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Lohmiller 1 Maggie Lohmiller Prof.

Leanne Griffin Communication, Media, and Society May 11, 2011 Hyperlocal News Changes the Focus of News and Media Hyperlocal News refers to community journalism that you might not find in the mainstream news outlets. Hyperlocal news is chiefly found online or, in some instances, small print publications. Broadcasting and newspaper models generally are not profitable or well received in most community level markets, but the model fits perfectly for online news consumption (Miller). Hyperlocal news can be identified by three distinct features. First, the news produced must serve a community in a defined area. Second, the news reported must be of specific interest and meaning to the residents of that area. Finally, the majority of the reporting and editing should be performed by local news professionals who are familiar with that beat and has a vested interest in the community. There are other common threads amongst hyperlocal news organizations; however these three elements are the key identifiers. A common misconception is that local news is synonymous with hyperlocal news outlets. Local news is not as geographically specific as hyperlocal news outlets, nor is the information necessarily reported specific to the residents of that area. Many hyperlocal news outlets focus their news agendas on specialized themes within a community. Local government, restaurants, and education are a mere sampling of the numerous topics in which hyperlocal journalists tackle. The need for coverage on the local level has led news executives to satisfy what was once lacking in the media market. Hyperlocal news is a niche business in the journalism world. The

Lohmiller 2 macro scale of reporting that once dominated the news has progressed into a micro look at current events. Local news is often the most relevant news to consumers based solely on proximity. Of course there is news coverage on the world level that is of vital importance, however, in many circumstances, the news that is occurring on the local level involves the targeted readers in the most direct fashion. History of Hyperlocalism There is a strong demand for local news coverage that until 2005 was not represented by news outlets. The gap in coverage was first addressed in 2005, but the first major news platform initiatives debuted in 2006, though the business model is not as they are today. Most of the early hyperlocal websites failed to secure any significant funding due to flaws in the original execution. The early hyperlocal sites often had reporters and bloggers write some of the articles, but also they relied heavily on user-generated content. The content that was produced by the users was not in suitable formats for online news reporting. Although the popularity of these sites was rising, in the end, low web traffic could not justify the cost of overhead, and staffing reporters and editors. Shortly thereafter, there was a reemergence of regionalized news platforms that took the form of both online and print editions. This was a largely more successful endeavor compared to the first experimentation in hyperlocal media. The Chicago Tribune was the first to create print and online editions of community-specific content for the Chicago suburbs in a product called Triblocal. The Triblocal site and subsequent print edition is still a popular local news source and profitable part of the companys news platform, and the longest running hyperlocal news outlet to date.

Lohmiller 3 Following the model the Chicago Tribune, many other web-based companies followed. Yahoo!, and Yelp took components of Triblocals proven strategy and incorporated it in their own business model. The Chicago Tribune set the first precedence in how to address the need for hyperlocal news while sustaining in the market. In 2008, the hyperlocal model evolved again. Websites such as Topix.com, UniversalHub.com, or EveryBlock.com used third-party aggregated content to create community news pages on their website. Aggregating content is cheaper and faster than producing new content written by freelance reporters. Any articles selected for the websites were sourced from news outlets for the specific community, and embody the fundamental elements of hyperlocal news (Hopper). Lessons from the Initial Trials of Hyperlocal Journalism It was during this era in journalism that it was first discovered how online journalism had to be created differently than broadcast and print media. Content needed to be shorter and more concise for it to be received well. Online readers are concerned with obtaining vital information in smaller portioned packages. The writing has to be simplistic and direct, and void of unnecessary detail (Pekkala). Participation tools that many sites used, such as commenting boxes, and allowing users to post their own material proved to be problematic. Users were posting their own articles and commentary that was not appropriate for online journalism, or journalism in more general terms, and thus the quality of the websites content was significantly degraded. The concept of participation tools, although theoretically a beneficial enhancement, would later be adapted into a usable and effective version in late 2009.

