Directors' blog

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Archive for the ‘blog’ tag

Making of a hyperlocal part six: Measuring your audience – analytics


How to measure, or even IF to measure, what happens on a local website or blog is a much discussed topic among my colleagues at Talk About Local.

Is there any point in analysing the audience behaviours on a website which, by its very nature, is aimed at a very tight-knit group of people? What is the value of having a grip on traffic figures in the case of sites with no ambition to sell advertising or other commercial services?

While I come from a mainstream publishing background where the stats are vitally important in assessing the success and viability of any online initiative, it’s interesting to consider how valuable it is to apply those measures to a community site or neighbourhood blog. Many community publishers operate on the basis of serving a ‘self-fulfilling audience’ i.e. it will grow to a size that is of interest to those who find it useful/existing/interesting etc.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are hyperlocals that are mature in their local markets and looking to be taken seriously by advertisers and it’s widely recognised that there’s a lack of research into audience levels, industry standards and benchmarking in this area – something Nesta’s Destination Local programme is attempting to address.

Personally, I find it useful to analyse the traffic – not simply as a numbers game, but more to spot trends and garner some extra information on what it is users of the site are most interested in so that it can inform the amount of time I spend on one topic above another. Time being my biggest constraint for my hyperlocal publishing activity so, the list below are the measures I use via Google analytics.

I then publish the main findings on the site each month to keep users and contributors up-to-date. Here’s an example of the last one of those updates.

There’s more detail about how to read the analytics on the Google site which is well worth spending some time with so I’ve included links to the relevant pages below.

Page views
Bounce rate
Average time on site
New visits 

To drill down – I find these useful as a content creator to respond in terms of both subjects and formats
Top content
Traffic sources
Devices used

Social metrics
I’d add these to assess some level of engagement:
Comments to blogs post
Twitter followers
Twitter RTs
Facebook likes/members
In putting this together I wondered if Google Plus should be in here now?

With place-based blogs/sites I personally think counting downstream traffic ie. the place the person clicks onto next is valuable as being able to refer a user onto a local source of information eg. the church services or the chemist rota is a valuable activity in its own right that eventually leads the site to be the first go-to destination and therefore long-term loyalty. This is contrary to any web product builder/editor’s instinct as keeping people on your own site (measured by low bounce rate) is a common measure of success as an industry.

* What do you find the most important measure for your website or blog? Any input on how analytics have helped your hyperlocal very welcome here via the comments below.

Written by sarahhartley

June 10th, 2013 at 9:11 am

News co-ops in Leeds, tributes in County Durham and Tad Gram Style in York

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New Year, New Co-Op?
Journalist and blogger John Baron kicks off the new year with some thoughts about co-ops as a business model for a sustainable local news future.

 At Leeds Bloggers he posts:

The whole idea of a community-owned journalism outlet or model does appeal – not least it won’t be run by some of the big corporations that currently rule regional press and it seems to me at least to be an extension of the hyperlocal movement of bloggers, which is so eloquently described in Damian Radcliffe’s excellent Here and Now report for Nesta. Could mutualisation yet prove an answer?

John says he’s ‘intrigued’ by the possibility of setting one up in Leeds with journalists and/or bloggers and asks that anyone interested in having an initial discussion in  confidence to contact him at


Tributes to north east journalist
The Northern Echo reports that retired reporter Dennis Robinson, of Sedgefield, County Durham, has died at the age of 84 following a long illness.

“For six decades, he was a regular contributor to The Northern Echo and its sister publications and was happiest when covering grassroots community news.”


York’s tadgram style video viral
If you thought you could escape the Gangnam Style phenomenon with the dawning of a New Year, spare a thought for Adam Dawson who has found ‘fame’ with his spoof dance video for charity.

He tells the York Press:“It’s hard to even think of 220,000 people [who’ve viewed the clip]. To be going to the supermarket and being in the local shop and have people wanting to have their picture taken with me is surreal.”

Written by sarahhartley

January 2nd, 2013 at 8:42 am

Making a hyperlocal part two: Which platform?

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Having already made some decisions on the type of local site you’re setting up, the first major decision to take is which platform to use. The right platform for you will depend on the activity you intend and considerations such as whether advertising is part of the mix and who will be involved in the creation/management of the content.

For the hyperlocal site that I’m getting started (, the decision was in effect made for me – I’m using because it’s a platform that I’m also working on to develop for independent publishers and so using it for this can help inform that process.

