Does Hyperlocal Have Staying Power? 

 Does Hyperlocal Have Staying Power?

The initial question when it comes to hyperlocal is…why hyperlocal? What does hyperlocal have that national or even local news doesn’t cover. Those answers and more where discussed in the Hyperlocal: Future or Hype? panel. One answer is that hyperlocal coverage does what national and local coverage can’t.

The newest player to the hyperlocal game is Patch from AOL. Patch West Coast Editorial Director Marcia Parker was on the panel to represent the body that has over 850 sites each with their on single local editor. The emergence of Patch created a discussion among the rest of the panel: Gil Asakawa Manager of Student Media at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado and blogger whose work is occasionally cross posted onto the Huffington Post Denver platform, Ron Recinto of Yahoo! and Susan Rosiek, the Publisher/Editor of Hometownlife.com. The discussion circled around the next question of hyperlocal: does it have staying power?

Like any business there is the issue of gaining a profit. Online businesses have to survive a unique challenge of making revenue on a platform that is free for people to visit. Usually print ads make more money than online ads but there are also the options of mergers and consolidation.

Asakawa raised the point that when a story becomes more newsworthy, it might decrease in locality. A story that is very local like a crime in a neighborhood might not be news to someone who lives 30miles away just as a huge accident on a major highway might not affect people who work and live in a very close community. He argued that city might not be local enough to be considered hyperlocal.

Bloggers can be considered as competition towards hyperlocal journalists. Asakawa said that bloggers rose because mainstream media wasn’t covering the local issues they cared about. Rosiek explained that although bloggers cover hyperlocal… for free, the difference between them and other journalists that cover hyperlocal is that usually reporters for hyperlocal websites have proven journalistic experience, talent and contacts. Rosiek stands by the idea that the work of local journalists can be appreciated over the work of bloggers who may or may not be credible sources for information.

The final issue that was covered in the panel was aggregating. Huffington Post was brought up multiple times for reposting other media outlets’ news on their local channels. If Huffington Post were to take a blog and repost it, even if they link back to the original work, is that fair? Some panelist raised the point of being paid in publicity. If a no-name blogger were to uncover a great story and have it be re-posted by a bigger more popular medium that could potentially drive a huge increase of traffic to the original post. Or is reposting a story with all the important information outlined, and then having a link to the full story at the bottom, unfair?

Whether hyperlocal sites have staying power is still yet to be seen. One thing is for certain as Recinto explained, it gives users an enhanced experience by giving an intimate feel to their news. The journalists are immersed in the hyperlocal; knowing, living, and understanding which issues effect the community which can’t always be said about national or even local news coverage.

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