Lohmiller 4 One of the principal lessons learned was that manually produced content is considerably more costly than aggregated material. Staffing freelancers and photographers is not a feasible option for many smaller hyperlocal media ventures. Depending on the scale and financial backing of the news organization, aggregated content is often the most realistic and economically responsible option (Hopper). A Modern Take on New Media Hyperlocal blogging has now surfaced in the ever growing stream of media. Although it is arguably a form of news in the customary sense, it is indeed journalistic in nature. Many bloggers are focusing on covering community topics as their main agenda. This is a budding trend in the blogosphere. Many people who seek the news online are now turning to blogs for updates on their community. Blogs, coupled with the variety of other media platforms that encompass the traditional journalistic landscape, are expanding the amount of attention that hyperlocal media is given. The trends in coverage provide communities with a broader view of news. The town newspaper is no longer the singular, monopolistic source of information. News topics, commentaries, and varying perspectives are now being represented in a new way. As news consumers are reading this type of news more often, the more they are seeking it routinely. The numerous emerging options for hyperlocal media sources allow for news consumers to be immersed in coverage. News consumers develop preferences for what media outlets they turn to look for their local news updates. News consumers are more readily exposed to hyperlocal news, and thus, they rely on this coverage to stay informed on their communities affairs. When readers find a particular news site they identify with, they develop a patronage to those news outlets or mediums (Junnarkar).

Lohmiller 5 The Patch Model AOL news executives observed the lack of coverage on the local level and created a new model for an online news platform called Patch.com. Patch is a community-specific news source that allows for readers to search for their town or city to find out the daily news that is pertinent to the people of that area. The website is still in the beginning stages of development; however it now covers certain communities in 19 states across the nation and is expanding its coverage continuously. The primary areas that Patch covers at this time are suburban towns and smaller cities in the eastern part of the country as well as parts of the west coast. Patch executives have no plans on covering major cities as they do not fit the mold for this particular business model. Major cities receive regularly updated coverage from other news sources. The website is only beneficial to citizens who are looking to receive regularly updated coverage on the micro level in smaller communities. Patch hires local editors and reporters to cover each region. Localized staff allows for reporters and editors to focus strictly on their beat and provide comprehensive coverage specific to the local area. Having a specific beat elicits reporters to be in tune with the affairs of the towns they cover as well as the needs and interest of the people who rely on Patch as their local news source. Patch looks for editors and reporters that have a multi-faceted background. Reporters must be able to write, edit, and photograph their own work. It is also an advantage if they can shoot, edit, and upload their own video work since patch often uses multimedia in their format. Reporters and editors must be savvy with technology, and fully understand all parts of producing a story. Hyperlocal websites are not like major news corporations where there is a staff of people

Lohmiller 6 who are able to accommodate the various skills necessary to execute a story. Reporters are required to produce the story from beginning to end. The commenting feature on Patchs website allows for feedback from readers on their coverage. This acts as a barometer of the receptivity of news consumers to the coverage. It can easily gage what is important news updates for the town in the eyes of the consumer. Knowing the target audience is vital to tailoring public interest stories to the demographic, and thus caters to reader retention. Another unique feature on the Patch site is a text box that allows for readers to post. Engaging readers through active participation of the website is a newly evolved idea that could have great potential. By allowing readers to participate in updating the website, it feeds directly into the mission of Patch and the ideology of a community. It is a collective project to serve the citizens of the town, and an opportunity in which people can be included in the media that was specifically designed for them. It makes sense that patronage of the website would increase if readers are given a venue to personalize and communicate with the people of their town. Aside from being a tool to engage readers, it also gives an opportunity for editors and reporters to evaluate the holes in coverage that may exist within the town. Similarly, it can also lead reporters to tips on possible stories in which readers may have an expressed interest. Earlier hyperlocal news models, as previously noted, tried to incorporate participation features into their platform. This did not work well since the user generated content was not in a suitable format for online news. Participants could write lengthy posts that would muddy up the website. Patch modified the concept by limiting each post to 160 characters, similar to messages

Lohmiller 7 on a Twitter feed or a Facebook post. Bite-sized informational updates are a perfect fit for web news, and are an effective enhancement to the original model. Although Patch has set the chief precedent on this particular media platform, it is certainly not the only one of its kind. There are numerous other hyperlocal websites that are comparable to the Patch model. Sites such as VillageSoup.com, GrowthSpur.com, and Outside.In are just a short list of the countless other sites that adopted this same formula to cover hyperlocal news. These sites do not cover as many locations as Patch does at this time, but are similar in style, format and type of coverage. They generally have similar topical content as far as breaking news; however they each offer a greater variety of other news topics that are not often repeated when comparing the different sites. Each website seems to offer some sort of personalized topic trends that are repeated in their archives, but generally are not shared by the other competing websites. This proves that there is not a lack of stories to be produced in news to be covered in suburbia. For example, I followed the local news in my hometown of Foxborough, Massachusetts. Disregarding anything connected to the Patriots, the Revolution, or anything related to Gillette Stadium, it is a prototypical small, suburban town. When I review the content from the local newspapers, Patch, the social media pages on facebook, and a few blogs, it is evident that aside from recent updates in town politics and the minimal criminal activity, the coverage is vastly different in each news platform I evaluated. What the Patch editor thought to include in their latest release was not what appeared in any of the blogs or the local newspaper.

