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September 27 2010

19:01

Local News Needs 'Bottom Up' Structure to Survive

This week Orkney Today announced it was closing. The paper, which served the small islands of Orkney just off the Scottish coast, was -- like countless other local papers -- battling against declining circulation and disappearing ad revenues. "Orkney Media Group management and the newspaper's excellent staff have tried a number of initiatives to reverse the fortunes of the newspaper," the paper reported, "but to no avail."

If the news industry as a whole isn't exactly the picture of good health, local news is in the emergency room. News problems at a national level -- falls in circulation, and collapse in classified and advertising revenues -- are acute at a local level.

This has serious political implications, particularly in terms of who acts as the democratic watchdog, which is why this concerns not only news bosses but also politicians.

"We are concerned that ... the problems in the local media industry are leading to a scrutiny gap," read a report, Future for Local and Regional News, from the Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport.

Defining Local

The problem is, when thinking about what to do about it, how do you define local? For Orkney Today this was pretty easy. It served a clearly defined geographic area -- the Orkney isles -- that is run by the Orkney local council, and that has a long established sense of community. But what about places that aren't surrounded by sea, that don't have a single local authority, and may not have such a long established sense of community?

This isn't an academic question. In political -- i.e. public policy -- terms how you define local will determine what you do and how you do it. How can a government, for example, even consider direct or indirect subsidies, for example, without knowing who to give them to and what parameters to set?

Boil it down and you can probably define "local" in three different ways: Politically, economically, or socially. (I'm deliberately ignoring random geographic boundaries even though that's how regional broadcast news appears to be defined right now). The way you choose to define local then has fundamental implications for the type of journalism you end up with.

If you're in government you're probably most worried about the health of democracy and so it makes logical sense to define "local" in political terms -- i.e. at the ward level, or the local authority or county council boundary, or the constituency. This way you highlight the watchdog role of journalism. You make clear that, as a society, you believe in the idea of a "Fourth Estate" -- a section of society whose role it is to scrutinize local politics, uncover corruption, and tell truth to power.

The problem with this is that political boundaries don't necessarily make economic sense or correspond to what people think of as local. Take my ward in England, called "Kingham, Rollright and Enstone." I don't live in Kingham, Rollright or Enstone, I live just outside Chipping Norton. So a news service called The Kingham, Rollright and Enstone Times wouldn't seem very relevant to me. On top of which my ward is pretty spread out (it's rural) and there are only about 4,000 people in it in total. That's too few for most professional news organizations to bother with, unless they can get costs close to nil.

Because if you're a news organization then while you're thinking about local politics you're also thinking economics. You have to be if you're going to survive. You have to think about how many eyeballs you need to make enough revenue via circulation, subscriptions, classifieds, etc. You're making a calculation that, say, you need to sell 10,000 print copies a week to get by. With 10 percent penetration that means you need to serve an area of about 100,000 people. Multiply the numbers considerably for bigger publications or for broadcast. But the problem with an economic definition of local is that it's unlikely to match the public's perception.

If you're a member of the public then local probably means your street, your neighborhood, your town. What the news industry likes to call hyper-local. As a participant in a recent Birmingham focus group said, "If it's not within a 10 mile radius, it's not local news as far as I'm concerned ... it might as well be national." That quote comes from "Meeting the News Needs of Local Communities," a research report released this month by Media Trust. News at this level is great for building community cohesion and for making people feel a part of a bigger society, but it's hard to imagine anyone but volunteers and non-profits providing it in a sustainable way.

Recipe for Success

That's why it's so hard for a government, or a news organization, to know what to do. You can't create this sort of genuine hyper-local news service from the top down. Neither the government nor a news organization can direct the public to produce news about where they live. This sort of news has to be from the ground up. It has to be participatory. It has to be by and for the local community.

Which is why the local news organizations/co-operatives/forums most likely to work are those that start from the bottom, and that build participation, collaboration, mutualization, and partnerships into their DNA. This is very hard indeed for legacy news organizations to do. And it means that the best a government can do is to create a framework in which people are able to fill the vacuum being left by the disappearance of local news, rather than trying to subsidize the existing industry or provide top-down direct support.

