Why now is a good time to go hyperlocal
We are experiencing something of a hyperlocal renaissance right now. The Long Island daily Newsday is on a hiring binge, looking for thirty-four hyperlocal beat reporters. If by the second half of last year the hyperlocal space was heating up -- MSNBC's acquisition of EveryBlock, AOL Patch's aggressive launches -- it is presently on fire.
Going hyperlocal on a variety of platforms, whether an app, a blog or on a social network, is the new black. Location based information works well on Twitter and Facebook. Guardian Local, the blog (with beat bloggers) and Twitter presence, just launched in June focusing on Guardian sites in Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburg.
Outside.in's local iPhone app Radar gives the reader, to within 1000 feet of their current location, the ten most recent headlines via newspapers, blogs, twitter, etc. "It is a basic human instinct to want up-to-the-minute information on your immediate surroundings," says the Outside.in blog. "And this desire has always gone unmet by commonly available media and communications systems."
What else makes hyperlocal news pop? An engaged community, to be sure. Good staffing is also key. On community specific blogs, veteran journos help build reliable, quality content. The hugely anticipated DC news site TBD -- brought to you by the guys who brought you Politico -- launched earlier this week with 50 staffers, a network of 127 local bloggers and, according to Paidcontent's David Kaplan, a dozen reporters. Much of the media obsession with the hyperlocal wonder site has to do with some of its hires, including the much-admired Jim Brady, who used to run WashingtonPost.com, as well as Steve Chaggaris, formerly political director of CBS News.
Much has been made of citizen journalists. Time noted that Michele McLellan, a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, just spent the past year studying dozens of the best hyperlocal sites. McLellan found that 1 in 10 hyperlocal sites is producing "good" content.
It is more than just major metro areas that are represented in this hyperlocal boom. Smaller cities, like Wayne County, Indiana -- population under 100,000 -- are being served by plucky start ups like GoWayneCounty.com, seeking to lure local advertisers, the mother's milk of all things hyperlocal. Event calendars, local weather and a robust comment section for interaction with the readers are all necessary to a solid community specific experience.
The opinion section is also clearly important; informed opinion places specialized coverage in proper context. Newsday is boosting its opinion pages. "The Opinion Section will grow as the editorial board under Rita Ciolli's leadership adds three new positions and increases its weekly space in the newspaper by nearly 80 percent," Newsday editor-in-chief Denny Krenek said in a memo earlier this week.
This Fall's midterm elections creates a demand for good hyperlocal political reporting. Informed hyperlocal reporting at its best will fill the information gaps left by cuts in newspaper budgets.