The most commonly used platform for this type of publishing would probably be – for sites which don’t require advertising options – and the self-hosted version for those that do.

But there are plenty of other options depending on your needs. I’ve started this spreadsheet of some of those I’ve come across with details of their particular properties.

Blog platform comparison

Please do feel free to add any others by editing the spreadsheet here:





Written by sarahhartley

October 14th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

#ukgc12 UK Gov Camp day one: A day of fun and thoughtfulness

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Picture by Sharon O'Dea:

The annual unconference for people interested in the way digital tools and technologies can help provide better government services, UK Gov Camp 12, got underway yesterday.

It was an interesting day and inspiring to meet so many enthusiastic and dedicated people who really want to change things – a view of public servants not often thrust into the limelight.

I created this collection of links, tweets, pix, videos and observations from the day using the so-lo-mo platform I’m involved in,

It started as a live blog in the morning but I’ve since added items of interest which I’ve seen in other places in an attempt to capture some of the themes of the day through the eyes of those who were there, plus some of my own input.

I hope it’s useful, if you have links or other content you’d like to see there, please feel free to add to it. (If you’re not yet a member of, you can use this invite code to join:

Listening to many of the conversations yesterday, and particularly the afternoon session about the challenges faced in disseminating relevant news, it struck me that there’s shift in approach being discussed in many quarters, a move away from that traditional  PR route of issuing press releases or relying on established relationships with a handful of journalists.

The new opportunities offered through networks enabled by digital technologies are now becoming apparent in all aspects of comms work and it got me thinking about how a geo-based news platform like might be able to fit into that landscape. I’d be delighted to continue those thoughts and discussions with any Gov Campers – drop me a line at – there’s also more about on the blog, on twitter @n0tice or on Facebook.

Written by sarahhartley

January 21st, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Things to do before 2011 ends, 4th and final: Dig out the top blog posts of the year

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I’m ending the year on something of a landmark for this blog – this is my 1000th post!

I’m hoping wordpress will be baking me a cake or some such reward for my efforts here over the past four years. If you’ve been with me on the journey – thank you :)

Looking back over the past 12 months, the most viewed posts reflects a lot of what I’ve been up to – hyperlocal thoughts, train journeys and football. Yes football!! It was something of a surprise that the most popular single posting in 2011 was the Sheffield Wednesday supporters’ newspaper spoof which is still getting accessed from the forums. I shouldn’t have been surprised really, every web editor knows that football will spike even the most sluggish traffic.

Other interesting things to note – dear old Twitter was the biggest referrer this year (although only slightly ahead of search engines) with search terms to that Terry Henfleet, my name and train wi-fi topping the list.

Here’s the top ten most viewed posts of the year

Home page

Newspaper gets spoofed by Terry Henfleet. Again!

10 Characteristics of hyperlocal

East Coast to stop free wifi

Journalist as gatekeeper: Is that all there is?

Q and A with Jim Brady about, hyperlocal and what’s next

Media ‘ignorant about the north’


Fairydust, forensics and funding: Hyperlocal success at #TAL11

Sailing boats

See you in 2012!

Written by sarahhartley

December 31st, 2011 at 6:06 pm

First thoughts on Quora and hiatus for Scottish media blog

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Blogger Adam Tinworth is someone who’s thoughts it’s wise to pay attention to, so it was interesting to read his opinion on Quora the new QandA platform which had us all in a tizz last week.

“My gut feeling, as I’ve blogged before, is that the Next Big Thing, whatever it turns out to be, won’t be this hyped. And Quora is really hyped right now. Every previous Next Big Thing, from blogging, through Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and more has gone through an extended period of quiet use by a small, but steadily growing pool of users and evangelists, before the real mainstream growth kicks in.”

I can’t help but agree.
My first experiences of Quora have resulted in two (interesting and helpful) answers to a question I asked about hyperlocal funding. Sounds good you might say, but the answers were from two well-informed people already in my Twitter network so I can’t help but feel the information could have been more easily garnered outside of the new service.
I then reversed the experience and answered a question about Delicious. The conversation which ensued (again with an active member of my Twitter network) seemed to resist me being able to continue the thread when a message popped up about participants being unable to make more than two comments – only edit the original one. This rather defeated the pleasure of having more than 140 characters to play with for a conversation.

