Engaging readers with hyperlocal content: A do or die scenario for newspapers
Ofcom recently revealed that nine out of ten UKadults regularly consume some form of local news, information or other content. The same report shows that one in five Brits use community websites at least once a month, with a third visiting such websites more regularly than two years before[i].
With national and international news often easier to access than local news, some newspapers have started to make changes to how news is gathered and reported in an attempt to meet the public’s thirst for news about where they live. For example, the South London Press segmented its coverage into small areas of the South Londondistrict so that individual publications focused on a small area. One month after making this change, sales shot up by 44%[ii].
The Guardian has also placed a stake in the hyperlocal ground with its social publishing platform, N0tice. The online platform uses the Guardian’s large user base to crowd source hyperlocal information[iii].
Although the strategies implemented by the South London Press and the Guardian may differ, they highlight the importance for the press to adapt to the changing media landscape. Unfortunately for many papers, it’s a do or die scenario; without taking action and reviewing how news is published and what news is reported, local press will struggle to survive as revenues from advertising and paper sales dwindle and overheads grow.
Local media have really struggled to adapt to the impact of new technologies and the internet, and many local papers still rely on the print edition to bring in revenue.
Many of us now turn to the web to stay abreast of what’s going on in our local area and globally. With smartphones commonplace, it’s not surprising that the main way that one in ten (13%) people in the UK access news is via mobile apps or the mobile web.
In addition to the public’s changing media consumption habits, the barriers to entry for publishing news have changed considerably too. Anyone with an internet connection can broadcast their views to a potentially global audience by creating a website or blog, posting a message on Twitter or even uploading a video to YouTube. This has led to the creation of hyperlocal community news sites appearing in many areas of the country.
Far from being a threat, these new ways of reporting news offer local media an opportunity to reach a younger audience, which has been a key challenge for many local newspapers in recent years.
This in turn opens up an opportunity to generate new revenue by offering hyperlocal advertising to both local businesses and larger companies that wish to target people living in your local area. According to the Kelsey Group, local online advertising is expected to reach more than $35 billion by 2014, with that figure expected to grow higher over the coming years[iv].
In order for hyperlocal news to be successful, it’s important to have the community on your side. Whereas a print paper may be the best way to get through to older readers, creating a mobile app or sharing news stories on Facebook or Twitter may be the best way to reach young people and encourage them to get involved by commenting on or ‘liking’ the news stories you are publishing. Equally, it’s important to remember that not all of your readers may be regular web users.
Another effective way to encourage the community to get involved is to publish articles by guest contributors. This could be a great opportunity for local business people, politicians, or even stay-at-home parents to express their views and encourage discussion in the community. Plus, with many hyperlocal news outlets operating with very small teams it can be a good way of generating relevant and interesting content, without needing too many man hours.
Photography is another great way to bring together a community. Hyperlocal news outlets could encourage readers to send in pictures of local events or picturesque scenes from the local area by holding photography competitions and publishing the best entries. For example, a red squirrel in the garden or children building a snowman. A small prize could be given to the person who took the best photograph to encourage people to send in pictures.
As another option media can use a solution like Scoopshot, a mobile app and related website that offers media access to hyperlocal photographs and videos taken by people in their area using the app. Reporters can search for photos or videos taken in a specific location, or tagged with specific keywords, and purchase images showing local news as it happens.
A hyperlocal future
With demand for more meaningful, local news growing there is a great opportunity for local media to take advantage of this by offering readers more hyperlocal news coverage. However in order for local media to make a success of this, it’s vital that they make use of the platforms and technologies that are available to them. Adopting more innovative ways of publishing, such as mobile apps, microsites, and social networks, can help local media reach a greater audience, whilst retaining the small community feel that makes hyperlocal news interesting and meaningful to readers.
Niko Ruokosuo is CEO of Scoopshot.
[iii] Source: The Guardian, 20 March 2012: http://www.guardian.co.uk/info/2012/mar/20/n0tice-launch
[iv] Source: The Next Web, 3 May 2011: http://thenextweb.com/location/2011/05/03/hyperlocal-ads-are-here-were-livin-la-vida-local/