September 23 2010

11:59

Trust in journalists in steep decline, says YouGov research

Trust in journalists has plummeted over the past seven years, according to a survey conducted by YouGov for Prospect Magazine.

YouGov has been assessing people’s trust in various communicators, decision makers and service providers since 2003, and the forthcoming edition of Prospect compares the polling agency’s latest findings with its first.

Unsurprisingly, politicians have taken a hit since the Iraq war and trade union leaders won’t be going to the prom with the captain of the football team any time soon.

But there has also been an alarming fall in the ratings for journalists. In 2003, ITV journalists had a trust rating of a little over 80 per cent. That figure had fallen by 33 per cent by August this year, putting BBC news journalists in the lead.

But the BBC might not be getting asked to babysit or look after anybody’s car: trust in its news journalists has dropped 21 per cent since 2003, down from 81 to 60 per cent.

And it’s a similar story elsewhere: “upmarket” newspapers (Times, Telegraph, Guardian) have suffered a 24 per cent knock down to just over 40 per cent in the latest figures; mid-markets (Mail, Express) are down from around 35 to 21 per cent; the red-tops have only fallen four per cent, but it is from 14 to just 10 per cent.

By comparison, leading Labour politicians scored 23 per cent, leading Liberals 27 per cent and leading Tories, who were the only group on the survey to win an increase in trust, went from a meagre 20 per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent now.

YouGov’s surveys have consistently found more trust in local, rather than national professionals. GPs, teachers, police constables and local MPs are apparently deemed more trustworthy.

Unfortunately, the polls don’t include data for local journalists. Does the tendency to trust local professionals extend to the local hacks? Are there areas where people trust their hyperlocal start-up more than the age-old local rag?

Feel free to chime in with your own opinions… what about this?Similar Posts:



September 17 2010

07:46

August 18 2010

17:42

See Who's Getting Started with NetSquared Local

NetSquared Local MapThere are over 70 NetSquared groups around the world that meet to network and learn about using the web and other innovative technologies to make social change happen. Each one of these groups is volunteer run and community driven, and each one is totally unique and at the mercy of the interests, cultures and expertises of the group members.

read more

August 09 2010

14:30

How to be a Local Sports Reporter : How to Write Good Sports Journalism

Learn how to write good sports journalism as aprofessional sports broadcaster with expert broadcasting tips in this free online sports journalism video clip. Expert: Jamal Spencer Bio: Jamal Spencer has worked for ABC 53 in Lansing for 2 years. He started as an intern and now has a full-time position helping run the sports department at ABC 53. Filmmaker: Bartholomew DiVietri
Video Rating: 5 / 5

August 05 2010

14:04

Open Source CMS: A Net2Camb Event Wrap-up from Will Hall

Besides my role with NetSquared globally, I also organize a monthly NetSquared event locally, in Cambridge, UK. The July Net2Camb event was led by Will Hall, a PHP web developer and open source enthusiast. He discussed the options, benefits, and risks associated with using open source content management systems for SMEs, charities and NGOs.

Will has kindly written a wrap-up of the event to share with you, and included his presentation slides for your reference:

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August 03 2010

22:45

How to be a Local Sports Reporter : How to Cover Outdoor Sports as a Reporter

Learn how to cover outdoor sports as aprofessional sports broadcaster with expert broadcasting tips in this free online sports journalism video clip. Expert: Jamal Spencer Bio: Jamal Spencer has worked for ABC 53 in Lansing for 2 years. He started as an intern and now has a full-time position helping run the sports department at ABC 53. Filmmaker: Bartholomew DiVietri

Location: West Coast Park (Singapore) News article on 29th June 2009 Monday Visit: www.tnp.com.sg
Video Rating: 0 / 5

15:18

NetTuesday Notes in Words and Pictures: A Guest Blog Post from Melbourne Organizer Jasmin Tragas

Jasmin HeadshotToday we hosted our second NetTuesday event in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and decided to do things a little differently. I spread some large sheets of scrap paper out on the table and bunched together some textas and crayons in a jar. The atmosphere was informal, and everyone was encouraged to participate whilst sipping lattes and munching on muffins, although I ended up visually facilitating the session (people are afraid that they can't draw!) based on the discussion. The idea was to capture some ideas, experiences and general conversation about ways people are making a difference.

