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Archive for the ‘local’ tag

Presentation at Society of Editors: Being local in a mobile first world

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I was recently invited to talk to regional editors at a Society of Editors conference held in the Midlands. It covers a couple of the major projects we’ve been working on at Talk About Local which are all about using mobile technologies to explore useful community information.

The first example is an Augmented Reality prototype we’ve been developing which means publishers of any size – from solo bloggers to news organisations – can easily move geo-tagged content into an AR environment.

The second is the ongoing evolution of the geo-tagged, mobile first suite of publishing tools n0tice and the launch of its whitelabelling service.

It’s a mark of the fast-changing pace of these sort of technologies that this slideshow was already outdated within a day of me presenting it. In terms of publishers using AR, The Independent last week launched its innovative use of the technology. Talk About Local’s William Perrin reviews that here: and in the video at the end of the page.

When it comes to the n0tice development, the day after the presentation saw a major launch for the technology when Guardian Witness went live. Obviously I couldn’t mention this to the editors at the time for risk of spoiling the announcement from Joanna the GW team, but the full details of how publishers can now use these powerful geo-tagged tools for their own products are here:

Written by sarahhartley

April 28th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Manchester Evening News goes more local and The Guardian counts Manchester footie fans

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 MEN goes ‘more local’

The Manchester Evening News has changed its edition structure to offer readers two editions for the vast Greater Machester region – north and south.

Explaining the changes, a short posting on Monday says the change will give readers ‘a greater focus on the area where you live.’

This includes a front page dedicated to your area and specific pages inside with all the latest local news and information for where you live.

And it helpfully provided these two screen grabs showing the difference.

Readers were, as ever, quick to comment on the changes and raise the issue of localness.

 Ecclescake noting:

 Theoretically, a brilliant idea and one to be commended. It’s great to see the MEN thinking of new ways to survive.

That said, it seems to me that the only way to really get into the heart of communities is to be there. Properly immerse yourself in the communities. I know that’s easier said than done, particularly with the industry in the pickle it is and the lack of resources available to you.

But if this change means anything, then allow your reporters the time and space to work their patches!

The changes announced yesterday also include a revamp of CityLife, a new column on matters of faith and the old favourite – ‘a trip down memory lane every Monday and Tuesday with pages of photos from yesteryear.’


Talking of Manchester…..

The Guardian has released a new way of looking at its ‘most interesting’ content – using algorithms to  measure interestingness by “a number of social signals including; incoming links, shares around social media, view count, editorial selection, number of comments and positive deviation from the norm for an article in its particular section.”

You may well expect the Guardianista’s would be most interested in social issues, Leveson or press freedom but it’s interesting to note just how often northern football stories – particularly both Manchester clubs – pop up in the ‘most interesting’.

Football fans’ online promiscuity is well-known but does that entirely explain what’s happening there?

Now the the once Manchester-based national’s staffing has reduced to just one full time northern based journalist (the newly appointed, hard-working editor Helen Pidd) it’s hard to know what conclusion to draw from that. Does the location of those producing the news actually matter much? Would those figures be even higher with a northern based news and sports desk pounding the beat?

Leeds’ Richard Horsman considers this question in a radio context where news ‘hubs’ have become commonplace over boots on the ground.

Writing at The CultureVulture, ‘So what is ‘Local’ news anyway’  he says:

 The flip side is local knowledge, which tends to dilute across a bigger patch. Woe betide anyone talking to Bradford who pronounces Keighley as ‘keely’ or Allerton as anything other than ‘ollerton’. Old time district reporters are also more likely to recognise the names on the New Year honours list and have some clue why they’ve earned a gong beyond ‘services to education’ or ‘the arts’


What do you think? Can maths get the job done or is all this talk of hubs and centralisation doing reader a disservice? Love to hear your views.

Written by sarahhartley

January 8th, 2013 at 8:23 am

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

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

Ten sites for local sharing

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I’ve recently being doing some research into sites that make it easy for people to share stuff.

