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The BBC and more on those 150 public service reporters

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Deliberately piggy-backing on the hyperlocal consultation, the BBC also used yesterday’s event to update people on its post-Charter Review progress on how the corporation might better interact with local news providers of all shapes and flavours.

The discussion picked up in many of the subjects raised at the first hyperlocal forum held in Birmingham last year and Matthew Barraclough was able to update the attendees on the draft consultation plans currently under construction.

Much has been written about the plans – eg. this and this - but generally from the viewpoint of the mainstream news groups and so this event provided an opportunity for the independent sector to feed in their comments and questions.

Sadly the one hour allocated to the update probably wasn’t sufficient as just about everyone in the room wanted more detail but Matthew said he is open to hearing from people via his Twitter @M_R_Barra or by email. The plans have to be firmed up by the end of this year and the hope is to start work early in 2017 – although that intention maybe set back until Ofcom are fully in place in the spring.

Notes taken during the Q and A are below and I’ll update this blog with more as detail and discussion update.

150 reporters scheme

Will be focussed on top tier of local authorities ie. metropolitan and maybe county councils.

Unitary bodies and not down to district/parish level.

Intention is to demonstrate more value no intention to cover courts now – reason; BBC doesn’t carry much low level court reporting at present and so wouldn’t intend to expand into that area

primarily text based but with some provision for mobile phone footage

resulting coverage would be basic and publishable but more of a foundation story than a finished product (think PA wire)

being made freely available to ‘qualifying’ local news organisations

bbc will fund it partner news orgs will employ the reporters NOT the BBC

hard deadline of news years eve for plan in place. would then depend on whether consultation was required as OFCOM coming on board

contracts to employ a named individual only, via a company. NOT a contract for an organisation who then assigns individiual reporters eg. rota

might not be entirely just the councils, could be other elements of council activity or event quagos and leps

licensing issues unclear


Giving away content for re-use
gobe to BBC research people to
managed access
online only
searchable and downloadable
identified as coming from the bbc
hoping to be tagged to where/when for useage
control access on where and when from area

Data Hub

Idea to work with partners in industry or maybe academics
Create central data hub
where and how big it is still tbd
Waiting for some of the consultation over BBC new data consultation

Written by sarahhartley

July 27th, 2016 at 7:20 am

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

Dear BBC…..

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As the minutes tick by before the deadline (why do journalists always leave things to the last minute?) I’ve submitted a few thoughts to the BBC consultation about partnerships with hyperlocal operators. This is what I’ve said – if you’re reading it today (30 Sept) there’s still just about time to get a response in.

Please find below my thoughts on the BBC hyperlocal consultation but firstly can I express my appreciation that this consultation is taking place at all. For too long the hyperlocal and independent media sector has been sidelined and been operating on a very uneven playing field where the so the consultation is a welcome intervention. I hope it proves fruitful.

I’ve addressed some the points which resonated most with me as a journalist and hyperlocal publisher as follows.

1. External linking.
Being credited for work produced and having the exposure to BBC audiences would be a very welcome (long overdue) development. It raises an interesting point in my locality which may also arise for other parts of the country. In terms of radio and online, my local site The RichmondNoticeboard, is served by BBC Tees and BBC York. For television it’s BBC Look North. Where would the links appear – and how would cross linking be achieved?

2. Being able to utilise BBC video or audio content.
Having licensed BBC clips could be a useful enhancement although is likely to be fairly rare in my area in reality as BBC don’t actually cover the area very often. Where material is produced I would prefer the actual footage – rushes would be fine – ahead of any ‘talking heads’ type of content in order to be able re-make and re-package the content. However if producer ownership would prevent that happening, ‘locked down’ completed clips would be an acceptable starting point for testing out content sharing.

3. Including hyperlocal providers in training and events.
If the BBC is to fulfil its public remit in developing its media partnership work then this would be essential. The training element could be extremely useful as it can be expensive for hard-pressed independents to access the latest knowledge. The wider benefits generated from creating links and professional connections across the different media operators in a given locality could also reap far bigger rewards.