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June 30 2010

17:27

Finding Most-Followed Tweeters in a Georgraphic Area

Does anyone know how I can figure out which tweeters in my city or state -- or another city or state -- have the most followers? Thanks!

June 17 2010

11:08

NetSquared Local Reaches 70 Groups Worldwide!

NetSquared Local MapIn the last two months, we've had 5 new NetSquared Local groups join the scene, bringing the new official number to 70 groups worldwide! Below is a list of the new groups that have just gotten started.

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June 10 2010

02:41

How Americans use web for community news

Americans are increasingly using internet tools to keep informed about what is happening in their communities, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Among the findings:

  • 22% of all adults (representing 28% of internet users) signed up to receive alerts about local issues (such as traffic, school events, weather warnings or crime alerts) via email or text messaging.
  • 20% of all adults (27% of internet users) used digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues.
  • Fourteen percent (14%) of internet users – or 11% of all American adults –  read a blog dealing with community issues in the twelve months preceding the survey
  • Nearly one in ten social network users (8%) joined an online group focused on community issues in the preceding twelve months—that works out to 5% of all internet users and 4% of all American adults.
  • Among adults who use Twitter or other status update services, 14% use these sites to follow their neighbors—that works out to 3% of all internet users and 2% of all American adults.


April 30 2010

13:49

Camps Pilot notes from the Field: Week 1

Last week, Billy announced the launch of the NetSquared Camp pilot.  Local organizers are already off and running, gearing up for the local events taking place in Chicago, Douala, Portland, and Vancouver.  (Plus Campfire events in North Carolina and Paris!) Each week, I'll be reporting here on the blog - a public view of the field notes in a way.  This pilot is a chance for us to learn and experiment together as a community and we know that the more we can share, in real time, the more we can learn!  I hope you'll join me, share you

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April 19 2010

21:27

Who's New to Net2 Local?

Net2 Local mapThis spring has brought 9 new NetSquared Local groups, bringing the new official number to 67 groups worldwide! Below is a list of the groups that have started in the last few months.

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April 02 2010

12:41

Mobile=local

At the Brite conference, I talked about mobile coming to be synonymous with local. Here are a few paragraphs I wrote on the topic for an essay in a German book about the future of the net:

The biggest battlefield is local and mobile (I combine them because soon, local will mean simply wherever you are now). That’s why Google is in the phone business and the mapping business and why it is working hard to let us search by speaking or even by taking pictures so we don’t have to type while walking or driving.

The winner in local will be the one that knows more about what’s around me right now. Using my smartphone’s GPS and maps—or using Google Googles to simply take a picture of, say, a club on the corner—I can ask the web what it knows about that place. Are any of my friends there now? (Foursquare or Gowalla or soon Facebook and Twitter and Google Buzz could tell me.) Do my friends like the place? (Facebook and Yelp have the answer.) Show me pictures and video from inside (that’s just geo-tagged content from Flickr and YouTube). Show me government data on the place (any health violations or arrests? Everyblock has that). What band is playing there tonight? Let me hear them. Let me buy their music. What’s on the menu? What’s the most popular dish? Give me coupons and bargains. OK, now I’ll tell my friends (on Twitter and Facebook) that I’m there and they’ll follow. This scenario—more than a newspaper story—will define local.

To do all this, Google—or the next Google—needs two things: First, it needs more data; it needs us to annotate the world with information (if Google can’t find this data elsewhere on the web, it will create the means for us to generate it). Second, Google needs to know more about us—it needs more signals such as location, usage history, and social networks—so it can make its services more relevant to us.

February 05 2010

22:33

NewBizNews: What ad sales people hear

Recently, at CUNY, we held a roundtable for ad sales people from hyperlocal blogs to big newspapers to hear what they are hearing from local merchants. We’re wrapping up our research for the New Business Models for News Project — indeed, it was Alberto Ibargüen, head of the Knight Foundation that funded this work, who said he really wanted to hear sales people’s perspective — and beginning research for Carnegie-funded work on new ad models, products, service, and sales methods, working with The New York Times on The Local. Some of what we learned; the first four are the most important to me:

* Most important, I think, is that we won’t be selling media to merchants — banners ‘n’ buttons — so much as we will be selling service: helping them with all their digital needs, including optimizing them in Google and Yelp and social media and mobile. I’ll write a post with more thoughts on this shortly.