Lohmiller 8 To be sure this was not simply a week filled of newsworthy items, I checked back to past dates from the websites that archive their postings. My findings from a comparison of recent dates were the same. Newsworthy articles are just as plentiful in the local level as they are on the world and state news coverage (Patch.com). The Importance of Hyperlocal Journalism Hyperlocal journalism can help develop and build stronger communities. It can spark a shared vestment within a community for betterment of the town. A town that has regular coverage of events and news that engages their audience provides more than just updates. It offers a communal source of dialogue for the citizens to be able to connect with (Foti). Journalism, as a whole, informs and reveals to the public the problems within a society. It is a system of checks and balances in which journalists present to the people, and thus they govern their community more closely. This is why it is vital for the success of a community to have attention in the media. Similarly, the positive events and accomplishments within a town should be noted. Morale boosts and achievements can bring towns closer. Even the events that are simple, and seemingly inconsequential, can supply the community with a reason to connect in new and different ways (Rothman). Profitability in a New Beat Advertising is the primary financial support in hyperlocal journalism. Similarly, advertising promotions are the lifeblood of any company. Therefore, the marriage of news outlets and their advertising relationships are of vital importance. The success of a news website can only be supported by a solid financial plan.

Lohmiller 9 Online ad space can instantly reach a mass audience directly and instantaneously. Popular websites fosters frequent exposure to a marketing campaign when readership retention is high. It takes a consumer seven exposure occurrences to an advertisement in order for it to register in their memory. Online advertising is ideal for repeat views to a large audience in ways that print and television cannot compete with. Consumers come across online advertisements whenever connected to the internet. These days, it is rare when most people travel very far from access to the web. People can log online through their personal and work computer, smartphone, PDAs, iPads, and even digital music devices. Advertisers acknowledge how ad space on popular websites is coveted because of its wide reaching capabilities. One of the advantages to online advertising is that the return on investment can easily be monitored. Page views and when a user clicks through an advertisement to the companys webpage are all tracked. When the news organization analyzes the data and presents it to their client, the advertiser can then contrast the findings against their sales record to find out the profitability of the marketing initiative. Hyperlocal sites are a great venue for companies who wish to target specific regions and demographics. Marketing gurus are well versed in who they are trying to reach and what the appropriate medium is. Hyperlocal sites serve specific communities that advertisers can capitalize on by seeking out solely their target audience. The success of a hyperlocal website is directly correlated to reader retention. If the website is regularly updated with new articles and fresh ideas that serve the interests and needs of the community, the likelihood of page views will increase since readers will know to check

Lohmiller 10 back for new updates. Patronage to the website is gained by consumers regularly visiting to look for the latest information. Advertisers turn to online news organizations with the highest amount of page views to do business with. The only way for hyperlocal sites can attract businesses to select their site for their marketing campaigns is through gaining an audience of recurrent readers. Without a network of business relationships and benefactors, the demise of any news organization is imminent. Aside from advertising, there are other supplementary means to support a news organization. Grants can be obtained for financial support, but must be earned. Grant beneficiaries must prove themselves regularly to the organization that supplies them with the funds. Jim Cutie, COO of CT Mirror, said foundations are very much like any other investors: they expect you to have a strong business model, partnerships, management team and board from day one. And some expect you to be self-sustainable in three to five years. Finally, the need for fundraising and promotion is key in the genesis of a news organization. It is integral to rely on multiple sources of monetary support to maintain a healthy financial foundation for a business. The Argument Against Hyperlocal Ventures Many media experts have argued that the longevity of hyperlocal journalism is questionable at best. In general, no experts discredit the value of hyperlocal journalism and its necessity in building an informed community. They just struggle with the financial logistics of this media model. The audience of hyperlocal markets is finite. Unless a community undergoes a dramatic growth, it is going to maintain its scale, and thus the publication will never grow

