Hello once again and welcome to another episod- I mean, another POST about things and whatnot that I am going to talk about. Right now we are going to take a look at something called “Hyperlocal news”. Basically, the concept of hyperlocal news is that it’s a really focused and precise news outlet on a certain topic, community, group, etc. that deals with information, news, and concerns on related topics. This can be something like neighborhood news, a small community news, maybe even some kind of online forum about something in pop culture. Now, this sounds good in theory, a very concise and focused news outlet for a specific topic, but what you may not know is that this news outlet, when in practice, actually doesn’t do as strongly as you might think.
I explored some sites to get a better idea of why these wouldn’t grab attention and gain revenue, but I had some hunches already. I started with an article on a website for Berkeley, California known as Berkeleyside.com. The article felt like a farewell post, the tone, the boasting of how they make a profit, but all in all it wasn’t a cry for help. It was them explaining how they were able to keep their heads above water: journalistic partnerships, ad revenue, and by being generally interesting. Looking at their current page, they seem to have taken a more modern approach by putting their hat in the ring of politics and current events.
I also visited Baristanet.com, about local events and goings on for Montclair, New Jersey. Thematically, it is supposed to be a small down chatter and info page, like a conversation one would have at a local coffee shop. While they explain that they have a small editing and graphic design staff, they pay for their expenses with the ad revenue they draw in. While this page doesn’t seem to be struggling in any way, they are definitely small time but like it that way.
Finally I checked out an interesting site called 55423.info. The number is the area code for Richfield, Minnesota, which is where the site is based. What makes this page more unique than the others is that it’s actually a learning experience. The founder is a journalist that uses the site as a way to give local students a hands on experience in managing, writing, and editing for a website in journalism. The school doesn’t pay for the site, he does not run ads, and he himself pays for the maintenance out of pocket. While he himself secures the funding, he also must compete with an additional local news outlet that showed up several months after he created this one. The struggles with funding are more or less in the back of the issues he focuses on, and is geared more towards helping students get the hands on education they need.
Will all that being said, I want to come back to my theories. At first I had two major ones: I think the sites might be failing because a lack of traffic, and a lack of income. In a sense, I am only partially right on both. First off, of course there is going to be a lack of traffic. The thing about hyperlocal is that they are so specific to a single community for them to expect a lot of traffic from more than that would be unrealistic. As far as lack of income, I am surprised to find out there actually is working sites up without financial despair. The funding mostly comes from partnerships and working ad revenue, so there is stability there.
As far as I could tell, the real issue with hyperlocal was it’s biggest strength too: it’s concentrated audience. If you want to have good local news that pertains and matters to you, it’s important to visit and support these small ‘mom and pop’ businesses of the journalism world. Who knows, maybe if you do well enough at being active in their little community they might even ask you to hop on board.