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Media release: Extra Newspapers launches new hyperlocal titles

April 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Local media, Newspapers

Image copyright Extra Newspapers

Extra Newspapers have launched the first in a string of new hyperlocal publications today designed to bring community news back to the fore.

The Kettering Extra and The Corby Extra hit news stands this morning with a cover price of 50p and a Wellingborough edition is set to follow on 18 April.

After some 14 months development, Extra Newspapers, which has offices in the Midlands, South East and Lancashire, put out a release last week detailing today’s launch:

Each paper, which is fortnightly, is designed to appeal to the traditional newsprint reader as well as the younger, digital savvy readership. Each one will be wholly dedicated to hyperlocal news – with companies and communities invited to contribute their news, views and event details to their local Extra paper.

The newspapers will have a start-up circulation of 10,500 and a cover price of just 50 pence, bringing readers everything from football results and birth announcements to school news, council facts, events, news and local views.

Stuart Parker, managing director, added:

Corby, a town of 55,000 people had until now no newspaper to call its own. The Corby Extra will give Corby what it wants most of all and that’s a voice across the community.

We intend to truly support local business and with the gradual shift in recent years to high advertising rates, the regional press has made it almost impossible for small businesses to communicate effectively with their target audiences. Extra will also be providing value for money advertising rates, so that businesses can quite simply afford to advertise and communicate.

 

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Finding the value in Guardian local ‘experiment’

Yesterday the Guardian announced it was winding down its local blogging “experiment” Guardian Local.

The platform, which ran three blogs for Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh, was first launched in March 2010, described at the time by Guardian editor in chief Alan Rusbridger as a “tiny toe in local web water”.

Guardian Leeds

But – continuing with the metaphor – it seems the waters may have been too cold, as the Guardian decided to start winding down the sites this week. The decision drew much disappointment from readers, expressed in both the comments section on this Guardian article, and across social media.

Editor of the project Sarah Hartley used Storify to bring together some of the reaction on Twitter. And speaking of Twitter there is already a hashtag campaign gathering pace on the site in particular reference to the Cardiff service.

On his blog Andy Dickinson contributes his thoughts, turning the debate onto understanding the value of the “beatbloggers” behind each site.

No, I’m sure that the Guardian has learned loads and will see the benefit. I’m sure they understand how to run a crowd now.

I’m sure they see the value in having someone on the ground. They must see the potential of new technology in having faster, targeted and responsive journalism. It even strengthened their brand – albeit in a passive way.

So a lot for the Guardian to be proud of. But the failure of any experiment comes from how you use the results not the experiment itself. And they’ll fail if they take the results and don’t keep the hyperlocal team.

… The truth is that the value of the Guardian local communities rests with them; their work and their relationship building. The unique nature of each area can’t be homogenised in to a broad model. The people who are upset to see the sites go didn’t have a relationship with the Guardian – the Guardian is the bastard that broke their realtionship up!

You can’t just transplant the Guardian Cardiff model anywhere. You could put Hannah or John or Michael anywhere and they’d use that experience. But you might also lose some of their passion and, with the best will in the world, there would be little or no reason for their Guardian Local audiences to follow them.

And so, Dickinson goes on to say, hyperlocal is not a model that large media organisations “can ever get right”. The impact of the closure of Guardian Local on the perceived future of hyperlocal journalism also formed part of paidContent’s reaction to the news:

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.

In the latest re-emergence of the hyperlocal hype curve, some pundits have even been pitching the paradigm to journalism students as the rock-star, enterprise-journalism career to seek out, in an industry where graduate job vacancies have dried up.

GNM’s decision may be one more indication that there is no future for industrialised “hyperlocal” journalism. At least its staff were salaried, trained professionals.

But the publisher says it will “integrate communities and topics into our wider site coverage wherever possible” and versions of the idea live on through sites like Northcliffe Media’s LocalPeople, networks like AOL’s Patch, Scotland’s good-looking STV Local and the imminent new UK government-sanctioned local TV network.

Some consolation to the faithful – GNM is also aiming to secure its future at the international, not local, level, by courting a US audience to sell as advertiser scale. Meanwhile, the many independent, volunteer-run hyperlocal blogs which had already existed prior to each of these exponents will go on publishing, perhaps buoyed by the qualitative, if not commercial, success of Guardian Local.

But there could still be a future for hyperlocal and the Guardian in the areas reached by its local project, in one form or another. Writing in the comments section of her own article on the Guardian, head of digital engagement Meg Pickard said one potential way forward could be for communities in the affected areas to raise funds to keep the project going, or carry on with the blogs themselves and keep the legacy going.

