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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

Will you back my crowdfunding bid for this tech article?

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I’ve recently launched another crowdfunding project on Beacon Reader -and you can take part in it here.

The site has introduced these handy widgets that you can see above to make it easier to link through to the site.
So, if you’d like some hot tech news during May, you can back my bid for funding via the crowd and then, if my bid succeeds, the website will top up the amount by a further 50%.

Thanks for your support!

Written by sarahhartley

May 6th, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Journalism

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Contributoria in 2014: What writers want for Christmas

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As the year draws to a close, looking back to how things have played out is a regular concern for many and media folk could be accused of being especially  absorbed in reviewing the year that was.

At Contributoria we recently released the figures on the right of this page to do just that, take stock of what’s felt like a remarkable first year for the independent journalism network myself, Matt and Dan launched into the world on January 1 2014.

Only in existence for a year and already it seems like a lifetime ago we won that Google IPI News Innovation Contest with the basic idea for its prototype.

But, exciting as they are, the stats only tell part of the story. Behind those blunt measures, there’s been plenty of conversations, plans and dreams too. And for me, a major pre-occupation throughout 2014 has been thinking about ‘what journalists really want.’

The easy answer is to say, ‘proper financial recognition’ and of course, money is always going to be an issue. But once the payment question is out of the way, what then? What really matters every day?

Measure of everything

Publishers spend plenty of energy working out metrics and measures for just about everything – page views, dwell time, shares on social platforms etc. etc. and that’s great to get a feel in aggregate but, what really gets a writer fired up?

I don’t know m/any journalists who get out of bed in the hope that the shareholder will get a better return on their news org’s holding! Without being puffed up about it, didn’t we all get into this to ‘change the world’ in some small way?

Looking for common threads running through the work of many of the Contributoria writers, a really important outcome would seem to be around the impact their work has, its influence.

And that’s one of those things that’s hard to measure despite being easy to spot when it does happen.

Stories with impact

We saw this recently with the startling piece by Harry Vale who wrote about his first hand experience of working in a High Street bookmakers.

It was one of those pieces of writing that couldn’t be ignored – it screamed, snarled, swore and spat in the faces of those who think having access to gambling machines on every poverty-hit spew-splattered street corner is acceptable.

To date its been widely read and shared from the Contributoria site; prompted complaints to the Gambling Commission (the Confidential intelligence line is at 0121 230 6655 if you feel moved to do that too); been read and tweeted by campaigning MP Tom Watson and featured on the primetime BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show (last Friday if you want to listen again).

Harry’s on his way to writing the second instalment just now and my gut feeling is that this still has some way to play out. Follow what happens next here.

Perhaps another interesting measure of influence can be seen in the global reach and appeal of a story and the places it travels. We’ve seen this many times over the year and do our best to help writers track what happens after their articles are published under a Creative Commons non-commercial share and attribution licence.

Rich McEachran’s piece on the feasibility of eating insects was one such piece. While it was a popular read here in the UK – where we’re seemingly happy to eat bacteria-filled chicken but wince at the idea of grubs – it also had resonance in parts of the world where eating insects isn’t quite so taboo.

The topic was such a good talking point for South Africans that the Big Issue magazine there used the story for its cover issue – and sold out.

The Big Issue in South Africa

As well as the arresting image, the editors there provided a useful recipe and asked ‘crickets or beef?’, providing an informative nutritional breakdown.

I asked Rich about the article’s popularity:

Some people don’t like to be told what to eat, but they do like to be intrigued. Others are concerned about the environmental impact of their meat consumption … I guess the article has been popular with both camps because, even though the thought of eating insects is yuckish, the idea that we could all be consuming them in the form of cookies and tortillas, snack foods that we love, made from cricket flour, makes us want to taste them and find out more. Well I do anyway.

