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Just published: Engaging Heritage, Engaging Communities

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We’ve just received a very crisp copy of Engaging Heritage, Engaging Communities which Julian has contributed a chapter to.

His chapter is titled Museums and the Symbolic Capital of Social Media Space and joins an expert list of contributions to a volume which forms part of the Heritage Matters series. It is a series of edited and single-authored volumes which addresses the whole range of issues that confront the cultural heritage sector facing the global challenges of the 21st century.

In their introduction to the book, editors Bryony Onciul, Michelle L Stefano and Stephanie Hawke explain that the book first started its journey in 2009 and followed on from a conference held in Newcastle.

The two-day conference sparked discussions on heritage, museums and community engagement that, over the years, have influenced and shaped this volume.

The book is available from this Friday (27th Jan).

Written by sarahhartley

January 21st, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Posted in Culture

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Has the time come for a hyperlocal representative body?

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Should the hyperlocal sector have a representative body? If so, what would it do?

Discussions for the day…

That’s the crux of the issue which saw representatives from independent news publish, academics, the BBC and others gather today at a Centre for Community Journalism event held at Cardiff University.

The consultation follows on from various discussions, online debates and a survey carried out by the Centre to tease out the issues.

On the face of it, there would seem to be strong support for the idea of such an organisation – afterall, 94.6% of those who were surveyed thought it would be a good idea. However, there were only 56 respondents in the survey so, in a vast ‘sector’ which ranges from people who publish parish newsletters to those who make a living and employ staff in professional publishing, there are undoubtedly many voices as yet unheard.

On a personal level I remain open-minded about the proposal. Only last week, I was asked by someone starting out with a publishing venture if there was such a group, and it’s a question I often heard when working at Talk About Local. It would appear on that anecdotal evidence alone there’s a desire, at some level, for some sort of collective action.

On the other hand, many have come at this question before and nothing has stuck despite good intentions and technological savvy – remember the Hyperlocal Alliance anyone? In a world of self-organising forces, it seems somewhat counter-intuitive and therefore the ultimate purpose of any such group would have to be carefully framed in order to be both inclusive while also being credible enough to bring weight to bear in a very disparate environment across the entire UK. Is that a feasible ambition? Love to hear your thoughts on that below……………..

Those convening today’s event were at pains to ensure that any move isn’t an attempt to force its way out from under the auspices of the Community Journalism Centre, but, they urge, the exact structure, governance and make-up should be drawn from, and run by, practitioners.

I’ve pasted my random notes from the session in full below covering the main headings discussed.

The next stage for this consultation is for the Centre for Community Journalism to produce a two page brief for circulation and comment. That could well result in a funding bid being submitted to a body eg. Lottery in order to scope out the exact structure and remit for the organisation going forward.

I will update this blog with any further information as it emerges and would recommend keeping tabs on the @c4cj Twitterstream too.

56 hyperlocals responded

94.6% wanted body of representation

Few of the findings (full slide deck below)
11% interested in collective ad selling
advocacy 11%
press agency 9.8%
expert advice call centre 7.5%

#C4CJconsultation from C4CJ
Primary purpose for organisation
Is ‘hyperlocal’ the correct term? Maybe independent community news network would be better?
Centre for Community Journalism in a position to help as has funding until 2018 including office premises and staff.
Big Lottery funding?
Could include a network of academics who regularly submit to gov calls and white papers but don’t forsee a paid lobbyist in Westminster
Instead, a lower level of lobbying. national assemblies, bbc etc.
“unless it comes from the industry, it’s on shaky ground to start with” – wise words from Simon Perry (@OntheWight)
University has some experience of not-for-profits as well

Membership criteria
Should there be two tiers/columns? – everyone with an interest and then commercially motivated organisations
A supporter tier? Supporter or practitioner? practitioner members would get extras eg. access to forum where topics can be discussed
Looking at retrieving funding to undertake scoping work into suitable constitutions
2 page scoping document to be produced for people to react to
Free-to-join membership
Needs to be clear it’s uk wide
Funding to come from other sources
Training for professionalisation
News and information includes features/soft
Advertising – scoping work needed to establish metrics, whether human or technical solutions, quality issues.
Mentoring scheme/buddy system?

smaller/regional events and big national conferences

Primary function
creating more jobs for journalists and better journalism
statement of intent for sector – what is the sector?

