A packed room with a panel of local publishers who each take very different approaches debated some of the issues which arise when the focus is on local issues. As I was facilitating the panel it wan’t possible to live blog the discussion so this post is a summary of some of the main points for the benefit of those n0tice-ers who were unable to join us.
Nicky Getgood from Talk About Local explained that her approach with the Digbeth is Good blog had less to do with journalism but was more about unearthing the stories and characters of an often overlooked part of Birmingham.
Nigel Barlow from InsidetheM60 told the audience how his attempt to launch an independent news site for the large geography of Manchester had proved to be too much to handle for just two professional journalists who had ‘driven themselves into the ground’ but the experience was informing a new venture about to launch in a smaller geography covering the creative Northern Quarter area of the city.
Keith Magnum showed the room that print was still alive and kicking by letting us hear about the way the Hackney Citizen is developing online as well as being a widely distributed free newspaper. He was able to spell out the challenges of being editor, publisher and advertising manager all rolled into one.
Martin Wainwright, the Guardian’s northern editor and blogger at The Northerner talked out his work in pushing for more recognition about the issues and events in the north and the very different challenge of being a journalist working within a international news organisation while pursuing a more local agenda.
On the three issues I’ve picked out;
Credibility: the question of who exactly is behind the headlines that local news independents publish was a subject that all four panellists had considered. Martin had found it to be an advantage having the Guardian behind his local blogging actitivies while thre other three felt their visibility in their localities was the essential ingredient – people knew who they were and, literally, where they lived so trusted them to be truthful and responsible.
Visibility: This was a point on which the panel could all agree – local (or hyperlocal) activity means getting out and about, meeting people and covering events in person instead of over the phone or online. Nicky had found attending events plus posting flyers and leaflets the best way to let people know her blog existed, Nigel had tussled his way into being accepted at local council meetings and Keith had worked to become a focus for that neighbourhood.
Revenue: not much concensus from the panel on this point. As Nicky pointed out, a great many hyperlocal sites weren’t intending to make money from their activities while Nigel and Keith are bith working to run their enterprises as buisnesses. Although the Hackney Citizen does take advertising, Keith has also diversified into offering other services, such as journalism courses, while Nigel is drawing up plans for a partnership approach for local businesses. The discussion about revenue was also a chance for us to remind people about the n0tice.com model which pays 85 % of revenue to noticeboard owners (more information on that here).
* Many thanks to all the panellists and those n0tice-ers who came along, it was a pleasure to meet people. The next large-scale event that n0tice is participating in will be the Talk About Local Unconference in Birmingham on Saturday 28 April – hope to see you there.