4. Promotion.
I hope that all local BBC teams can be made aware of hyperlocals operating in their area and that they will help to promote the updated register of hyperlocal sites which we at Talk About Local are helping Carnegie UK to publish.

5. The 100 local court and council reporters proposal.
I know this wasn’t strictly within the scope of the hyperlocal consultation but I’d like you to consider it within the developments. It wasn’t clear in the recent Charter Review announcement of this aspect whether hyperlocal operators will benefit from this scheme alongside the (reluctant) mainstream media. I would urge you to ensure this is the case. As well as being recipients of the material produced by this new pool of journalists, I would also hope that hyperlocal operators could pitch for the contracts where appropriate. I was also concerned that rural areas might miss out on the new service with it being limited to just 100 journalists. It would be useful to see how the locations will be selected for coverage with safeguards built in to avoid a purely metropolitan service.

Thanks again for engaging in the hyperlocal sector and I look forward to seeing the outcome in November.

Written by sarahhartley

September 30th, 2015 at 4:10 pm

My week – #Tal13, art, hyperlocal, council filming and factories

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The big news for me this week was being able to finally announce the date and venue for the next Talk About Local unconference.

This year’s event in Middlesbrough in September marks the start of a new initiative Talk About Local is running across Teesside over the next few months as well as being the annual touchpoint for all things hyperlocal. It’s always a lot of fun as well as being inspiring. I can’t wait.

Full details and booking link here.

Arts-meets-hyperloacl was also the order of the day for a contribution to the Culture Hive website.

If you haven’t come across this before it’s “a new, free resource to help you discover and share best practice in cultural marketing.”

I’ve contributed a guide which should soon be published in the toolkit there giving some advice and case studies showing how hyperlocal sites work alongside arts organisations or artists. Link to follow.

With councils on their summer break from meeting cycles there hasn’t been much to update on the issue of filming public meetings. I don’t expect there will be much to report until September now but this week I was able to share some of the lessons learned from working on this campaign to date with readers of the Comm2point0 site.

The site is a great resource for communications professionals run by Darren Caveney and Dan Slee who are a couple of communications professionals with more than 30 years combined experience who have planned, shaped and delivered communications for a range of businesses and organisations across the public and private sector.

And finally, I’ve been enjoying helping William build up this map of factory fortnight memories. The project will remain open so if you’ve got a story to share about the traditional holiday for many towns and cities, please do get in touch.

and then of course there’s the food blogging……..

Written by sarahhartley

August 11th, 2013 at 6:50 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

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

Making a hyperlocal part one: Why?


This the first in a series of blog posts where I shall document the hyperlocal initiative as a step-by-step process that is intended to be helpful to anyone setting about a similar project – shared experiences and tips most welome.

n0tice‘Why?’ really does have to be the very first question for anyone setting up a hyperlocal website or blog. The reasons for getting involved in any community publishing venture vary widely and I’ve come across many over the years – maybe there’s a specific issue that needs addressing locally, perhaps there’s a lack of news provision generally in the area or poor local information? maybe it’s a business opportunity you’ve spotted in these freelance and DIY days?

All valid reasons and ones that it’s important to understand and be able to articulate before setting about any enterprise which could become a passion, a profitable enterprise or a lot of fun on one hand but, if it all goes wrong, a depressing timesink or costly mistake.

I’ve come up with the five questions below to think through the ‘why’ before getting started. There’s no correct answers, it’s as much about the process of answering the questions to help establish the way your hyperlocal proceeds and provide a framework or bare bones of the project.

Producing this basic list can be a vital piece of documentation to return to in the future as things develop and can help stop you getting blown off course.

My answers in connection with my own new venture are in brief below.

Five questions to consider before starting any hyperlocal project

1. Is there a need? This could be a general need ie. nowhere to find what’s going on or a specific need eg. The dog fouling in this town is appalling or why does no-one ever stand for council election?

2.  What is the site to be for? Events? news? conversation? photography? It can be all of the above, or a combination, but it’s important to think through the primary aim as there will substantial differences in the decisions taken down the line between, for instance, a site set up to express a sense of place and one investigating local issues or a forum for conversations.