What could it achieve?
sense of belonging/community
changes in law and processes eg. commissioning of statutory notices
bring in more money to the sector
showcase for innovation and experimental business models
seed funding which could help both business and society

How would it operate?
steering group of practitioners?
time-limited terms eg. 2 years?
directors travel expenses funded?
similar to Community Media Association?
will go to look at other orgs, including those outside of media, for the scoping

Written by sarahhartley

July 26th, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Making of a hyperlocal part five: Community involvement


Pic: Nial Kennedy on Flickr

Involving the local community in your publishing is not just something that’s nice to have, it’s essential if your site is to survive and will will help keep your content relevant.

Many people find it a daunting prospect and it’s probably the number one issue raised during workshops on community publishing – how can people be persuaded to join in?

There’s no getting round the fact that it is hard work – and takes a lot of listening skills – which is why I asked some of those who have proven success in this area to share their advice with you below.

In addition I would add that it is important to be clear about what you are expecting from the users. For example, if you’re looking for pictures of an event, spell out what sort of pictures you’d like to see – and what won’t be acceptable.

There’s nothing worse for a user to enthusiastically provide content which doesn’t get published and then for them to have no idea why it was deemed fit to use. They won’t be so helpful a second time!

So my top tip would be to spend time ensuring the call to action is clear as well as letting people know what will happen – are only ‘the best’ submissions going to be used or will allcomers get mentioned? What’s the criteria for publication? Any restrictions? What about copyright? Payment? Why should a user send you anything? What’s in it for them?

Be upfront about the process and it will help build trust between your users and the publication but most of all – be encouraging, not all those who want to take part will have had any experience and it could be a big step for them to put a piece of work up for public scrutiny and your expert opinion.

Here’s those other top tips from people with know-how in how to get started:

Stuart Golden, managing director of the One&Other magazine and website in York:

Our motto has always been: Share your idea; Involve others; Celebrate often. Beyond that, the most valuable advice I could offer would be to never position yourself as a blogger as that limits your potential in the market.

Without doubt, the thing we’ve found most difficult is finding digital partners that share our vision and ambition, rather than viewing us as just another pay cheque. Thankfully, we found the right people in the end!

Emma Bearman of the influential The CultureVulture blog in the north of England:

Starting out?
Just Do it, set up a blog, audioboo, twitter etc, ask for help
Use it as your license to indulge your inquisitive curious mind
If you can’t be the source, be the resource. By which I mean if you aren’t brilliant at writing/editing etc then shine a light on others, curate, connect, be generous
Be in and part of the conversation
Make connections with the local university journalism course heads and tutors that really get it
Be guided by your moral compass
Love what you do. No point if it ceases to interest or delight you. Don’t let your blog be a monkey on your back
Be open, kind and compassionate. (those are my own mantra)
See the bigger picture
Take time to check your facts, don’t be a kneejerker
Try to leave your ego at the door

Hannah Waldram who started out with a hyperlocal in Birmingham and now works for The Guardian’s community team:

If you’re a one man band don’t try and do everything – spend time thinking about what you want your community blog to do and only create content which you can justify is in line with the spirit and goals of your endeavours

Sean Brady who publishes the Formby First blog and noticeboard offers:

Integrate a n0tice board into your site or blog.
Publish details of specifically local events.
Develop a Twitter account for ‘instant’  streams of short stories, comments,  relevant local links.
Include a Twitter widget in your site. Grow your followers.
Use twitter searches to find local stories, retweet them.
My analytics shows a clear relationship between tweets and page views.

