Westminster Village (which is right, but someone has to do it, and it is the place where many decisions are made).

I think group blogs with varied teams of contributors may be best placed to provide a decent level of coverage and draw a good readership, while competing effectively with other media outlets. That is a trend we have seen in the political blog niche over several years – the sites which have established themselves and maintain a position as key sites have developed progressively larger teams of editors, and provided a wider range of commentary and services.

A team of contributors allows a site to benefit from the presence of real enthusiasts in each area of reporting, from the minutiae of the Council Meetings to Arts Events at the local galleries.

I’m developing a list of sites aiming to rounded provide coverage of a defined local area, town, or community. If you run a good one, or know of one, please could you drop me a line via the Contact Form on the Wardman Wire. Alternatively, use the form below:

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(Note: if you want to know more about local news blogs in general rather than what I think can be done with them, the go-to place is Talk About Local.)

Letter to Govt pt5: Opportunities for “ultra-local” media services

The following is the fifth of a series of responses to the government inquiry into the future of local and regional media. Andy Price looks at the opportunities for ultra-local media services. Blog comments will be submitted to the inquiry as well. If you wish to add a blog post to the submission please add a link to one of the OJB posts – a linkback will be added at the end.

Opportunities for “ultra-local” media services

Over the last few years one of the few, if not the only positive development in the regional press has been the dramatic growth of “ultra-local” or hyper local news. Often this is in the form of online participatory journalism, mixing traditional professionally produced news with a wide range of user generated content.

This has two major benefits. It grows significant traffic to newspaper websites, offering vital opportunities for revenue generation and develops the civic and democratic role of the media by allowing new avenues for discussion and debate, enhancing the local public sphere and maintaining a plurality of perspectives. It also widens and flattens the ‘market’ of news production, creating a new environment that integrates citizens as news producers in an entirely original and empowering way.

Looking at the existing geographical franchises of most regional publishers it is often the case that the local newspaper website is the only local digital platform that offers both participation and discussion of issues of civic interest. As well as the independent coverage of issues of relevance and significance to the citizen. Continue reading