Back in July, two of the Contributoria writers, Jen Wilton and Liam Barrington-Bush travelled to Spain to find out more about the unusual town of Marinaleda. They couldn’t have known as they packed their passports just how that story would mushroom into publications around the globe, including:

  • Truth Out (1,900 Likes)
  • Yes! Magazine (1,500 Likes)
  • New Internationalist (1,000 Likes)
  • ROAR Magazine (1,000 Likes)
  • openDemocracy
  • The Ecologist

and then last month it was translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil.

I wondered if they could explain the huge success of that article. Liam said they both felt it had something to do with the positive message expressed:

“Lots of progressive press can be as guilty of just writing more and more stories highlighting the bad stuff out there (with good cause), but which can have a really demoralising effect on peoples’ outlook. So when alternatives come to light, I think they provide a bit of relief, that the world isn’t as bad as it can sometimes appear from reading the news…”

Here’s to even more of that in 2015!

* If you’d like to join the freelance writers on and get paid for your original journalism – from anywhere in the world – join us here.
And if you’d like a print edition or e-reader of the best stories from our online issue each month, then you can sign-up for those there too.

Written by sarahhartley

December 18th, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Journalism

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Welcome to the new How-do – meet Prolific North

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Launched today, this new website looks to fill the hole left by the closure of How Do. It’s the latest publishing venture from How-Do’s Nick Jaspan and reflects the thriving media scene here in the north.

Prolific North will become the destination for news, informed opinion, features and of course as much gossip and rumour as you can take about the comings and goings of creative and media companies in the North and their key staff.

In the coming months we will be offering a growing range of support services, enhancing our core news operation and jobs board, launching an innovative classified marketplace, partnering institutions on management development and training and creating a broad spectrum of events and industry initiatives to entertain and inform our readership.

Stories today include news about MCFC’s tweeting fans and BBC5 Live appointments. With so much happening in northern media just now it’s sure to be interesting times.

Take a look here:

Written by sarahhartley

January 14th, 2013 at 7:50 am

Experiment: News from your local town via mobile

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I made a thing…..

I’d like to think that when I use those four words in the subject line of emails it provokes a little spark of interest in my colleagues (possibly they just evoke a fearful uhoh!) but this time I’ll try it out on you.

The latest ‘thing’ I’ve messed with is an experiment to distribute news from the north into the mobile space using some of the tools available at the platform I’m working with,

It means that any mobile phone user who has the app downloaded will discover the news headlines and links from their local newspaper to click straight through to the provider to find out the full story, explore their site etc.

It runs off the news organisation’s public RSS feeds with the addition of geo-tagging to the town or city where it is based so – a person walking around Manchester will be able to serendipitously receive news from the MEN, in Newcastle the Journal, Sheffield The Star and so on.

The content is created via the app and then fed into an online noticeboard which becomes the way the stories are ultimately accessed via a mobile site, Android app or iPhone app.

All of the content can be seen in one go at this noticeboard although it’s unlikely that anyone (perhaps with the exception of journalists for monitoring purposes) would want to view it in that rather random way. Instead, it really is intended for mobile discovery where the location of the user provides the context.
You can download the apps to test it out here – android, iPhone.
Once logged in you can set your location and see all that’s been geotagged around you (notices) or restrict to everything via the Northerner noticeboard (boards).
A few things I learned from doing it:

  • some news sites make it really difficult to hunt down the RSS feeds – why? They’re the building blocks for people to make things which have the potential to find new audiences.
  • it wasn’t possible to tag the stories to the locations mentioned in the copy due to a lack of geo-tagging at source. This is an area I’m working with on a few different projects (including augmented reality) and one which I’d be interested to hear from anyone looking to incorporate it in their regular journalism work or content management systems.
  • The feeds currently included are: The Guardian’s Northerner blog, MEN, Middlesbrough Gazette, Newcastle Chronicle, Liverpool Echo, Lancashire Evening Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Carlisle News and Star, York Press, Sheffield Star, Northern Echo.
  • should it include local blogs? Any newsy-based bloggers out there who’d like to be included, please give me a shout and I’ll add you in. Likewise, anyone currently included who would rather not have their content exposed to a mobile audience – just let me know and I’ll drop it out. It’s an experiment, I don’t want to annoy anyone.