On that note, in conversation with editors here earlier, an interesting idea was mooted: would any of the local communities or individuals affected be interested in carrying on the Cardiff/Leeds/Edinburgh blogs? Or fundraising a sum to enable us to continue?

If we could find an alternative – community-supported? – funding model, that could extend the local project…. Worth pondering? Any thoughts?

Stumping up a bit of cash by way of pledging support (rather than full-on funding) to the Guardian Local site is not out of the question for Matt Edgar in Leeds, who writes on his blog that he’d be happy to commit the value of his print subscription to a citizen-run news service in the area “that offers quality writing with a determinedly local focus” – if 35 other local people will do the same, he says.

The Guardian is “winding down” its Guardian Local pilot including the successful Leeds blog. I think this is a mistake.

In just a short time John Baron and Sarah Hartley have created a service that gives a new and authentic voice to the UK’s sixth largest city. They’ve proven the value of a professional beatblogger who nurtures and complements the wider network of local bloggers.

… And as I wondered what to do, it struck me that I already pay the Guardian £23.32 per month to subscribe to the print edition of the (London-based) paper. What if that money went directly to supporting, in Mike’s words, “quality writing with a determinedly local focus”? And how many (or how few) committed subscribers would it take to make a service sustainable?

Back of an envelope, 36 print subscribers pay the Guardian £10,000 per year. It wouldn’t fund a whole beatblogger but it’s certainly enough to get the ball rolling. If you subscribe to the Guardian (or indeed any other daily paper) in Leeds would you consider switching that spend to a citizen-run news service? I would, and so far seven other people have joined me on Pledgebank.

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New focus for relauched TBD.com and WJLA.com

Local news and community website for Washington DC TBD.com and its sister site WJLA.com are planning to relaunch next week, following the downsizing of TBD.com in February.

In a post on TBD.com outlining the changes, it is said the new WJLA.com will offer stories from regional crime, weather and transportation reports and in-depth looks at health and medicine to features on big national and international stories.

TBD.com on the other hand will look through information from news sources across the area and offer them up alongside original reporting “on the area’s arts and entertainment scene, news, crime, sex and gender, groceries and transportation”.

Earlier this year Journalism.co.uk reported that TBD.com was shedding most of its staff after just six months and would stop most of its general news and sports coverage.

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#ijf11: ‘Innovation is about about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks’

April 18th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Events, Hyperlocal, Local media

Journalism conferences, as with all conferences I suspect, are always vulnerable to least a bit of tiresome industry navel-gazing, if not a lot. Even when they’re good, which the International Journalism Festival was, there is inevitably a lot of talking.

But on the last day of #ijf11 there was a welcome antidote in amongst the talk to round things off, a coherent message from several of the panelists: go out and do things, try things, find out what works. This particular session looked innovation in news, specifically at what it takes to go from having a good idea for a news site, to getting off the ground, to staying solvent.

Nigel Barlow trained as an accountant. He worked in small businesses for 20 years before he decided it was enough, and packed it in for a journalism course at UCLan.

Shortly after graduating Barlow co-founded Inside the M60, a local news site for the Manchester area. He told the #ijf11 panel that people need to start worrying less about the traditional journalism routes and start trying new things.

It’s a difficult time for journalism, but difficult times tends to bring out the best innovation. Don’t just look at the traditional routes, if you’ve got an idea just get on and do it. It’s abut throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

A model example of getting on with it, Nigel was covering news for Inside the M60 before it even had a website.

Before the site was even there, we started to report on news in the area using Twitter, and created momentum for the site a few months before it launched.

We actively made connections with what I would call the local movers and shakers, MPs and businessmen for example.

We got a couple of big interviews with local MPs as well, which helped a lot at the beginning, and we were the first on the scene to cover a large gas explosion in Newham and were covering it live from the scene, after which we put about 1,500 followers in a couple of days.

We didn’t have a lot of money and we still don’t, so we have to make the most of free tools. But we got started by using social media and basically making a big noise on Twitter.

Using Barlow’s site as one example, Google News executive Madhav Chinnappa said the important thing was “the barriers to starting a news organisation have fallen”.

Fifteen years ago, starting a news organisation from scratch would have been impossible, but we have three people on this panel who have done exactly that.

And Chinnappa echoed Barlow’s sentiments on just getting on with it.

Google’s take on this is experimentation and interaction. Go out, try it, try it again, see what works.

He acknowledged it was difficult for smaller sites like Inside the M60 to get a decent ranking on Google news, and they would inevitably be dwarfed by the big global stories.