And finally, John Baron of the South Leeds Life blog:

My tip would be to engage in the real world, be seen on your patch, run public meetings and discussions. Show you’re a real person, not just a twitter avatar.

Any other tips to share? Please do feel free to pass on your experiences via the comments below.

Written by sarahhartley

January 15th, 2013 at 7:00 am

Making of a hyperlocal part four: Competitors

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This is a tricky area and I don’t claim to have all the answers but I have seen a variety of different approaches on dealing with ‘competing’ local services. Even the idea of ‘competition’ in the hyperlocal space can be problematic as many publishers don’t feel they are competing with other existing services but instead come from a starting point of providing something new, missing or complimentary to what was previously on offer.

In the case of the fledgling hyperlocal I’m initiating, that’s certainly my standpoint and I hadn’t expected to be considering this issue so early in the process however, the reaction from a local commercially run website pointed up something different so it’s become something that needed to be addressed.

In fact that’s possibly the first thing to note, even if you’re not running the hyperlocal as a commercial enterprise, it may be considered as competition by those who do seek to make money from local publishing, one of the reasons why there’s sometimes friction between local newspapers and community websites and blogs. Established operators may feel they ‘own’ the local space.

The thinking which underlies that approach often doesn’t take into account the very different way people consume news and information online and via mobile but it is a view still present in some quarters and so may reveal itself as an issue quite early in the life of your hyperlocal.

So what’s the best strategy? Here’s five different approaches to consider:

1. Publish a manifesto
Lay out your stall online. What the site is doing, what it stands for, why you’re doing it etc. This can be around the editorial tone and content but also be extended to any commercial dealings. Greater transparency with everything from traffic figures to ad revenues can help explain the role you see the site fulfilling.This one from the US site The Rapidian is an effective and concise example.

2. Contact possible competitors
Basically the same as the above but on a one-to-one basis.
Introduce yourself and explain what you’re doing, why you’re doing it etc. I’d love to be able to relay experience of this in action but sadly, so far at least, this approach has been without success for several projects I’ve initiated. If you’ve different experience, please do feel free to add to this post via the comments below.

3. Find areas to collaborate
Maybe you have great photography but the other site has the resources to do in-depth reporting – together you could create great slideshows. Or maybe you could provide a feed of information which, properly attributed, could be used in the local community sections?
Taking some time to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each proposition could lead to a fruitful collaboration whether on an ongoing basis or a one-off project.
A good example of this in action can be seen in the work Trinity Mirror has done in Birmingham which laid the groundwork for hyperlocal content sharing. (Disclosure: I am connected with, Talk About Local, the company involved in the initiative).

4. Give link love
If you genuinely don’t compete, then this will be a simple but effective step you can take that gives your users the benefit of all the content available locally while taking some of the sting out of any fraught relationships. Linking to stories being carried elsewhere builds your repository of information and can help users understand the difference between your offering and that of your competitor. If the content isn’t suitable on a day-to-day basis, consider a fixed link in the blog roll, ad space or similar to point up the existence of other provision.

5. Go it alone
Not much of a strategy but this maybe what you end up with so be prepared. It maybe you discover there’s no appetite for collaboration and your ‘competitors’ would rather behave as if you didn’t exist. If that happens then – keep calm and carry on as the much overused expression goes – your users are actually unlikely to care one way or the other and you’ve undoubtedly enough to be getting on with.

* Do you have experience in this area which could help people starting out? Please feel free to add to this post via the comments below.

Written by sarahhartley

December 28th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Is 2012 the year UK hyperlocal will come of age?

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What's on the horizon? Image CC Flickr user Dominics Pics:

The evolution of the UK’s hyperlocal landscape has been interesting to observe, document and participate in over the past few years – but what’s to come? Is now the moment for hyperlocal, that perfect storm?
This time of year is long-established as acceptable for gazing into the crystal ball (despite the risk of certain ridicule in  12 months time when predictions remain way off target!), so here’s my few tentative thoughts.