Lohmiller 11 outside of that size. This suggests that readership is also a fixed figured, even if the news outlet is well received by its community. Many advertisers want to reach a broader audience than what a hyperlocal site can offer. Since the audience is limited to the people of that community, major advertisers may be deterred from spending their advertising budget with these news sites. This is debatably a negative point against the case for hyperlocal journalism, since the return on investment can be more closely evaluated from hyperlocal site than from a nationally focused site. Depending on what the marketing strategy of the business, this could work for, or against a hyperlocal news organization. Some experts wonder if hyperlocal news staff can keep up with the rest of the news industry. Hyperlocal journalists do not have a newsroom, means for promotion of the website, a robust staff, or many of the other resources that local and national news organizations have access to. Hyperlocal journalists have to rely on working in the most basic conditions to produce their work, especially since they are competing against people who do have access to these resources. Hyperlocal Media Could Save Other News Sectors Traditional print newspapers are no longer the primary source people turn to for their daily news consumption. Although many major newspapers are trying to stay afloat, they have fierce competition against online news companies. Some experts suggest that what could be the defining quality that could separate print news from the online news giants is hyperlocal journalism. Most online news companies, with the exception of AOL News, have left the geofocused realm largely untapped. Their focus lies on news on the macro level. The convenience of

Lohmiller 12 online news has consumers developing a strong patronage to online news forums. If print editions distinguished themselves through providing hyperlocal content that could not be ascertained from other web resources, they perhaps could regain their composure as a necessary means of being an informed citizen. Conclusive Thoughts Hyperlocal media is an emerging movement in the media world because it is a necessity for communities to be prosperous. Its manifestation into the market came because businesses acknowledged a demand for it, and thus saw profitability. Whenever there is a need not being met within the marketplace, it is easy for entrepreneurs to want to satisfy that need when there is money to be earned. Although the arguments against hyperlocal media do present some solid evidence regarding the challenges that are certainly posed, these are purely logistical matters. During this transitional time period in which the business model is still being fine-tuned, these challenges will surely be faced and subsequently addressed. But the underlying point is that although there are a host of challenges, there is a demand that will be supplied to the public, and profit to be made.

Lohmiller 13 Works Cited Miller, Claire Cain, and Brad Stone. "Hyperlocal Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers - NYTimes.com." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. Apr.-May 2009. Web. 08 May 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/13/technology/start-ups/13hyperlocal.html>.

Junnarkar, Sandeep. "Meet the New Face of Hyperlocal Journalism." Online Journalism Review | Knight Digital Media Center. Web. 08 May 2011. <http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/061026junnarkar/>.

"A Brief History of Hyperlocal News | Keithhopper.com." Keithhopper.com | Exploring Innovative Ideas in Media and Technology. Web. 08 May 2011. <http://keithhopper.com/blog/brief-history-of-hyperlocal-news>.

Pekkala, Pekka. "The Top 10 Key Lessons for Hyperlocal Journalism Startups from ONA10." Online Journalism Review | Knight Digital Media Center. Web. 11 May 2011. <http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/pekkapekkala/201011/1905/>.

Post-employed, Involving. "How Hyperlocal Journalism Can Help Big Media Grow Closer to Local Communities | The Solomon Scandals." The Solomon Scandals: A D.C. Newspaper Novel by David Rothman. Web. 11 May 2011. <http://www.solomonscandals.com/?p=7466>.

Lohmiller 14 "Foti: Hyper-local Journalism Is the Keystone of a Community | Arcadia University Bulletin." Arcadia University Bulletin | . Web. 11 May 2011. <http://bulletin.arcadia.edu/2011/02/fotihyper-local-journalism-is-the-keystone-of-a-community/>.

"A Short "History" of Hyperlocal Media and Hyperlocal Advertising - Technology Evangelist." Technology Evangelist - Technology News, Articles, Blogs, and Interviews. Web. 11 May 2011. <http://www.technologyevangelist.com/2007/07/a_short_history_of_h.html>.

"Patch Support : Patch.com FAQs." Patch Support. Web. 11 May 2011. <http://support.patch.com/forums/380960-patch-com-faqs>.

Mixed news : the public/civic/communitarian journalism debate. Mahwah, N.J: Erlbaum, 1997.

FAQs | The Connecticut Mirror." The Connecticut Mirror | Connecticut state politics, government, health, education and business news and opinion. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2011. <http://ctmirror.org/about-us/faq>.