In a recent blog post, we looked at the fragmentation in the supply of local news that has led to the rise of budding publishers producing their own news content. These ‘citizen journalists’ are people who have taken advantage of the freedom of the Internet to publish news content on their local community using social media, blogs, forums and websites.
By definition, citizen journalism can encompass something as simple as a Tweet about a traffic collision or a Tumblr post on a local funfair published by a nameless member of the public. But citizen journalists are not to be overlooked.
Among them, are hyperlocal news websites dedicated to compiling and publishing good content that is both informative and valuable to consumers. These are often run by former journalists, community groups or bodies passionate about local issues – and no matter how big or small the story – they are important contributors to the supply of local news.
The problem is not everyone knows they exist. And for those that don’t, they are not always easy to find. It would take a specifically worded Google search or a shared link from a Facebook friend for new users to come across sites like these, and even then consumers are at the mercy of algorithms that connect them to their geographical area of interest.
Finding hyperlocal news websites has been aided by sites like Local Web List, which offers a directory of hyperlocal websites displayed in a user-friendly map. It means local news sites that the consumer mightn’t have even known existed are just a click away.
But as usable as directories like this are, they too have their limitations for consumers. The process of accessing a directory, finding map locations, selecting websites and discovering relevant news stories within those, is a long-winded one for someone who wants a quick news update on the bus to work. Not to mention the process of elimination for areas with more than one hyperlocal news website. Users may need to invest time in several sites before they find one with the up-to-date content they want. Not exactly the slick process we’ve come to expect with online consumption.
On the flip side, there’s also the problem of areas that aren’t covered by hyperlocal news sites. At a glance, the map on Local Web List shows no coverage for areas in the North East and Cornwall, and parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Whether that’s due to the lack of producers in those areas or deficiencies in the directory’s resources, it excludes consumers in certain areas from accessing local news coverage.
Then, of course, there’s the issue that many of these hyperlocal websites have out-of-date or irrelevant content. Some simply offer community notice boards or lists of local events, rather than detailed, written articles. All of these hindrances in the process of sourcing good hyperlocal news material add to that fragmentation of local news we’ve already discussed.
Yet there are hyperlocal sites among these that excel in the content they provide. News is updated daily, content is well written, facts are checked and sources are legitimate. And sites like these – on face value – seem every bit as competent as local newspaper websites in delivering an engaging user experience. In future blog posts, we’ll profile a number of these sites to show the quality of hyperlocal content available – if you know where to look.
And these sites aren’t just offering good experiences for consumers. They’re a place for local businesses to get listed, advertise and promote their events, offering a crucial channel for small enterprises in an ever-globalising world.
Ultimately, hyperlocal news websites prove there is still a need for local news supply. Local journalism isn’t dead. But how we find it and consume it is changing.
Bundle will ensure the growing hyperlocal news sector gets the attention and readership it deserves by connecting work created by hyperlocal producers with the demand from local news readers.