Small towns without their own dedicated newspaper or website are to be targeted in a new hyperlocal initiative which will combine social networking with news.
But instead of being focused on traditional newspaper news, the new sites will mainly be driven by “bottom-up” community news generated by citizen journalists and bloggers.
The sites will also have a Facebook-style social networking dimension with people able to create profiles and network as well as blog and write the news.
The first 30 sites will go live next month and will be concentrated in the area stretching from Gloucestershire to Cornwall, including ten towns around Bristol.
The initial six-month trial will target towns with populations of between 10,000 and 40,000 people that currently have no dedicated local newspaper or website.
AND strategic analyst Seamus Macauley said: “There is a real fear in the journalism industry about the future of local newsgathering. This at the moment is our hope for the answer.
“In every town, there will already be a person who writes match reports for football games, businesses who like to talk about their work, churches who host events every week. We want to co-ordinate that activity.
“They will also be a place to discuss minor issues and news. Newswires don’t localise to that level and there are no aggregators that provide anything sensible for smaller towns.
“In every town, sooner or later a big issue comes up and local people will try and knock up a website very quickly. We want to set up these sites so that when an issue arises, they’re already there.”
The sites will be overseen by ‘community publishers’ and powered by social networking software alongside Northcliffe’s own news generation facilities.
The move is part of a longer-term plan by AND to expand its footprint beyond the areas currently covered by the Northcliffe titles.
Said Seamus: “Where we’ve got Northcliffe content, we’ll share it. But Northcliffe only touches around 12pc of the population. It’s more interesting to see if this will work outside Northcliffe areas.”
He added that the new hyperlocal sites would not be in competition with its existing network of regional newspaper compansion sites under the ‘thisis’ brand.
Glad to be out (08/05/2009 07:38:38)
“This at the moment is our hope for the answer.” It must be very reassuring for those left at Northcliffe to know that the strategic direction of the group has been so well thought through!!
Chris Gaynor (08/05/2009 08:50:16)
So, citizen journalists and bloggers are finally getting their break in writing local news. Good for them. Long may it continue…
Observer (08/05/2009 10:12:16)
Wonder how long it is before one of these sites face libel action because those running them are ‘citizen journalists’ who wouldn’t have a clue about defamation law?
Dreading the future (08/05/2009 10:18:28)
Chris Gaynor recommends the plenty2say website – which I’ve just taken a second look at. As a site for people to vent their wrath or express their opinions it has its place. But a news site it ain’t. There is no way that blogging and so-called “citizen journalism” can replace the work of properly trained reporters who, if they are doing their jobs properly, strive to give a factual and objective overview of the events, large or small, going on in their neighbourhoods.
Rosemary (08/05/2009 10:48:53)
This seems like an excellent idea and it will be interesting to see how far the model spreads.
Presumably the moderators of the sites will keep an eye on anything that breaches defamation laws, as raised by another comment.
Even in areas where there are local newspapers, newsworthy items are not always covered. As someone who is frustrated by trying to get regular coverage for some newsworthy events, this model gives scope for unlimited coverage of what’s happening and is worth being reported.
Stuart (08/05/2009 12:40:26)
If these sites are done correctly, they could well be useful. I used to work at a paper in Berkshire and there was/is a ‘citizen journalist’ site on the patch which acted as a decent sounding-board for people in the town, had a decent forum and even occasionally got scoops as well. However, that was in a big-ish town. Surely people in these areas would hear of ‘the news’ by word of mouth, going to parish council meetings, actually attending the football matches themselves etc? And unless they are properly moderated, I can’t see how they will become anything other than chatroom rantings.
Oh, and Chris Gaynor – please do us all a favour and stop banging on about your tedious website here. Any idiot can provide a forum for keyboard warriors to write 250 words on why Gordon Brown is a twonk. Citizen journalists who fancied a go at being hacks have always had a chance – that’s why there’s NCTJ courses out there help train people to be real, live actual journalists!
Cashmere Cardigan (08/05/2009 12:57:43)
So Northcliffe is replacing the scores of journalists who ahd previously been covering small towns with presumably unqualified and unpaid people who will work for free?
ear to the ground (08/05/2009 13:20:46)
Nice one Northcliffe – after getting rid of half (poorly paid) journalists in last four years and all printers in last couple of weeks, you now want to intrude on people’s social networking and get then to do unpaid job for profits of Lord Rothermere – not for the likes….
Jaynie (08/05/2009 13:23:58)
Surely this isn’t really a story about journalism, further than the sites being set up by a company whose main trade is ostensibly newspapers?
These sound more like community websites than anything relating to actual news. Is anyone involved in this going to have any kind of qualification? If not, it’s no different to it being set up by a villager who allows all and sundry to write whatever they want, regardless of its news value. That’s not my understanding of journalism, citizen or otherwise.
Derek (08/05/2009 14:06:19)
when you think about it, there are parallels between big supermarkets and local shops. Maybe the future of newspapers is a boutique type operation…why the f knows?
Onlooker (08/05/2009 14:14:19)
Local newspapers really are on their way out if this is the best idea that the people in charge can come up with to try to maintain their influence. Talk about grasping at straws…
anotheronebitesthedust (08/05/2009 14:29:57)
Surely shome mishtake?
Moderators will need to be qualified reporters themselves to eliminate the libel threat. Rather than monkeying about behind a keyboard, wouldn’t they be more use going out and getting real stories rather than allowing matey down the road to continue his feud with Fred the Neighbour in full view of anyone with internet access?
Owd Fred In’t Corner (08/05/2009 15:20:39)
So, I’ll be popping down the pub – pint in me hand, greyhound at me feet and a rolled up laptop under me arm – ready to peruse all the best of this week’s parish pump? Come on. The only people who read such illiterate ‘local’ online rubbish are the halfwits who spend the wee small hours writing such tosh and railing against the unfairness of life, instead of going out and getting one. If you’d put more effort into your core products, Northcliffe, (i.e. your newspapers) you wouldn’t be in such a bloody mess.
Onlooker (08/05/2009 15:49:13)
Owd Fred In’t Corner, surely that’d be t’whippet at t’feet..
Owd Fred In’t Corner (08/05/2009 16:23:00)
Aye well, old greyhounds, like old hacks, need good homes these days.
But the pub analogy is apt. Twenty years ago, we were all being told by the big brewers that real ale was dead, and that we’d be drinking fizzy lager until burst.
Now, we see micro breweries all over the country popping up with great products and making decent profits. So, in ten years’ time, what’s to stop someone reinventing the local newspaper and making a success of it??
The tide is high (13/05/2009 14:44:13)
Where’s King Cnut when you need him? Step up Owd Fred…
Millions have been wasted trying to prop up newspapers in their present form over the past decade and they are still going over a cliff.
If you think the future is newspapers then take a reality check and look at e-ink.
Start learning to swim cos the tide’s against you.
Steven (13/05/2009 23:29:12)
I think the headline is misleading. As a Westcountry boy, I’m acutely aware that several of the towns on the recruitment list do have newspapers and websites – including some with Northcliffe papers already. Perhaps this story needs some clarification.
The list of towns on the Jobsite website where these jobs are being advertised, includes, for example, Falmouth (Falmouth Packet); Tiverton (Northcliffe’s own Tiverton Gazette); Exmouth (Archant’s Exmouth Journal); Honiton (Honiton Advertiser, part of the Pulman’s series)… I could go on.