Monday, February 21, 2011

GUEST POST Can hyperlocal news sites be the future of journalism?

Niall Sullivan is the editor of Market Harborough People.

For many years I have wanted to be a journalist one way or the other. I imagined working on a top newspaper or magazine reporting on world events or, as I had planned for many years, reporting on football matches.

However, after three years of university my eyes were opened to the changing world of the media industry. Stories of newspapers cutting staff numbers were starting to become a regular occurrence. Sub-editors were some of the first to go, leaving journalists less time to leave the office and find stories, as they now had to edit their own work.

With this squeeze on the number of journalists working at newspapers and magazines it was becoming obvious that it would be a lot tougher than I thought to break into this very competitive industry.

It is not all doom and gloom though. A new form of news website has been growing in popularity over the past few years. Hyperlocal news sites have been popping up all over the country, concentrating on the news that matters in their local community.

Journalist Mark Glaser says that “Hyperlocal news is the information relevant to small communities or neighbourhoods that has been overlooked by traditional news outlets.” Many people have taken this concept and created their own news sites, with original content being displayed.

I saw this at first hand while at university. My friend Josh Halliday set up SR2 Blog, which is an outstanding piece of work in terms of content produced and the way that it is set up. He splits the news between different neighbourhoods and reports on such matters as community meetings and sports matches. He focuses on the areas that people want to read and discuss, and that is key to what these websites are about.

Another site that has impressed me is Set up by three students who struggled to find work after leaving university, it has a readership of 15,000 and has even launched an Iphone application. It was started only in May last year and is already providing strong competition for the local newspaper, the Lincolnshire Echo.

The final example I am going to give is one that is very close to my heart. Northcliffe Media have launched over 150 Local People sites across the UK, and are due to launch more in the very near future. The main selling point of these sites are that they aren’t just a platform for the journalist running them, but also give the opportunity for members to upload news, discussions and events themselves. These sites give the means for people to become ‘citizen’ journalists, providing news content that matters most to them and discussing issues which surround the main stories in a town.

I run Market Harborough People and after a month I feel that is coming along nicely. After just one month the site has had just under 1300 unique visitors and over time I think this number will go up significantly as the locals find out the potential of what the site can do to promote issues and news in Market Harborough.

With a media giant such as Northcliffe beginning to invest large amounts of money in hyperlocal sites, then we could all be looking at a different landscape for the places we read the news in future years. They certainly have potential to be a significant part of local news coverage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No, most places are just too booooring.