Here’s an understatement if ever there was one: the media landscape in Britain has been undergoing a bit of a seismic shift this last few years.
Web 2.0 and the explosion in smartphone and mobile technology means people are accessing news and information in a myriad of new ways. And this technological revolution has seen more and more people creating their own content too.
Tools like Twitter, Audioboo, Facebook and YouTube, and blogging platforms such as WordPress, mean it’s never been easier for citizens to publish their own information – and to reach sizeable audiences.
The growth of ‘hyperlocal blogs’ – local websites that focus on a particular city, town, village or other defined geographical area – has gone hand in hand with this technological revolution – and the decline of the traditional print media.
There are hundreds of hyperlocal sites of all shapes, sizes and motivations all over the country – take a look at http://openlylocal.com/hyperlocal_sites Dave Harte from Birmingham City University calculated in April 2012 that UK hyperlocal sites were publishing content once every two minutes (http://daveharte.com/social-media/hyperlocal-one-every-two-minutes).
Like many things digital, the West Midlands has a thriving hyperlocal scene. Sites like B31 Voices, Digbeth Is Good, WV11, Lichfield Live, Connect Cannock and many more are providing news and information to their readers and building large communities of interest. In fact, Birmingham has 28 hyperlocal sites, more than any other council area in the UK.
There are many ways in which local government should be engaging with hyperlocal media and tapping into its growing and engaged audience.
Here’s just one reason why it could be well worth its while.
Nesta’s Destination Local report this year into the demand for hyperlocal media in the UK found that 56% of people who use hyperlocal sites feel more informed about their local area.
However, 44% don’t feel that hyperlocal media allows them to have an influence over decisions that are made there.
I’m sure that local councils have a much higher figure for failing to actively involve citizens in decision making.
Is this an area where hyperlocal and local councils can work together?
Founder of a Little Bit of Stone hyperlocal website in Stone , Staffordshire. He is also a former local government press officer and is Staffordshire University journalism school’s hyperlocal website project manager.