Jay Rosen posted a tweet today with a link to an interesting article, with information on an idea that I think every journalist should be aware of. The article, “A Brief History of Hyperlocal News,” was posted by Keith Hopper on his blog yesterday.
As explained in Hopper’s article, the term hyperlocal “generally refers to community-oriented news content typically not found in mainstream media outlets and covering a geographic region too small for a print or broadcast market to address profitably. The information is often produced or aggregated by online, non-traditional (amateur) sources.”
Hyperlocal has been a buzzword on the tip of many journalists’ tongues recently, as more and more organizations have attempted to use the idea of appealing to a hyperlocal audience in an attempt to revitalize interest in struggling media organizations.
As Hopper mentions, however, few have had any major success through hyperlocalizing. Hopper gives some examples of what he considers to be failures on that front.
I would recommend reading the article in its entirety. It gives a pretty thorough history of hyperlocalizing, including lessons learned through failures.
For obvious reasons, making money through hyperlocalizing is a big challenge. As Hopper says, “manually producing local content is expensive,” and the smaller the audience, the less potential there is for advertising dollars.
But I think that eventually someone is going to come up with a hyperlocal site that really works – maybe not on the profit-generating front, but in other ways. For example, I think that hyperlocal sites can be tremendously helpful to bigger media organizations. If a media outlet covering a broad area creates several strategic hyperlocal sites, with the broader media outlet’s name plastered all over them, then the hyperlocal sites could be a great way to direct traffic to the broader site. And until someone comes up with a way to make money off of the hyperlocal sites themselves, just think of how many interns would be willing to build them and produce quality content for cheap…
Speaking of which, I think that media organizations need to wise up and take on as many young interns as they can…and maybe even consider paying them something to keep them where they are. The people inventing the sites and tools that are really taking over our lives are young…really young. Mark Zuckerberg was twenty years old when he launched Facebook. There may be another Zuckerberg out there with a great idea that’s worth millions…wouldn’t you like him or her to be at your media organization when he or she comes up with it? Rather than off pursuing the idea independently because no media organization is ready to take a big risk on someone so young?