Lessons from Denmark: #2 – Hyperlocal sites can be profitable
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.
Run by Pallet W. Nielsen, this site focuses predominantly on offering a hyperlocal broadcast channel with at least one video uploaded a day cover news in the community. Pallet subsidises half of the week spent on the website with a part time job in PR and communications – and is currently looking into selling some of his hyperlocal content to bigger media channels.
Run by Canute Abildtrup who became unemployed four years ago – this is a hyperlocal blog for Alken – with 300 subscribers and and 1,800 weekly visitors. One of the most interesting things I found on this site was the listings of birthdays, deaths and marriage announcements all on a page called ‘Folk in Alken’ – allowing a space for traditional village-style news for people to use for free…. take a look – it’s got hundreds of entries and looks a bit like the birthdays/marriages column on old local papers.
He also recently ran a local competition in joke telling – which I thought was a nice way for the community to engage with the site.
On a small island between Denmark and Germany, Bjarne Hansen has been running Bornholm.nu – what he calls on the about page a ‘electronic local newspaper,’ but is essentially a hyperlocal news website – for 10 years. He gets 39,000 visitors per month (doesn’t say whether uniques or page views) and has made a successful living out of advertising revenue from local businesses. Advertisers can put their logo on a ‘supporters’ page for 300 euros a month – and there’s a pretty simple form embedded on the site for them to fill in.
One of the more interesting discussions to come from Bjarne’s blog was how, as a reporter, he could remain critical or impartial to news stories which came from the companies which were advertising on the site. I was unable to understand his answer fully – but I got the impression he gave a deadpan response that as part of his nature as a born and bred reporter (he spent quite a few years on the local paper he now competes with) he learnt the art of impartiality. An interesting question was also raised about the lifestyle of community publishers – Bjarne famously wrote up an important news story while on holiday in Budapest because he took his laptop – after being tipped off and a few phone calls later he had something up on the blog within minutes.
Interestingly none of these hyperlocal publishers said their websites could continue without them – since they have no successor.
I missed out on the afternoon talks to go and catch my flight back to Cardiff. But I did manage to get a bitesized version of two more interesting projects happening in Denmark.
Dialogue project – this project is being run by a regional newspapera in Holbæk Amts Venstreblad and Kalundborg Folkeblad – three journalists in the newsroom are now given their story ideas (their newslist) by a group of roughly 30 readers. The readers come up with ideas for a story – and pitch it to the journalist who more often than not does what they’re told – which one of the journalists, Kristina Herlev Wulff, said was a complete mind change from telling the reader what they should know. The stories go in the paper blended in with other stories from the reporters there – but sometimes with a short paragraph about the reader and where the story came form.
The main types of stories which have come from this project so far (it’s only been going a few months) are profile pieces of local people – who have sometimes turned out to be the reader’s friends. Kristina also said the journalists have had to put in a bit more research into the readers involved in the project and their background and political inclinations – as it soon became clear some would use the project for their own agenda. Kristina said they have yet to really gauge the affect the project is having on the newspaper