Like Adam, I won’t dismiss it just yet but, to be truly useful, it will 1. have to be more widely adopted, 2. move me out of the bubble of my existing network and 3. be a bit less bossy about what is and isn’t allowed. (Oh, and the follow back functionality is a dog.)


Sad to see that blogger Shaun Milne is hanging up his, erm, mouse (?) and calling it a day on the Milne Media blog.

“In recent months my post have become fewer and far between as I’ve tried to take a step back to concentrate on other work related projects, and to make less of a nuisance of myself.”

However, he doesn’t completely rule out a return while taking the break in part to concentrate on a charity fundraiser which you can find more about here;

The blog has been one of the main sources of media related news snippets and insider commentary north of the border since 2004 – here’s hoping it’s silence won’t become permanent.

Written by sarahhartley

January 10th, 2011 at 10:06 am

Please note, this blog is not for plunder


Blogging, as we all know, operates on a system of link love, trust and respect for people’s graft. Right?

Well that’s the principle I operate this blog on anyway.

While some of the content I post here, and on my other blogs, is inevitably links to material that others have worked to produce, I do pride myself on creating a certain amount of original content and expect that to be treated in the same way in return.

But sadly, recent experience has shown me that some journalists from commercial publishers don’t play nice, simply taking my content without any acknowledgement of the source – not even a link in payment.

So I’ve decided to spell out my approach and from now on will offer re-production of content published here on the following basis;

  • FREE: Websites and blogs are welcome to syndicate my material using the RSS feeds. (Thanks to and HowDo for their continuing interest and support in doing this.)
  • FREE: Content can be quoted on any website or blog in return for a link and acknowledgement, as under Creative Commons, attribution licence.
  • £50 donation to the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust : Content may be used without attribution. £50 per item. Please do contact me to show proof of donation for which, I thank you!

From now on, failure to treat my original content in this way will result in an invoice for £100 being issued – and followed through.

Written by sarahhartley

April 4th, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Manchester Confidential: Is £60K a year enough?


So the figures finally found their way out – when Manchester Confidential goes (mostly) behind a paywall tomorrow, there’s believed to be 1,300 people who will have paid a subscription for that content.

In Ian Wylie’s report from Saturday’s NUJ conference in London, it emerged the site has got 1,000 people signed up as “friends” i.e. paying £2.50 a month, and 300 digging deeper to be “heroes” and fork out £8.50 monthly.

Update: As can be seen in the comments below, the source of the figures has since informed this blog that these figures were calculated a week before.

So that’s a monthly revenue stream of £2,550 from heroes, £2,500 from friends making a total of £5,050 each month. £60,600 a year.

(Explanations of exactly what readers get for their cash lies here).

Speaking at the conference, the LiverpoolConfidential editor Angie Sammons said the Manchester site currently had 122,000 unique IP adresses in Manchester with the email going out to 70,000 subscribers – 268,000 readers a month.

And the final number of pay subscribers she revealed is a far cry from the anticipated 50-80,000 predicted by  publisher Mark Garner back in November.

But regardless of the number, is it enough? Will advertisers continue to find it a compelling proposition? Perhaps the key to how this will all add up in the long run, is exactly how much content remains outside the paywall to provide a large enough reach for advertisers.

Time will tell – and that time isn’t far off.

Written by sarahhartley

January 17th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Beatblogging – what is it?


There’s been some interesting reaction to the job advertisements put out this week by The Guardian for the project I’m involved in.

Beatblogger isn’t a job title used much here in the UK as yet, and it’s prompted some common questions in the comments section of the initial news story about Guardian local, and elsewhere, which I thought I’d pick up here.

In addition, any potential applicants are invited to put their questions during a forum I’m taking part in about developing journalism roles which will be held next Thursday, October 22 between 1pm and 4pm at

Back to those points;

* Firstly, pay.
Although it’s normal practice for The Guardian not to state pay grades in its job ads (in common with many other news organisations), these are full-time paid positions.

* Are these bloggers, journalists?
All Media Scotland
was one of those which asked if the term “beatblogger” was a new word for journalist. This is a role which has specific attributes and skills used to create a beat blog, a good definition of which is provided here by New York’s Prof Jay Rosen an extract from which states:

“Content-wise, a beat blog presents a regular flow of reporting and commentary in a focused area the beat covers; it provides links and online resources in that area, and it tracks the subject over time.”