If you’d like a similar thing for your own blog or website – basically it’s like having your own mobile app – the tools used are available to all here and I’m on hand to offer some help or advice if needed.

Written by sarahhartley

January 11th, 2013 at 8:13 am

Why a Manchester start-up has quit Facebook and the launch of Leeds paper’s mobile services

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Bye, bye Facebook

Just to let you know: we won’t be using Facebook any more. ……..

“They won’t let pages contact or even view their own fans (really!), so nobody knows how many fakes they really have – except Facebook, and they’re not telling. They won’t allow an independent audit of their advert system either.

Just part of the message to its former Facebook followers from Piccadilly Gardens based cloud computing firm Charity Engine’s CEO Mark McAndrew.

He tells Business Insider how he believes Facebook is hiding fake users behind its policy of restricted access for Page owners.

Facebook has responded with information about its system for deleting fakes but, in this post at least, doesn’t address the issue of limited access, and therefore limited ability to generate revenues, from large Page followings.

I wonder whether this development will encourage any others to follow suite? Recent conversations with another large northern Facebook Page would suggest a general unhappiness with the level of control the American giant wields over access to communities which have been hard-fought to build and retain.

Hello mobile world


The home page layout


As flagged on this blog on New Year’s Day, Johnston Press are rolling on with their plan to deliver news through apps and today: “The Yorkshire Evening Post has launched new iPad and Android tablet apps, offering the latest news throughout the day as well as complete electronic copies of the newspaper.”


Football page

The launch piece online today doesn’t include a review or a clickable link to subscribe – but here are a couple of screengrabs showing the iPad edition this morning.

It’s not clear whether there’s any content unique to the new format – any Leeds readers fancy reviewing the app, let me know.

Written by sarahhartley

January 3rd, 2013 at 11:08 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 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

Presentation: Augmented Reality for journalists and bloggers

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This is the presentation I rather rushed through in the two minutes alloted at the News Rewired event in London yesterday. It really wasn’t long enough to go into any details about the Talk About Local project to experiment with public service content in the augmented reality environment so see below for some links for more info.

Slides 2 and 3: Ar selling sofas with CSL
Slides 4 and 5: Heinz prompts a recipe book using ingredient.
Slides 6 – 10: mainstream publishing using AR from News International.
Slides 11 – 15: What the Talk About Local project looks like in the AR layer.

After producing and testing the prototype to to feed hyperlocal content into the AR environment, the work with Talk About Local continues to expand this further to help people achieve an easy to use and low cost solution.

Progress and further information is available at the project blog here: is featuring AR at this week’s podcast which inlcudes an interview with me about Talk About Local’s work and also representatives from The Times, the LA Times and The Telegraph.

Written by sarahhartley

December 7th, 2012 at 10:52 am

Data journalism demonstration for Turkey’s imprisoned journalists

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Data journalism isn’t a much-used term in Turkey where I’m currently coaching on a weekend for news entrepreneurs as part of the #MADETurkey project.

The country is advanced in its Internet use – it’s the fourth biggest worldwide user of Facebook for instance – but journalism is still very much in a transition process to digital and the opportunities scrutinising data offers to journalists just beginning.

After giving a short introduction to data journalism session yesterday, including three very different examples of projects in other parts of the world – wikileaks, HomicideWatch and ArtCast – it was time to demonstrate something practicle and this is the proof of concept that Megan Knight from Uclan put together.

See the mapping here.

Using a few of the figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists’ The map was created in a very short space of time to illustrate that points that 1. The tools to create something like this area freely available and 2. The skills required are ones all journalists have ie. gathering and processing information, albeit using slightly different tools.

The demo map was created using publicly available data and in a process which is described step-by-step here.

Written by sarahhartley

October 7th, 2012 at 9:45 am