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Archive for February 2011

Lessons from Denmark: #2 – Hyperlocal sites can be profitable

The conference room in the Danish School of Journalism, Aarhus

The Danish hyperlocal scene is sprouting new sites throughout the country – with roughly 100 sites creating firm roots as hyperlocal contenders to regional newspaper giants.

When we talk about hyperlocal here, it’s worth pointing out after speaking to a number of Danes on the subject it’s clear they mean local news or community run news blogs and websites – as opposed to hyperlocal blogs in the broader sense of a website covering any topic (horses/tractors) for a geographical community (see Philip John’s excellent post exploring the definition of hyperlocal).

The annual conference run by research institute Update has been exploring issues around hyperlocal news blogs for a while.

Yesterday the conference took place in the second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus – home to one of the three main journalism schools in the country – the Danish School of Journalism.

Around 40 regional journalists gathered to discuss new developments on the local scene – you can catch up with the rest of the programme using Google translate here.

Much of the conference was in Danish – with questions and debate around my presentations in English for my benefit.

But it was still it was possible for me to digest a little from some of the other speakers at the event – so here’s a short fix of the morning presentations from three hyperlocal publishers in Denmark – if anyone (Peter, Kasper I’m thinking of you) reads this and thinks I got the wrong end of the stick please comment and I’ll update the post. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by hrwaldram

February 11, 2011 at 8:45 am

Lessons from Denmark: #1 The hyperlocal scene – We’re not so different

The cathedral in Aarhus

It seems timely that the week Martin Moore publishes this post on the difference between the US experimentation and the UK conservatism on the hyperlocal scene, I learn the UK comparison to Danish counterparts is far less terrifying – turns out we’re much the same.

This week I went to Aarhus in Denmark on invitation by Peter From Jacobsen from Update – the research institute attached to the Danish School of Journalism. The institute holds an annual conference which has been running for six years and more recently has been exploring new developments in hyperlocal journalism.

I spent day one exploring the journalism school and speaking to Peter about some of the findings from his research in regional journalism in Denmark – and the picture is similar, as far as I can gather, to the UK.

This is all based on a very glossed-over view of what’s taking place – but the general themes of uncertainty in regional newsrooms over how to respond to hyperlocal is much the same. Local papers want to enter and participate in the hyperlocal sphere but are unsure of the best route to do so without losing time and money – or the best way to engage or compete with existing sites.  The feeling of local media not wanting to offend hyperlocals and vice versa is purely British.

Danish School of Journalism. Photo: Hannah Waldram

But Danish titles are grabbing the bull by the horns and getting stuck in with hyperlocal – and some interesting projects have emerged from unique partnerships between independent publishers and overarching regional arms.

One of the most interesting from my point of view is a project Jacobsen is involved with recruiting local people as citizen reporters for very small geographical areas who will work from an embedded paid ‘professional’ reporter from regional paper which serves a bigger area. The project is in collaboration with regional newspapers.

This reporter works with eight or nine community reporters – holding bi-monthly news meetings and they then upload stories to the site.

Peter and the journalist build up a formal network of citizens who have an interest or passion driving them to learn how to report local news. Peter gives them a manual with a short ‘how to’ of local journalism online and nurtures their abilities and use of the technology over email.

Soon the stories start flowing in, with those with a regional appeal going on the the paper. Peter said the ‘citizen reporters’ tend to be 35-year-old women who are very active in the community – and all is done voluntarily with no payment.

The reporters do get awards for the best stories, and a subsidised fee for the local newspaper. When asked about the potentially problematic idea of getting local people to do journalism which could be for the paper for free – Peter told me this really isn’t an issue in Denmark – it seems only the British are the ones really worrying about the implications of community contributors submitting content out of a compassion for their community.

As for the Danish School of Journalism itself, UK lecturers would be interested to know it essentially does the same thing – but in a far cooler building, which is light, well designed and full of pot plants. The online module is still a separate part of the course and lecturers are trying to work out how to integrate it into the core skills teaching.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a blog looking at some specific examples of hyperlocal blogs from the conference.

Written by hrwaldram

February 10, 2011 at 8:45 am

How to map: top tips and tools for hyperlocal publishers

Getting to grips with mapping is a fundamental part of running a hyperlocal blog – this is the first part of a post I’ve written for Wannabe Hacks as part of their hyperlocal week – the rest of the post has some helpful tips for using different mapping tools – read it here.

Seany @Flickr

 

Mapping is wrapped up with the very idea of local. It’s no surprise that one of the first things many hyperlocal start-ups do is work out exactly which area the blog aims to cover.

But what’s local to us is bound up with our day-to-day living – how the school is situated to the bank, how long it takes to walk to the nearest park, how close the post office is to the train station – these are all things which make up our private memory map of our local area.

In this way – using ordinance survey map data could pose a problem for hyperlocal publishers – since the reader’s local map is woven into the fabric of daily lives, their emotions and experiences. But if stories and new bits of information can somehow tap into this private map (make it emo-local) – and help the reader better understand, better digest, or give more meaning to something about their community – then the map is a very powerful tool for storytelling indeed.

Part of the reason hyperlocal publishing has often been likened to the news industry is because there are aspects of being a community publisher akin to the traditional patch reporter.

But while local newspaper reporters may struggle to place the story in its emo-local context, hyperlocal publishers not only usually know their area through and through – but also have a number of easy to use online tools at their disposal to help.

There are different types of maps that make up an area – some online tools will work very well for local reporting and some stories, while others will be just too complicated for volunteers working in their spare time to bother with.

This post aims to give a brief overview of some online mapping tools hyperlocal publishers can use – with some practical tips for those getting to grips with maps for news gathering, storytelling and engagement purposes. I also aim to offer a few ideas for when these tools are best applied and what is the best practise for using maps for hyperlocal blogging.

This is by no means an extensive list – and I’m no expert – so I’d very much welcome comments in the section below linking to other good tools, ideas for best mapping practice and links to maps you’ve seen work well on hyperlocal blogs. Read the rest of this entry »