For anyone interested in the specifics of what will be entailed, there’s detailed descriptions at the links at the bottom of the ads – this is the one for the Cardiff post, but the descriptions for Leeds and Edinburgh are just the same.

* What about experience?
This job could well appeal to experienced reporters with great contacts from traditional backgrounds but is just as likely to attract people who’ve set up community websites or blogs and have a passion for their locality. Rather than be too prescriptive about background, we’re asking people to demonstrate why they believe they would be successful in the role and how they feel equipped to cover the city.

Any potential applicants with further questions can log on to the forum debate next Thursday, October 22 between 1pm and 4pm at and it would be great to hear from any beatbloggers out there who want to share their experiences or offer any advice to potential applicants.

Written by sarahhartley

October 16th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Response to call yourself a writer meme, erm, no


Having been tagged by journalist, blogger and sometime drinking buddy Louise Bolotin, I thought I better get on with responding to this meme, Call Yourself a Writer.

Had I not been tagged, this is one meme I could have answered with one word – ‘no’. A journalist, yes, but a writer? Not really. I’ve always seen myself more as an intermediary with the writing part being a means to an end.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?
‘So’. It’s the one I have to check back and remove from just about every blog post I write. Verbally, it’s the word “actually” which pops out all the time and which I have to watch out for in audio/video interviews.

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
“Outrage”. Usually merely a device for the journalist to be able to report an issue and get it past dullard news editors by whipping up some frenzy where there was none. I’m sure readers see through it and are perfectly capable of understanding stories which don’t always have polar opposite viewpoints.

What’s your favourite piece of writing by you?
It’s not really a piece of writing in the conventional sense but I claim it as something of a first for its time – an ‘interview’ with Peter Mandelson the second time he resigned in 2001. He would not do any press interviews for the nationals or broadcast, but agreed to come and do a “web chat” with me because it was a way of connecting direct with readers. Due to his Northern Ireland position, my little web office at the Northern Echo had to be checked out by security spooks with ear wires first, then he came in, drank hot water with lemon and we took questions via email and published them straight away online. Not very sophisticated I grant, but it was one way of doing it without having the proper technology for live chat which is available now.

What blog post do you wish you’d written?
The Drudge Report’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. It was a game changer for blogs as places to break news and it’s amazing to think that was in 1998.

Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t written?
I do regret being involved in the make-your-own-cut-out-and keep Ruud Gillet wig (Dreamed up in response to his appointment at Newcastle). Trivial waste of a good broadsheet page. Apologies. ‘nuff said. Move on.

How has your writing made a difference?
What do you consider your most important piece of writing? The sort of community journalism I have a passion for probably isn’t going to change the world in Pullitzer Prize kind of way but, going back to that idea of journalist as intermediary, it can help people gain access to decision makers and connect with power. As a reporter I followed a long campaign involving a Northamptonshire man who had some very rare cancers he was convinced resulted from exposure to pollutants from the tanneries trade. Helping him push the bureaucrats and get some recognition for his case was important. I do sometimes wonder what else might have come from that investigation if we’d had had the benefit of the internet.

Name three favourite words
Sleep. Food. Drink. (I’m pleased by simple things).

And three words you’re not so keen on
Gypsies (usually precedes a thinly disguised piece of racism). Can’t. Goodbye.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
Over the years, heaps of people have inspired me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a role model as such but I’ve always admired war reporters and particularly women working in that field. Katie Adie was a household name when I was studying for my journalism exams and more recently Sue Lloyd-Roberts’ reports on human rights issues are examples of how journalism done well can bring about a better understanding of the world.

What’s your writing ambition?

To communicate effectively.

Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about:
I wish I could find the time to write that book. I probably will at some stage, plenty of notebooks with half-started attempts but in the meantime this blog will have to suffice. Thanks for reading!

Tag time. Here’s five journalists I’ve been impressed by in recent weeks who I hope will also do the meme:

Nigel Barlow

Hannah Waldram

Victoria Raimes

Jessica Best

Adam Westbrook

The rules: If you have time to do this meme, then please link to my original, then link to three to five other bloggers and pass it on, asking them to answer your questions and link to you. You can add, remove or change one question as you go. You absolutely do not have to be what you may think of as a “published” or “successful” writer to respond to this meme, I hope people can take the time to reflect on what their blogging has brought them and how it has been useful to others.

Written by sarahhartley

August 15th, 2009 at 12:18 pm