Mashup* ran an interesting event last Friday on the ‘hyperlocal’ agenda. I have been merrily using the term ultralocal when in fact hyperlocal has apparently been trademarked in the USA for local news beneath the radar of the conventional media. There was a crowd of thirty or so software developers and investors interested in how to make money out of ultralocal or hyperlocal news. As far as i could make out, there were only two or three hyperlocal content creators there – me, James Hatts from SE1 and the engaging Walid Al Saqqaf of TrustedPlaces.
I did a pitch on Kings Cross and disappointed many by suggesting that there was no way to monetise this sort of thing. If you are ultralocal or hyperlocal enough to be interesting to your community you are almost by definition serving an audience niche too small to be funded by advertising. Kevin Harris who animated the event extremely well seems to concur.
There is a paradox for local news – it can’t support its industrial era costs in a world where interest in news is moving online. But at the same time conventional local news isn’t interesting enough to people because it isn’t local enough. So it faces a lose-lose situation – to cut costs (and still broadcast or print) it has to concentrate production at a regional level and so is less interesting to its audience. Communities lose out as they lose an albeit imperfect voice.
With only a few exceptions, it is hard to see how solo ultralocal or hyperlocal sites can support a paid member of staff (at the very lowest £25k inc overheads). So unless new sources of funding arise, a conventional paid for journalist model looks unlikely at an ultralocal level. The only way to gather hyperlocal news for an industrial era news model is by tapping into a volunteer base to write news for you. Which is what seems to be happening in Teeside according to Roy Greenslade. Trinity Mirror seem to be attaching volnteer driven hyperlocal model to a traditional news cost model – which reminds you a bit of trad. bookshops attaching online businesses to their trad. model – it was entirely web-based competitors that prevailed.
For more on the Trinity Mirror plans for hyperlocal go to Sly Bailey’s recent speech here and scroll through to 11 minutes 30 seconds in. Sly claims the hyperlocal sites have created five spin off print products. She also describes geo-tagged news running in beta on the Liverpool Echo site.