Statement of Intent

The sustainability of hyperlocal community news websites in the UK.

Hyperlocal media is defined as “online news or content services pertaining to a town, village or single postcode or other small geographically defined community” (Nesta, 2016) Hyperlocal community news websites have been around for over ten years. There are currently over 600 active hyperlocal websites in the UK. Due to the decrease in traditional local print and broadcast media, these continue to grow and develop.

In recent years, the decline of local journalism has led to a democratic deficit in local news.Hyperlocal community news sites are filling this gap. The news and information that they provide is essential for better informed communities. What’s more, hyperlocal sites can hold decision makers to account and provide a crucial forum for information and debate about local issues. However, the main challenge that they are faced with is economic. How can these small websites, often run by volunteers, be sustainable or even profitable in the long-term?

In this dissertation I aim to examine whether these websites can be sustainable. Not just  in economic terms but also in the services that they provide. I will be considering whether they meet the present needs whilst being able to diversify to meet those of the future. Are these websites able to be innovative and dynamic, continuing to provide relevant and interesting news and information? How can this be achieved with limited funding?

The methods of research for this study will include semi-structured interviews, structured questionnaires, academic articles, journals, books and relevant websites. There are several people who are well established in the hyperlocal field who I shall contact. Namely Emma Meese, Matt Abbott and Dr Andy Williams who are based in Cardiff, working within the University and at the Centre for Community Journalism. I intend to spend time over the summer in Cardiff  to speak to them and make use of the resources at the university.

Ray Duffil, Editor of HU12 Online, is another person I will speak to. He is a former community development manager who lives in Hedon. He founded the Hedon Blog and is a correspondent for the Holderness Gazette. As a local contact he will be a valuable primary source .

I also intend to contact Dave Harte who is an Associate Professor in Journalism and Media Studies at Birmingham School of Media. Dave has widely researched local community hyperlocal news websites and has published many articles. I will be referring to  his thesis “An investigation into hyperlocal journalism in the UK and how it creates value for citizens” (2017) for my own research. He is also joint author (along with Andy Williams and Rachel Howells) of a book, “Hyperlocal Journalism: The decline of local newspapers and the rise of online community news”, which is due to be released this summer and will become part of my bibliography.

Secondary sources of information include publications by Nesta, “Where are we now?” (2015) and “Hyperlocal revenues in the UK and Europe” (2016). Nesta is a UK charity who back “innovative ideas” to break down barriers to the success of projects. They focus on “fields that matter to the future well-being of the public”. They have published several research documents on hyperlocal news as have Carnegie UK Trust.

In order to gain information about the success or shortcomings of  websites, I will compile a standard questionnaire. This will be sent to approximately sixty (this represents roughly ten percent) existing community news websites. The research will look at certain areas such as the revenue models being used, number of followers/subscribers and longevity. The questionnaire will be clearly structured in order to gain quantifiable data.

The research and writing of the dissertation will follow my SMART objectives. They are specific; the research area is UK hyperlocal community websites. Based on previous research and the information available there is sufficient material to make this achievable. The subject is relevant to present issues in the UK and I have a ten month timescale.

The theory that I will look at is the Alternative media theory which is particularly relevant to hyperlocal community news websites. This theory takes a social critical perspective where the mainstream media is under too much state control and other media moguls. The dominant media is inadequate to many groups in society. In the UK this situation is presently evident by the decline in local news. Hyperlocal favours a more grass-roots approach which is on a smaller scale and tends to be non-commercial. It is more hands on with active participation of those involved. Community news websites operate under a liberal media model. There is a free market with minimal state intervention.

In conclusion, I believe that the subject I have chosen is well worth researching. Having recently become more active in my local community, it is an area that I am interested to explore. I hope to gain a greater understanding of hyperlocal community news websites whilst establishing ways to make them sustainable.

 

 

 

 

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Journalism professor Roy Greenslade says in this Press Gazette article that a ‘subsidy’ is needed to save public service journalism and predicts all local titles will be online-only within 30 years. Do you agree or disagree?

In 2016, Roy Greenslade  stated: ” newspapers big and small are facing an existential crisis.” He said that this crisis was due to their business model which, reliant on advertsing, was no longer viable. The traditional commercial business model no longer works as news organisations lose advertisers to the internet. This is especially harmful on a local level where local businesses have shifted to digital advertising which costs considerably less.

Coverage of local communities continues to fall as publishers continue their quest for profit. What this also means is that public service journalism is being lost. So there are two separate crises, as Steven Waldmen (2017) suggests, “one of the pocketbook and one of the soul.”

With regards to Roy Greenslade’s first statement I strongly agree that public service journalism needs to stay. However, a viable source of funding is necessary. How this can be achieved is a matter for debate. A subsidy would be one option  and does not necessarily have to mean Government intervention. Greenslade suggests a “public service subsidy” similar to a TV licence fee. I am sceptical to this and think there would be uproar. Most people would disagree to paying a fee for a service they are not using.