The things to be shared could be news items or pictures of something happening right where you stand.

But equally important are those occasions for sharing items that are useful for everyday life – tools for gardening etc. which might be too expensive to go out and buy, but being able to borrow from a neighbour would make sense.

The ten sharing services I’ve outlined on this spreadsheet approach the question in different ways so I’ve attempted to identify those differences with a basic description and outline of the Unique Selling Proposition.

If you use any of these  services– or know of any better ones – I’d be interested to hear about it. What do you value about the service? What would you like to see more of? Please feel free to add information into the spreadsheet or let me know via the comments below.

My search for sites looking at connecting local people like this is continuing, in part, as work I’m involved in with the site (more on that here). If you’ve previously signed up for this, you’ll have n0ticed (sic!) that it’s out of view at the moment.

Don’t worry it’s not for long, there’s plenty of work going on behind the scenes and soon there’ll be a beta version to use. I’ll keep you updated on progress.

Picture on this page is by Britta Bohlinger and viewable on Flickr here.

Written by sarahhartley

July 15th, 2011 at 7:01 am

Hyperlocal first for The Met and other Local Gov Camp media stories

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Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the Local Government Camp in Birmingham – an unconference for people working in councils across the UK. It was a thoughtful and idea-provoking event which covered issues which I shall be taking a closer look at for The Guardian’s Local Government Network in the near future.

But there were also a few stories which came out of the day which had more of a journalism/media/hyperlocal bent which I’ll share here;

* Interesting to discover that The Met has just held it’s first webchat on a hyperlocal website. Talk About Local’s William Perrin told the session on hyperlocal publishing how he’d been approached to host the chat via his own website
On the site he explains:

“My site based in a once crime-ridden area is firmly pro police (two of our contributors have been on the Safer Neighbourhood Panel) and our commenters are of the non rabid variety. So for the police it was very much a carefully managed innovation risk.”

Conversations included discussion about the enforcement of 20mph zones, support for rough sleepers and youth provision.
Fostering a close working relationship between police forces and bloggers/independent publishers is something that I’ve seen in other towns and cities across the country not least in Manchester where @AmandaComms is often leading the agenda so it’s good to see the capital’s law enforcers also giving some validity to the importance of the hyperlocal/local/community sites. If your local Force is doing something similar, please feel free to share details via the comments below.

* Filming in council meetings. Following hot on the heels of the case of the blogger arrested for filming in the council chamber, Philip John of LichfieldLive hosted a debate on the for and against of such activity and has produced this interesting visualisation.
The subject of council newspapers also arose and it was interesting to hear viewpoints from the other side of the fence. From what I heard, the idea us journos have that the main benefit of these has more to do with propaganda and attempting to control the message than finance seems to hold true……you can listen to the discussion on John Popham’s video here.[youtube]  At the risk of opening up a hornet’s nest of a debate here, I am still left wondering if the time is right for a wider discussion about the issue of value-for-money advertising spending by councils and the cost-effectiveness of how that spending on important public information, for example public notices, is distributed in light of all the new tools and technologies available?

Away from #localgovcamp
For those that subscribe to it, it will be apparent that I have ceased publishing on The MancunianWay blog. I’ve left it a few months before taking the final deletion step to see whether it was the right thing to do and will be switching it off fully in a week or so. There’s two reasons for this decision – 1. now I’m a regular writer for The Northerner blog, the sort of stuff I used to post about Manchester and the city’s digital community (and now about MediaCityUK) will hopefully reach more people interested in those topics posted via The Guardian blog and 2. I’ve imported all the archive material into this blog so it’s easily retrievable here via the tag cloud.

And on that subject….I shall be blogging (for The Northerner) from The Impact of Media City conference tomorrow, the hashtag is #mediacityuk and the full agenda can be found here.

Written by sarahhartley

June 19th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Cannibals, manure and mongrels: Thoughts on local media


Jeremy Hunt’s BIG IDEA of local TV across the UK doesn’t seen to have many fans does it?