* Voice matters. Local bloggers said they are must-reads because of their voice in the community (the human voice of the neighbor over the cold voice of the institution) and that — along with a constant flow of posts and news and the audience and conversation that attracts — makes them must-buys for advertisers. One blogger made the newspapers visibly jealous reporting that advertisers are coming to the blog asking to advertise because they had to be there. Another way to look at this: The service must be part of the community. One of the bloggers covers new businesses in town because that’s news; ads may follow but even if they don’t, the site will cover commerce in the community.

* There is interest in network sales. One newspaper exec in the room said she’s jealous of the new advertisers smaller bloggers get and would be interesting in having those bloggers sell into her site. The blogger is also interested in getting revenue from larger advertisers via the newspaper’s sales. That networked approach is key to the optimization of value we projected in our new business models for the local news ecosystem: the advertiser can be better served by appearing in more services with easier purchase; the large site can get new customers it could not otherwise afford to sell; the small site can get large advertisers it could not otherwise attract; all ships rise on this tide. (However, we must find a new word instead of “network,” as it has low-value cooties associated with it. Alliance? Ecosystem? Suggestions?)

* We at CUNY are going to be investigating the possibilities for citizen sales — new sales forces and new sales businesses that can sprout up alongside and help support the new news businesses. The group saw potential here but also saw the need for training and quality control.

* It’s clear that local merchants still need education. In the early days of the web, we had to sell advertisers not just on the value of our sites but on the value of the internet itself. That effort continues with smaller advertisers. That means that there’s a greater cost of sales. It also means that this is a means of sales — come to our internet seminar (a technique that is working for various of the participants). And I see a role here for organizations such as universities (not to mention chambers of commerce) to help local merchants understand the value of the internet.

* Local ad agencies also need education still.

* There was some debate about the sophistication of local advertisers and their need for data, but it’s clear that in many cases, media have to collect, analyze, and present data on performance and return on investment. One of the more established companies said all that matters to small advertisers is ROI (return on investment: feet to the door and ringing cash registers). One of the newer companies said more data is needed to prove performance and value. In some cases, we will measure will be attention, in others leads produced, in others sales, and in others more intangible measurements about community and relationships. At our conference on new business models for news in the fall, Gannett talked about research it did with Ideo that found that very local merchants need discovery (read: search) but in many cases, their customers already now they’re there; so what they seek is better relationships with their communities; how do we deliver and measure that?

* The simpler the better. Local merchants are not buying CPM-based advertising. They’re buying timed sponsorships. They want to see the ad they bought on the site.

* Google is playing a bigger and bigger role in local (via the web and now mobile). Some local merchants don’t bother having a site; their ads link to their Google place page.

* One old law of sales is still true: get one butcher advertising and that helps force the next one to join in.

* Self-serve platforms for buying advertising are not the answer. Sales is still needed. I’ve heard that in more than one horror story about low revenue from build-it-and-they-will-come efforts. Once an advertiser is sold, I’ve also heard of success in enabling them to update their ads (e.g., providing them with advertiser blogs).

* Replicating print ads online doesn’t work for advertisers or readers. No surprise there; the only surprise is that publications and merchants still try.

* There are other products besides advertising to sell: email, events, coupons (which work well for many local sites). There was some debate in the group about the value of video as a vehicle for advertising and as a form of advertising itself. More experimentation is needed.

At CUNY, our next step will be performing research with local advertisers/merchants. Then we’ll work on R&D on new ad forms. Then we’ll try to train citizen sales forces. This is the next step in our work on new business models and sustainability for news. Stay tuned.

December 20 2009

13:28

December 18 2009

18:34
03:46

Google goes local

TechCrunch reports that Google is in negotiations to buy Yelp. Makes perfect sense. Google is ready to make an assault on local with its Place Pages and QR codes on local establishments and augmented maps and directions and mobile…. This turf was newspapers’ and phone companies’ to lose and lose it, they will.

Or as I put it in a tweet: “Yelp + GoogleMaps + StreetView + PlacePages + GOOG411 + Google Goggles + Android + AdSense = Google synchronicity”

November 10 2009

19:07
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