We know that if you’ve got a local news story that no one else has that it can be difficult to get out there. If you go to Google News and you don’t see an Inside the M60 story, that’s because they are getting outweighed by the likes of Fukushima and Libya.

And he acknowledged Google News was not giving proper due to certain types of content.

We’re not as good as we should be around video, or image galleries. And we’re almost playing catch up with the news organisations as they innovate, whether that’s graphics or slideshows.

But he also said there isn’t a magic formula to cracking Google, and argued that original, creative content was still important.

I think there is this myth about getting the technical aspect just right, and hitting on a formula and then you will suddenly be great on Google.

I don’t want to sound cheesy, but having good original content is still very important.

I spoke to Nigel Barlow after the session about making money as a local news startup:

Listen!

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Knight Foundation gives $3.14m to local media projects

Niche and hyperlocal news sites in the US are to receive $3.14 million in funding from the Knight Foundation as part of its Community Information Challenge.

The money will be divided up into grants aimed at encouraging greater investment in media-related projects by community foundations, whose funding is matched by Knight.

Receivers of the grants this year will include the Alaska Community Foundation for the Alaska Public Telecommunications project which hosts hyperlocal blogs and virtual community ‘think-tanks’ on issues such as arts and culture; ACCESS News, a website for the deaf community and West Anniston Today in Alabama, which reports on industrial pollution in that area.

The full list of community foundations and supported projects can be found here.

Hatip: paidCotent

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New US hyperlocal Twitter network using zip codes to aggregate news

A new Twitter network could be about to change the face of local news gathering.

Twitzip is designed to share ‘hyperlocal’ news based on users’ zip codes. American creators Nathan Heinrich and Aaron Donsbach created accounts for nearly all of the zip codes in the US back in 2008 with the idea of building a network that would harness the knowledge of local residents and allow them to share news by tweeting from an account for their area.

As we analyzed Twitter’s potential, we realized the one location-based handle that everyone knows is their zip or postal code. We thought it would be a waste if Twitter zip code handles or ‘TwitZips’ were owned by tens of thousands of different people with tens of thousands of different uses. Furthermore, we thought TwitZips might be valuable for networking local citizens together. This was the start of TwitZip.

According to a statement on the network’s website, the service is currently focused on hyperlocal news, blogs, and crime, but will soon integrate weather and government alerts.

If successful, TwitZip could prove a happy hunting ground for local journalists tracking breaking news.

For more details, visit www.twitzip.com and www.hyperlocalblogger.com

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Future of news innovation in the US is coming from outside of journalism

Martin Moore is director of the Media Standards Trust. This post first appeared on his blog.

Last week’s Future of News and Civic Media conference organised by the Knight Foundation in Boston (#fncm) was that rare thing – a #futureofnews conference where I came away feeling quite inspired and with a renewed optimism about the future of news (though not as we’ve known it).

In particular, I learnt that there are growing numbers of people in the States who have moved beyond the increasingly circular debates about how to sustain the incumbent news industry. Instead, they are working on lots of projects that use the internet and mobile to provide the public with timely information, in an accessible way. In other words, deliver what journalism did – or was meant to – deliver, without calling it journalism.

Take, for example, this year’s Knight News Challenge Winners (of which Paul Bradshaw tweeted “Very impressed… easily the strongest year yet”). Only one of the twelve winners is directly focused on addressing the travails of the existing news industry – and even this in a very non-traditional way. PRX StoryMarket will provide a way for the public to pitch and pay for news stories on US public radio. It is based on the ‘spot.us‘ model (a Knight winner in 2008), but focused on radio.

Nine others (making up over 80 per cent of the prize in terms of funding) are about enabling and enhancing information flows within communities and hardly mention the word ‘journalism’.

Citytracking will “make municipal data easy to understand with software that allows the users to transform web data into maps and graphics” (by the renowned Stamen Design – see this map for example).

The Cartoonist will create a free tool that allows people to produce cartoon-like current event games

Local wiki will “help people learn and share community news and knowledge through the creation of local wikis”. The two young guys who won the award started a local wiki in Davis, California six years ago which has grown to be the biggest media source in the town.

GoMap Riga will “inspire residents to become engaged in their community by creating an online map where people can browse and post their own local news and information”. Again, this is about people – the community – putting up and reading content about their neighbourhood (run by a tremendous Latvian duo – Kristofs Blaus and Marcis Rubenis).

Front Porch Forum will help residents connect with “their community by creating open-source software for neighbourhood news”. Essentially micro local private sites based around a handful of blocks.

Stroome allows people to edit video online, for free, within their browser.

CitySeed will ‘develop mobile applications that enable people to geotag ideas for improving neighbourhoods’. The example they give is of someone geotagging a location for a community garden.