Of those groups who might be expected to relish the chance to produce local, even hyperlocal, television content there appears to be a universal ‘no thanks’ in evidence.

On the one hand there’s community publishers and independents who want some support to produce local content – but primarily on cheap to produce web tv and rather than via the transmitter infrastructure proposed.

Then there’s the other world where mainstream media is being offered the ‘opportunity’ for multi-platform publishing but is struggling financially, risk averse and still seemingly licking the wounds of digital disruption.

Who is going to do this local TV?

One member of the audience at today’s Westminster Media Forum described the proposal as: “Channel 5 meets regional newspaper mutant half-breed” at an event where, as Robert Andrews posted on PaidContent earlier, ”panelists lined up to unload their scepticism”

The debate around this issue dealt mostly with the big media end of the experience by giving a trot through of what Hunt’s proposal, the Shott report and Claire Enders have previously concluded on the issue.

But also represented at the forum were some men from the financial world and I listened carefully to what they had to say……which can be briefly summed up as, there’s no money in it.

Is there a sustainable business model without subsidy? No-one seemed to think so and one of the biggest regional publishers Johnson Press’ chief executive John Fry, even suggested that ‘subsidy’ was something of a dirty word, somehow devaluing any proposition by being “out of tune with current mood music” .

Is there revenue opportunity from advertising? Yes, but only if media orgs cannibalise their existing advertising to the new platforms. The money men didn’t seem to think there was enough new revenue to be pulled in – no shiny pony to ride after digging through the manure to use the most memorable metaphor of the day.

So, who is going to do this local TV?

Written by sarahhartley

January 26th, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Local TV still viable says former Channel M boss

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As posted on this blog earlier in the week, the former boss of the city television station has been speaking about his experiences at a London conference today.

And he’s still optimistic about the future for similar enterprises according to this Press Gazette report from the event;

“Just because Channel M failed it doesn’t mean city TV will fail. Within three years we will have a network of TV stations in Britain starting with eight city-based networks that will help more rural stations down the line.”

Read the full report form the conference here.

Written by sarahhartley

November 5th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Former Channel M boss to talk about experience

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Manchester media watchers will be interested to hear that former Channel M boss Mark Dodson will be talking about his experiences of local television at a major conference tomorrow.

City University London’s conference on Local Television has attracted big name speakers to discuss future provision now that the issue is in the spotlight again after culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s proposals for local or even, hyperlocal, channels across the UK. This itininery detailed at View Magazine describes a session called Local Television-the story so far;

“A conversation with conference attendees who’ve worked in local TV, past and present. These include Philip Graf (formerly Chief Executive of Trinity plc, operators of Channel One Liverpool, then CEO of Trinity Mirror, now Deputy Chair of Ofcom) David Dunkley Gyimah (ex-Channel One London) Mark Dodson (ex-Channel M Manchester), Helen Philpot (Channel 7 Lincolnshire), David Lowen (ex-Local Broadcasting Group), and Daniel Cass (SixTV).”

Dodson, who left MEN Media at the point of its sale to Trinity Mirror, was the mastermind of the Manchester-based channel which earned praise from Hunt when he was a shadow spokesman.

The London conference, which also includes appearances from Kelvin McKenzie and Stewart Purvis is Friday 5 November 5 2010 at The Performance Space, College Building, City University London, St John’s Street, EC1V 4PB.

Meanwhile today another event looking at the future of local tv is taking place in Norwich. The 1000Flowers event (so named after this famous Clay Shirky quote)  has also attracted some Greater Manchester interest with both Nigel Barlow from Insidethe M60 and John Eccles from Oldham College and SaddleworthNews attending.

But while the topic under discussion may be the same, organiser Rick Waghorn explains the entirely different approach.

“1000Flowers aims to bring together some of the brightest and the best thinkers and doers in this local space… to find inspiration amongst those who look at the world from the bottom up and not the top down.”

1000 Flowers is at 112-114 Magdalen Street NR3 1JD Norwich and can be followed using the hashtag #1000flowers on Twitter.