Where we are
The last year has certainly been an active one for all shapes and sizes of hyperlocal publishing, that ecosystem of news, information and community provision has probably never been more dispersed since the days of the public sphere of the 18th century before that itself was disrupted by the arrival of the mainstream media barons. Some independent sites have become so well established and experienced now they are the mainstream for their communities while it seems not a month goes by without another venture starting – some news based, some campaigning others becoming the local glue by connecting local conversations.
The OpenlyLocal register of hyperlocal sites and blogs is showing many hundreds and put that together with the fact there’s 1,600 local newspapers operating websites across the UK (although it should be noted not many have taken on the challenge of that truly grassroots hyperlocal opportunity) it could be seen as all is rosy out here in local land. But we are all very aware that is not quite as the raw numbers might suggest – while the independent sector is growing, there’s the well-documented continuing retractions in local newspapers from the big media groups – 31 weeklies in the last year according to the latest figures compiled by Roy Greenslade.

What’s in store
Prediction one: A even greater dispersal of local news and information with more activity starting up but more of it looking into niche areas. While website/blogs which have aspects of traditional publishing (ie. news, sport, features etc.) might become fewer, the levels of hyperlocal activity across all and many platforms will undoubtedly become greater. Less about the destination and more about the journey.

Prediction two: Location, location, location. Given that most hyperlocal activity has a geographical focus, this might sound obvious but, taking in the point above, connecting with people across many and/or all platforms requires content to have geo-locative information like never before and the technologies to achieve that are now easily/cheaply available. As the tech giants and social media platforms offer ever more focused tools to drill into localities, the opportunities for hyperlocals to join up the dots in their communities grows and grows. Seems quite a few American hyperlocal pioneers agree on this point – just look at how often the ge0 issue is mentioned in Street Fight’s round up of their views.

Prediction three: A business model will emerge! Ok, this is a bit of indulgent New Year optimism over experience but …..there are some sensible moves afoot which are addressing the hyperlocal conundrum – how to offer sufficient scale to advertisers while keeping sufficient granularity for readers. Looking to the States, this model of hyperlocals huddling together to create scale while retaining their independence is interesting – could Liverpool or Lyme Regis, Bolton or Brighton be the UK’s Chicago? Maybe advertising’s not the whole answer for sustainability – a move away from traditional profit based company structures to a charitable or co-operative model is already being discussed in areas as different as Edinburgh, Port Talbot and London. It has to be accepted that not all hyperlocals are remotely interested in developing a business from their community endeavours, but in 2012, many of those that do, now have the confidence and experience to move this agenda on.

Wishing you a Happy Hyperlocal New Year!

Written by sarahhartley

December 30th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Starting a community news hub


“Collaborative journalism is a mode of journalism where multiple reporters or news organizations, without affiliation to a common parent organization, report on and contribute news items to a news story together. It is practiced by both professional and amateur reporters.

Well that’s how wikipedia describes it and it was this definition I mentioned yesterday at the launch of the Leeds Community News Hub.

communitynewshubposterThe event at Leeds Trinity University College marked the start of new initiative I’m involved in as part of The Guardian Local project.

The idea of the hub is a simple one – to provide a physical space where people can do journalism together.

Those people could be local community activists, they could be bloggers, they could be students, cleaners, entrepreneurs or business owners and they could also be reporters, journalism students, photographers or broadcasters from local media organisations or freelancers.

This is a hub for anyone interested in local news for Leeds – not a space owned or operated by The Guardian, instead a hosted space for the benefit of the local community where knowledge, expertise and skills can be accessed.

As one of the participants, I’ve invited some Guardian colleagues to give talks or hold workshops in the space and the special launch event was a talk by GNM’s head of digital engagement Meg Pickard – a leading thinker when it comes to online communities.