3. What existing provision is there? Relates to point 2 – is there already activity locally and in which aspects? Identify who else covers the patch in terms of blogs and twitter as well as mainstream media in print, broadcast or online. There’s no point in re-inventing the wheel so if there’s some good content out there, understand where to find it.

4. Do you seek to receive any income from it? Again, some of the decisions coming up will be dependent on this answer. Even which platform to use for publishing, as well as business structures and status.

5. What does success look like? Yes, a cheesy management line in some instances, but this will help form the guiding principles for your site and is a vital conversation to have if a group of people is involved. A lot of potential later friction can be avoided by thought and detailing at this pre-launch stage.


My answers in brief

  1. The need I identify in the town is primarily around the transparency of local decision-making with a secondary one of finding out what’s on. There are already some sources of information (identified in point 3) but nothing specifically aimed at people using digital tools and platforms who are empowered to participate online or via mobiles. I have noticed very few members of the public turning out for meetings on important local issues and local elections are poorly attended. On a parliamentary basis, the constituency must be one of the safest Tory seats in the country, currently held by foreign secretary William Hague.
  2. The site is for sharing. That’s a simple aspiration but one I know from experience it will be hard to achieve. The last thing I want to prompt is a top down service – this is to be a set of tools to enable people to share the local information important to them. As an engaged local person myself, I’m also keen to participate where I can but, it is not MY site!
  3. As far as mainstream news provision goes, the town is one of those places that’s on the edge of everyone’s patch – a factor I’ve noticed in quite a lot of other hyperlocals. In print,  two regional dailies , The Northern Echo and The Yorkshire Post both have the town in their sights – occasionally. Reductions in staff, budgets, offices etc. have inevitably taken their toll as their readerships have fallen to 38,479* And 37,833* Respectively. Richmondshire  has a population in excess of 47,000 and each of those publications includes several large and very newsworthy cities in their patches. The free newspaper, The Yorkshire Advertiser has a distribution of 23,716* but again, has much larger places within its patch and so provides a limited number of stories relating specifically about the town. The excellent weekly paper, The Darlington and Stockton Times fights a good fight and publication is still eagerly awaited by many in the town but even that only serves : 21,829* (down 5.2%) across a large geographical patch. Broadcast-wise, the town falls into the BBC Tees are which has its heart on the industrial towns and cities of Teesside and the forces radio provides a good community serice for those based at nearby Catterick Garrison. TV is again, on the edge of everywhere with residents likely to choose to receive Tyne Tees or Yorkshire regions depending on work or family background. There is another online service, RichmondOnline which provides a good what’s on service in addition to producing a local business directory. (* Newspaper figures from latest ABCs.)
  4. No. I intend this to be a project for the benefit of the local community and will be doing this as part of my other activities in the hyperlocal publishing sphere so I don’t need it to provide me with an income.
  5. Success would ultimately look like something that can exist and thrive without me. Although I am very keen to participate in the life of the town (and love doing the sort of local reporting I’ve been involved in for 20+ years now), if the site isn’t valuable enough for people to also want to engage in and contribute, then it won’t have succeeded in the terms I measure it.

Written by sarahhartley

October 1st, 2012 at 12:13 pm

A mini series of hyperlocal success case studies

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Last updated: Jan 17

One of the great things about working with Talk About Local is meeting so many enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate people who run hyperlocal websites and blogs.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share some of those stories on the TAL blog and I’ll link to them here as well.

The first one I published today looks at the work of Annette Albert in the W14 postcode area of London. She reports from and campaigns for that area tirelessly but doesn’t consider what she does to be journalism.

2. Creating a village in Caldmore – how the Caldmore Village Festival team re-invented an area of Walsall.

3. Trumpeting the success of The Crickdale Bugle - some of the daily dilemmas faced by a one-man band publisher in Wiltshire.

4. Creating a living archive in Wolverton – the challenges for volunteers in sorting, understanding, digitising and archiving donated community material.

5. Shining a light on the democratic process in Kington – how a dispute over Christmas lights ended up shaping the make-up of a council.

Written by sarahhartley

January 3rd, 2012 at 5:33 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