Big developments in hyperlocal media

Journalist, researcher and hyperlocal guru Damian Radcliffe has written an interesting post on two shots in the arm for hyperlocal media over on the BBC College of Journalism blog.

The post highlights the launch of a free online course (MOOC) in community journalism by Cardiff University which teaches participants the basics of hyperlocal blogging, including accuracy and legals, sustainability and online communities.

I attended the launch of Cardiff’s Centre for Community Journalism in January 2013 – and I’m still excited by this project some 15 months or so later. It could be a catalyst to greater things for the hyperlocal media sector.

What’s really taken me back about the MOOC is the sheer volume of people taking part – 7,000 people from more than 50 countries. Which is astounding.

Whether Damian intended it or not, the phrase ‘shot in the arm’ is, for me, an accurate one. Since those early halcyon days of the early Talk About Local unconferences hyperlocal seems to have lost a bit of traction and/or focus. It’s become mired in talk about financial sustainability, which frankly isn’t relevant in a lot of cases. Hyperlcoal for me has always been about local residents plugging the gaps in the media landscape based on raw passion for their communities.

I think sustainability has really come to the fore partly because more journalists are getting involved in hyperlocal as mainstream media contracts and obviously they need to earn a living.

Certainly where I live in Leeds, the hyperlocal revolution doesn’t really seem to have taken hold in a major way. I’d argue there are fewer blogs in Leeds now than when I was beatblogger on the Guardian Local project which collaborated extensively with the local blogosphere.

In his post, Damian also highlights the recently published Survivors’ Guide to Hyperlocal Media which was published by the innovation agency Nesta as part of its ongoing Destination Local initiative in partnership with North London website Kentishtowner (which itself was recently commended for the second year running at the Newspaper Awards).

The 35-page document offers insights into how to become a trusted local voice, while also addressing important questions such as how to balance editorial aspirations with the need for business development.

And there’s a potential third shot in the arm for hyperlocal coming soon …

Later this month, the results will be announced on the £2.5 million Destination Local hyperlocal media competition with the Technology Strategy Board.

Be interesting to see who’s been successful (and who hasn’t).

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