On Saturday 25 September, I hosted (at Ofcom) an event for London’s emerging hyper local community. The event was run in partnership with the Networked Neighbourhoods team (who did most of the work in making it happen,) and London Councils who paid for an excellent lunch.
As with similar events held by Talk About Local in Leeds and Stoke over the past year (and which I/Ofcom have also supported), this was the first time that many hyper-local producers had met other people working in the same (often rather solitary) field.
Ofcom helped to create a forum for this community to physically get together for the first time, by offering up our first floor meeting rooms one Saturday. As Kevin Harris wrote, “[Ofcom’s] … impressive event space was ideal for the purpose.”
Over the past year, I’ve seen the sector grow (in London alone the number of hyper local sites is believed to have increased by 50% – to well over 100 – in the past 12 months) and also become increasingly vocal and confident.
The day represented a great opportunity for networking, as well as a chance for practitioners to learn from one another and discuss common issues and concerns. Reassuringly, none of these were new to me, but they also demonstrate long-term structural challenges the sector faces. The top three issues I picked up were:
- Making it pay (although the room seemed split between those who wanted to monetise their site so they could do more with it and those who were happy to do it for free).
- The challenges in working with traditional media who often take stories and fail to attribute – nevermind pay – the original (hyper-local) source.
- Legal risks – many bloggers had experienced threats of legal action from Councils or other bodies. As the NUJ does not recognise the sector, there is no legal support mechanism to underpin the sector – or an individual blogger – should it all go south.
Philip John, who runs the Lichfield blog , has done a great job of aggregating everything from blog posts to pictures, tweets and other activity relating to the day. Posts from Kevin Harris, the Guardian’s Sarah Hartley and Jason Cobb, all give good, balanced accounts of the event and there’s a Google Group for attendees too. Hopefully this will provide a useful platform for helping to maintain the links made on the day.