(The hashtag for the day was #LeedsCNH and there was plenty of Twitter commentary of the talk if you want to recap on what was said.)

It was an inspiring talk and followed by some equally interesting conversations during the tea break……and that’s a great starting point for any journalist, seeing people face-to-face and hearing about their stories and the issues of concern locally.


Time for tea

Working out how to engage with local communities in a meaningful way is something I’m learning about it all the time and, while I’m sure there’s no single solution, an approach which encompasses both on, and off, line is intended to increase accessibility.

While creating online spaces for that activity, developing tools, apps and widgets to help people reveal their stories or unearth facts will undoubtedly continue to have an important role, I’m hopeful that enabling people to connect face-to-face and work on stories together will also lead to exciting, innovative collaborations going forward.

The Leeds Community News Hub is based at Leeds Trinity University College, map location here. There are signs to mark its location being installed and reception staff are able to help. A blog to share some of the activities being undertaken at the hub is on its way and I’d be interested to hear any other ideas of the best way to keep people in the loop. A variety of different people will be on hand to help those looking to take part in projects or simply pass on information on a one-off basis – a visit to the hub doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment.

Guardian Leeds beatblogger John Baron will be based there at regular intervals and we’ll post those dates on the blog.

I shall be working at the hub next Wednesday so feel free to drop by to talk with me in person – or leave a comment online below.

Written by sarahhartley

November 18th, 2010 at 10:17 am

People’s Voice Media plans to go international

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The community development organisation People’s Voice Media has launched its annual report in a multimedia format using the online platform myebook.

And it reveals how the Manchester-based organsiation, which aims to help get a community reporter for every street corner, has had a busy year expanding into other parts of the UK  and is now looking internationally.

In the concluding page, chair Bernard Leach says:
” The last year has been an important one in that we have now become an organisation with a national profile by working closely with partner organisations ranging from Housing Associations in London and the West Midland, a residential care home in Blackpool, refugee communities in Sheffield, a Seaside Voices project with four coastal resorts and a bespoke digital inclusion project now aiming to develop community reporters across Europe with partners from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Germany and Hungary.”

Taking things a bit closer to home, chief executive Gary Copitch mailed the annual report to interested people saying:

“We have done some great activity over the year including working with Housing Associations and the Police as well as undertaken consultations with residents in Lower Broughton in Salford. The report also highlights our work to develop community reporters in Owton Manor in Hartlepool and Preston.”

See the full report via this link.

Written by sarahhartley

November 11th, 2010 at 8:34 am

Social Media Surgery Richmond: First event

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North Yorkshire organisations turned out to Richmond’s first social media surgery last night.

Held in the tiny village of Hudswell, it was the first rural event of this type I’ve attended and I was interested to see if the issues raised would be different to those encountered by participants at the city-based events I more usually get involved with.

They weren’t.

Ok, people may have had to travel further to attend, but the issues were familiar ones around visibility, measurability and the return on the investment of time spent participating on social media platforms with some hands-on how to assistance.

The format of the evening held at North Yorkshire’s first community run George and Dragon pub (more about that on my other blog) followed what’s become known as the Podnosh structure ie.  A group of volunteers with some experience in social media (surgeons) offering informal advice to organisations looking to maxim ise their online activity.

Personally I only got to speak with two different community organisation representatives – someone interested in promoting wider understanding of the activity of freemasons and the organisers of a local arts festival.

Conversations flowed, contacts were made and a good time was had by all. Organiser Graham Richards tells me that a repeat event will be organised soon. I’ll update this blog when I hear more.

