The idea of “hyperlocal” media seems stuck. Traditional media can’t make money from it and the bloggers just don’t stick at it. To move the debate along, Nesta have just launched a report surveying the landscape and a fund of up to £500,000 for new ideas in this area. The future, they conclude, “will be messy”.
Some of those elements are present in hyperlocal media today. Can this media model be made to work financially? I’m honestly not sure. Many hyperlocal blogs and sites are people scratching their own itches, with little structure behind them, and depending on the energy of a few founders.
It’s good to see NESTA and Carnegie put money into new models that might work in this area, I hope they succeed.
The paper is very readable and strong on two particular themes: the relations between traditional local media and hyperlocal; and the (uncertain) potential for sustainable business models to strengthen the sector. The international coverage is also a very distinctive contribution, giving perspective to the development of hyperlocal in the UK.
Where we’d welcome more focus in the future is on demonstrating an appreciation of the significance of voluntary effort in establishing and managing local online resources; and the way that effort fits into the shifting culture of civic and community involvement. Of course, that’s a complex and fuzzy area, under-researched and under-theorised, but hugely important in the next couple of years at least.
If you spot any other comments, feedback and insights, do let me know.