Tilemapping will enable residents to ‘learn about local issues by creating a set of easy-to-use tools for crafting hyperlocal maps’.

WindyCitizen’s real time ads will ‘help online start-ups generate revenue and become sustainable by creating enhanced software that produce real-time ads’. This may well help journalists and the news industry, but notice there’s no mention of news outlets, just ‘online start-ups’.

Of the final two, one enhances traditional reporting (Order in the Court 2.0), and the other will use social media to report on a US battalion in Afghanistan (One-Eight).

And it wasn’t just the Knight News Challenge winners that eschewed traditional ideas of journalism. Most of the conference was spent talking about new media tools that served a public purpose – or “civic media” as its termed in the US. News is a part of this, but only in the sense that there is a public value to news.

We saw a demo by SourceMap – a site that helps you map where things come from and what they are made of; and of boy.co.tt – a site that makes consumer boycotts much more targeted. We were introduced to streetblogs – a ‘daily news source, online community and political mobilizer for the Livable Streets movement’; seeclickfix – like MySociety’s fixmystreet; transparencydata.com from the Sunlight Foundation; groundcrew.us – that uses GPS and mobile communication to coordinate volunteering, events, political canvassing etc.; and many other sites and services that enhance communication, focus citizen activism, bring people closer to public authorities, and fulfil those perennial twin goals of greater transparency and accountability.

There is lots of development already being done in the US with public data. In Boston, the release of real time transport data by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in November 2009 generated a slew of creative hacking (see this Wall Street Journal piece). The same is now happening in New York. There is also an open wiki for helping collaboration and gathering best practice at http://wiki.openmuni.org/.

Much of the new development is emerging from US universities, such as MIT. At the MIT Media Lab’s Center for the Future of Civic Media, for example. It defines civic media as “any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents. Civic media goes beyond news gathering and reporting”.

We in the UK are now expecting ‘a tsunami of data’ to flow from government thanks to the Big Society declaration (including a new ‘right to data’). Some people have begun using the data for development – such as the live train map for the London underground. But it is well worth casting our eyes across the Atlantic – we can learn alot from current developments in the US.

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David Higgerson: 10 ideas for hyperlocal websites

June 8th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Local media

David Higgerson, head of multimedia at Trinity Mirror Regionals, has been researching the relationship between local newspapers and their websites and independent, hyperlocal websites and blogs. His 10 suggestions adapt some lessons learned by local papers to hyperlocal publishers wanting a bigger audience and also look at how closer relationship could be forged by ‘traditional’ local media outlets and new sites. The ideas include:

Weather: There’ s a reason why newspapers spend a fair bit of money on weather for their newspapers – people want it, and the more local the better. That’s good news for hyperlocal sites, because widgets such as the ones from the Met Office make that a quick win for you.

And:

Nostalgia: The old newsroom joke that nostalgia isn’t what it used to be couldn’t be more wrong – it’s as popular now as it always has been. Again, a good working relationship with the local newspaper (and its big archive) would help here – but delving into the archive section of the local library is another alternative.

Full post at this link…

David Higgerson will be speaking as part of Journalism.co.uk’s panel on grassroots and social journalism at Friday’s BBC College of Journalism and Polis Value of Journalism conference.

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Digital Strategy: Why Camden council is moving into hyperlocal websites

June 3rd, 2010 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Local media

Thoughtful piece explaining why Camden Council, with the help of community media and communications project Talk About Local, is planning to launch some hyperlocal websites to give local residents “a voice online” and allow the council to encourage them to speak about issues in their communities, without necessarily controlling that conversation.

Talk About Local founder Will Perrin explains the work TAL is doing with Camden Council far more eloquently in this video. But it’s interesting to consider how such developments might affect the local media landscape, especially with many UK newspaper groups investing in ‘hyperlocal’ networks? Will there be resistance to such plans from local media, as has been the case with council-run newspapers; or is there a space for these websites alongside local news media, which as Perrin suggests will also cover civic issues and news?

Full post at this link…

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Media Decoder: US Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund local journalism

March 26th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Editors' pick

America’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has pledged funding for seven new regional reporting projects in an effort to counter the decline in local journalism and original reporting nationwide.

The projects will reportedly be collaborative efforts between public radio and TV stations.

The Local Journalism Centers, as they are being called, will each hire teams of reporters and editors, as well as community outreach managers, to report on an issue of regional relevance, including the reinvention of the industrial upper Midwest economy, efforts in upstate New York to attract innovative businesses, and agribusiness in the Plains.

Full story at this link…

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