Written by sarahhartley

October 12th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

London Neighbourhoods Online unconference 2010: Thoughts


Update19.35: There’s now links to three other blog posts from the unconference posted into the comments at the bottom of this post which are well worth checking out, plus;
* The Twitter hating grumpy view from Erith posted in the brilliantly named Arthur Pewty’s Maggot Sandwich and said: “found the whole experience to be excellent, informative, entertaining and it also enabled me to meet and network with some friendly and like – minded people” and proves to be a man after my own heart by dedicating a good chunk of his write up to the catering.
* Networked Neighbourhoods says “the message is that the momentum behind the neighbourhoods online movement is gathering pace”.

A few notes inspired by yesterday’s London Neighbourhoods Unconference. The nature of an unconference means several sessions were underway at any one time so a full view of the day needs a little piecing together.

I’ll add links to blog posts on the topic as I see them – please do let me know if you’ve written one or seen one anywhere by dropping the link via the comments below to share with other interested parties.

I should just add that these are my notes and thoughts and not a report of proceedings. Feel free to pitch in with your comments/recollections/thoughts.

  1. The session I offered on working with mainstream media was lively. I listened….. and what I heard was some understandable cynicism towards the attitude and motivation of big media. Following on from the previous post, we did discuss as many of those topics as we could in the time with the majority of the conversations prompted by; ‘lifted’ content, payment, linking and copyright. (We didn’t get time for ‘newspaper structure’ which some people were interested in and so I’ll maybe return to that in a future post). On the hot topic of lifting content ie. where newspapers had used text and/or pictures without any permission, attribution or payment. As I mentioned at the session, this is the exact same accusation I often hear levelled about bloggers and hyperlocal website operators from newspaper journalists(!), so maybe time for a bit of reflection in this matter. Time to play nice. Show some respect on both sides before the opportunities this new news ecosphere presents retreat into a sea of resentments.
  2. Next up I bobbed into the discussion about Local TV. This was led around a conversation about whether the right course of action is to send a letter to lobby culture secretary Jeremy Hunt to ensure that community television ventures are not sidelined. (To put this discussion into context, worth reading the recently released Ofcom Public service Broadcasting Annual Report ). The debate in this session raised the question about whether grant support i.e. tax payer’s money was a reasonable expectation for such ventures or whether projects needed to be commercially viable from self-generated revenue streams such as advertising. It struck me that this ‘future of local tv’ debate gets hung up on traditional delivery mechanisms in the way that the ‘future of journalism’ debates get hung up on print. And quickly to a deep niche (hyper) V mass audience (general) discussion. Sparked a thought about about scaleable hyper? It was interesting to see StvLocal represented at the event – maybe the StvLocal model is a disruptive model to shake telly things up?
  3. Big Society. What does it mean? I still don’t know how it relates. Answer on a postcard – or this pigeon might be more appropriate.

Other links I’ve seen on this event;

The hashtag for any other material published is #lno10. I’m looking forward to catching up with the other blog posts and pictures as the day progresses.

How can hyperlocals and the mainstream media work better together?


In some areas a thorny issue and one I’ve been asked to help explore at Saturday’s London Neighbourhoods Online Unconference.

This event will be the first opportunity that many community sites and blogs from across the capital have had to meet offline and get together to explore issues of mutual concern.

But of course many of their issues will be repeated up and down the country too.

So I’m asking hyperlocal site owners, community news publishers and neighbourhood bloggers, wherever you are – what issues do you have with mainstream media? How would you like to see things move forward?

You’re welcome to help with some input into this session even if you’re not going to be present (or London-based) by letting me know here.

I will also update this blog after the event to share what comes out from the session with you.

Topics I’m thinking about that might be of interest so far are;

  • How newspapers are structured i.e. who to contact and how.
  • What happens when things go wrong, how complaints are dealt with.
  • Copyright and linking. Good practice and things to take into account.

Looking back at the live blog I was involved in at the, TAL unconference in Leeds in April, the session on big media was dominated by questions around content payment and problems with the lifting of content. Are those still big issues for you?

Please do let me know what you think and feel free to share any experiences in this area.

Written by sarahhartley

September 23rd, 2010 at 6:30 pm