In the United States, as in the UK, fake news and click-bait has led to an increased mistrust of the news. However, whilst Americans seem to mistrust the media they have more faith in local news. They are looking at a special service district model for local journalism. This means that each community becomes responsible for the funding of their media, through council taxes or an annual fee. This can be voted for by the local community.

Other funding models could be philanthropy, through small subscription fees., or mixed funding options. Greenslade has also suggested that the digital giants should fund public service reporting.

There is no doubt that print journalism continues to decline and that the future is online. In March 2018 ABC released statistics that Johnston Press’ Yorshire dailies printed press circulation continued to fall which offset sharp rises in web traffic. With a recorded 58 % increase of daily browsers to Yorkshirepost.co.uk. year on year. This is a clear indication that local newspapers are in crisis. I once again agree with Ron Greenslade that local titles will be on-line only within 30 years.

statistic_id286210_online-news-newspaper-and-magazine-consumption-in-great-britain-2007-2017

References

Press Gazette/A. Kakar. (2018). Regional ABCs online: Johnston Press’ Yorkshire dailies offset print circulation drop with sharp rise in web traffic. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/with-18-uk-local-newspapers-gone-this-summer-google-and-facebook-need-to-act-fast-if-they-are-serious-about-helping-journalism-industry/. [Accessed 13 May 2018].

Pressgazette.co.uk. (2018). Roy Greenslade says a ‘subsidy’ is needed to save public service journalism and predicts all local titles will be online-only within 30 years – Press Gazette. [online] Available at: http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/roy-greenslade-says-a-subsidy-is-needed-to-save-public-service-journalism-but-predicts-all-local-titles-will-be-online-only-within-30-years/ [Accessed 13 May 2018].

The Guardian/R. Greenslade. (2016). Call for the digital giants to fund public service reporting. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/nov/12/call-for-the-digital-giants-to-fund-public-service-reporting. [Accessed 13 May 2018].

The Guardian/R. Greensdale. (2016). Newspapers big and small are facing an existential crisis. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/nov/11/newspapers-big-and-small-are-facing-an-existential-crisis. [Accessed 13 May 2018].

United States Project. (2017). Journalism is a public service. Why don’t we fund it like one?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/local-news-special-service-community-information-districts.php. [Accessed 13 May 2018].

United States Project. (2017). Public-service journalism program pitched in CJR lands funding. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.cjr.org/local_news/report-for-america.php. [Accessed 13 May 2018].

News Production Day

These are my seven chosen stories for assessment:

http://hullcentral.com/artlink-hull-presents-graft-flux/

http://hullcentral.com/hull-pirates-skating-success/

http://hullcentral.com/hull-city-fans-protest-tonights-match-sheffield-united/

http://hullcentral.com/heads-festival-returns-hull/

http://hullcentral.com/hull-mp-calls-hospital-parking-charges-axed/

http://hullcentral.com/hull-iconic-lord-line-building-saved-demolition/

http://hullcentral.com/hamleys-hulleva-success/

Hyperlocal News

I have decided to change my dissertation and have the idea of researching hyperlocal journalism in the UK. The title will be somewhere on the lines of: “The importance of hyperlocal journalism in the UK in a time when local news coverage is continuing to fall.”

These are some of the sources I intend to explore.

https://impress.press/news/hyperlocal-news-in-the-uk.htmlhttps://impress.press/news/hyperlocal-news-in-the-uk.html

http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/bbc-funded-local-democracy-reporters-are-a-start-but-scheme-is-like-putting-plaster-on-a-severed-limb/

https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/hyperlocal-welsh-translation

PDFs

The Value of UK Hyperlocal Community News

Hyperlocal-Community-News-in-the-UK-Final-Final

Harte-2016-DiscoursesofEnterpriseinHyperlo

C4CJ-Report-for-Screen

3-22-2017_Reciprocit

2017harted

 

People to contact:

Local- Hedon blog

Holderness and Hornsea Gazette 01964 611587

Paul Hanson (Editor) Hornsea Community News
Tel: 0795 829 83 65
Mob: 0797 444 0706

Beverley FM- David Fewster

https://justbeverley.co.uk/news

Beverley Life

Driffield and Wolds Weekly

National- Dr Andy Williams- Cardiff University- williamsa28@cardiff.ac.uk  029 20870088

http://daveharte.com/phd/alternative-press-in-birmingham-history/

Dave Harte-Birmingham School of Media Email: dave.harte@bcu.ac.uk Phone:0121 331 542

https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/success-with-mixed-funding-models-brings-optimism-to-community-websites/s2/a604846/

Final Touches to the Website

I have looked over the website for any spelling errors and mistakes. I find WordPress to be annoying because of the American English spell checker. This is especially confusing with Z/S variations.

Ron wanted me to add background music to the website which would play continuously throughout. I think that this was more for himself as, being partially sighted, music speaks to him more than photos or words. However, I explained that this was out-dated and that people do not really appreciate this feature. As a compromise, I included music on a separate page that I wrote.

I copied a couple of Ron’s Cape Verde music CDs and included them on the page as well as a YouTube link. In this way visitors to the site have a choice as to whether they want to listen to this typical music. The page gives an incite into the unique style of music on the islands.

Music of Cape Verde