The new model for journalism: Hyperlocal, collaboration and aggregation
We still haven’t found it – the perfect future business model to make journalism work online – but we are still looking and searching and a few blogs and conversations recently have raised some interesting ideas about how the future of journalism might look.
Earlier this week, Paul Carr posted on TechCrunch. He talked about how bloggers aren’t really taking over mainstream media – how UGC can help break news but traditional reporting would always be needed to flesh out a story, but bloggers also seem able to get information the tabloid press also doll out.
He said good investigative reporting would always be needed – the 50-strong crack team who perhaps constitute the phrase “good journalism” were essential to keep the industry alive. But, he said, you always needed people to write the smaller, press-release type stories to flesh out the paper and keep the less explosive news being published.
Carr then goes on to use the example of TechCrunch to see where the industry is going – a small team of niche reporters working hard to deliver top technology news for loyal readership. He writes:
Whatever the cynics might think, it’s a place where sources are built up, facts are checked, lawyers are employed and writers are encouraged to go out and get the real story behind the story.
Other sites popping up around the globe are catering for other niches – farming, music and politics. The new model is an online one – of collaboration with users and bloggers combined with your best editors to create the best news content and linking to other niches you can’t do so well (a method Jeff Jarvis championed a while back).
This leads me onto the next exciting development closer to home, in Birmingham, which is again leading the way in new ideas of doing good journalism online.
Help Me Investigate is a new website (only about three weeks old) which allows the locality to type a civic question into the website (“How many parking tickets are being issued per month on my road”) and a group of journalists as well as other users on the site work about getting the information back to that person – submitting Freedom of Information requests and collaborating on finding out the relevant legislation. It is time consuming and costly process – which in any newsroom would need a number of resources. But the Help Me Investigate team have managed already to find out some pretty ground breaking facts – like the story about parking ticket hotspots which was recently published (and rightfully attributed) in the local press by the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail.
This is the future of journalism. A collaborative effort with professional journalists, local people and local authorities coming together to make the community more transparent and an altogether better place. It is a source of news as well as a place people who are passionate about where they live to ask others for help with their shared local grievances. It is also the essence of a hyperlocal website.
But as Paul Bradshaw today on Radio 4’s Media Show – you cannot make much money form hyperlocal. I am quickly finding this out as I pour my efforts and limited webby skills into making a hyperlocal news website for Bournville – the area I live in in Birmingham.
Bournville has no local newspaper and little going for it on the web – and tons of advertisers who would love to have their services published to the local community. Seems like a sure fire hit? Well it takes time and energy to set up – and it’s only little old me working on it at the mo – albeit with a web of friendly and supportive bloggers in Birmingham and plenty of other hyperlocal experts to take advice from.
But hyperlocal, collaborative and aggregation seem to me to be key terms in the future of local journalism online. And I’m excited my home town Birmingham is pioneering such innovative and exceptional work.