A toast to the hyperlocal

I was really fortunate this week to have the opportunity to meet with some of the hyperlocal websites that there are around Greater Manchester. The purpose of the meeting was to start discussing ways that we could work together to help each other.

These local independent news and lifestyle websites are developed by a whole variety of people from the seasoned journalist to students or people who just care about the area where they live. During the discussion I was interested to learn about how much support there is locally for the websites. They attract significant numbers of followers who check in to find out the latest details for their area.

This is something I can understand. While I am interested to know about the big stories for the Greater Manchester area, I am more concerned with whether there has been crime in my area, if there are new planning applications, and the events that are taking place at local pubs. They have a great window into local communities and what matters to people.

Public relations and communication professionals haven’t yet really grasped the opportunities that these websites provide in getting information to groups. One of the challenges is that there are many, many local websites and being able to maximise the relationships will require an investment of time, and the best way of dealing with this is to allow local staff to make and develop the connections. If there is a useful discussion from central communication staff then it will pave the way for the local staff to continue discussions. Are communication staff or public relations agencies making the most of these sites. For example, have the local supermarkets found a way to work with the sites that operate in their area? Does the local GP use the hyperlocal websites to share key information? Have other businesses in the area recognised that they can target their local customers?

These sites don’t have to make money, don’t have to adhere to some news agenda and can take a fresh new look at issues. Locally, there are some fabulous examples of people who have made hyperlocal or independent local news websites work well. Inside the M60, Salford Online and Saddleworth News have now become as recognised as many of the local newspapers. They have built a strong local following and have at the heart of some of the biggest stories that have happened. There are also more recent additions from lone individuals including Atherton Online and Fetch Didsbury.

What I love about this new development in communication is that anyone can do it – whether it is a site for general local information, or a site related to a singular local issue. Some basic computer skills together with a passion for the local area are all that is needed.

So let all communication professionals start to value the hyperlocal websites and find ways to work with them. For me the meeting this week was the start of a conversation and working relationship that I want to see develop in the same way that relationships are built with the local media.  Let’s hope that we see them continue to grow and develop to support local communities.

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6 Responses to A toast to the hyperlocal

  1. davidhiggerson says:

    Hi Amanda. Really enjoyed this post. One bit got me thinking, and that was the idea of hyperlocal sites not having a ‘news agenda.’ The inference here is that established media outlets do, and I don’t think that is the case in the vast majority of cases. The nearest most local newspapers, especially weekly newspapers, come to having a news agenda is to think ‘will this interest readers’ and that will be exactly the same for people operating hyperlocal sites.

    I’d also like to shout up for local weekly newspapers – often placed down the queue in the mind of many comms folk in favour of daily newspapers/TV/radio with more demanding deadlines (understandably when it comes to prioritising work) – many would be very open to the sort of relationships you are suggesting for hyperlocal sites, and many would be interested in the same sort of content.

    • amandacomms1 says:

      I agree that local newspapers play an important part in communities – that is where they exist. One of the challenges in the 21st century is that in many communities there isn’t a very local newspaper. When I started as a journalist I was indentured and working on a local newspaper included doing a whole host of things including ‘flower shows’, walking days etc, etc. Unfortunately, because of the pressures on local and regional newspapers the ability to do these things has gone. But we value our local newspapers in Greater Manchester and continue to work with them. I see the hyperlocal sites as a beneficial addition to the mix.

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  3. Nigel Barlow says:

    Just caught up with your post from the sunny heights of Perugia Amanda.

    First of all once again,can I say on behalf of Inside the M60 and I am sure from the other local sites that we welcome your forward thinking approcah to dealing with the new and evolving media landscape.

    I still believe that the process of the provision of local news is still in a rapidly evolving state of affairs but as you know,I strongly believe that Independent sites like ours will play an increasingly important role in providing that content.

    There are three issues that tend to engage people on our site,that is local politics,crime and transport issues and this is where I believe people sites like ours and the others will play an increasingly important part.

    Anyway here’s to a happy and continuous relationship going forward and once again a personal thank you for your innovative approach to the provisiion of news and information for the people of Manchester

  4. mark says:

    A more cynical view of the relationship here would be that hyperlocal websites are less likely to be critical of public bodies. Do any of these sites cover a police force as a whole and hold them to account? I would think they are more likely to report press releases unchallenged. A quick search of the GMP news section and then insidethem60 suggests this is the case. This may be no bad thing, of course … But beware a sudden love for community sites from those with a message to push I say! Saddleworthnews is probably the best example of the skills from journalism combining with a hyperlocal attitude to provide something very special.

    • amandacomms1 says:

      I don’t agree that is the case. I think they print the information given, and in lots of cases will query what happens. Obviously with some stories it is just about issuing the information.

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