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Pioneering network of hyperlocal sites goes live

A pioneering new breed of hyperlocal websites relying entirely on user-generated content are to be launched today.

The 23 community websites, all based in the South West of England, are being launched by Associated Northcliffe Digital, the digital publishing arm of Associated Newspapers and Northcliffe Media.

The new sites under the brand will be designed to complement Northcliffe’s existing thisis network of newspaper companion sites, but no journalists will be involved either in producing or moderating content.

Instead, the sites will be headed-up by community publishers whose role will be to act as “networkers,” encouraging local people and organisations to submit their own material.

The sites typically cover areas with between 10,000 and 50,000 inhabitants that do not have a dedicated local online proposition today., and are among the sites being launched today, with a further 20-plus sites to be launched throughout the summer.

Roland Bryan, director of strategy at AND, said: “Our Local People Network has been developed to allow people who are living or working in local communities to interact with each other.

“The sites will complement the existing network of local and regional media and for the first time will create a genuinely user-generated approach to local content, giving local people an online forum to discuss and debate relevant issues with other locals, and shape opinion in their community.

“Our view is that while these sites are quite complementary to the thisis sites they are actually quite different. They are not news-led propositions, they are community-led propositions.”

Like many social networking sites, the sites will employ a “reactive” system of post-moderation whereby users who object to particular content will be able to ask to have it removed.

The community publishers, who will be paid, have already been recruited.

AND hopes the new network will give local businesses fresh opportunities for highly-targeted advertising using both online display and business directory services, with users having the ability to rate and review businesses.


J (02/07/2009 12:08:36)
I know of a few quite succesful (in terms of hits) hyper-local sites. God knows if they make any money though. There is one I know, urban75, which seems very popular – but I wouldn’t be surprised if the profits only cover the owner’s beer money. I could be wrong though. Northcliffe must have a sensible business model, so fingers crossed this brings in some cash (which goes straight back into the company and not shareholders pockets). As an NCTJ student, I am desperate for anything to work as I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, want to be a journalist. And to not see so many people laid off – which is always tragic to witness.

Lily (02/07/2009 13:32:38)
Oh great..even more forums for the socially inept to delude themselves that their opinions actually have value…

Cptn (02/07/2009 13:52:31)
We’ve been trying to tempt the community into consistent contributions on the People’s Republic of South Devon for three years now – with varying degrees of success.
We’ll see how well this takes off.
From the sidelines though it looks like they are undermining (rather than consolidating) their strong web presence in the South West (what with the iHerald and What’s on South West sites).
We shall see, and hopefully pick up something from the coat tails. So it’s all good, really.
This is how we reported it:

Alex Luthor (02/07/2009 15:46:15)
It’s frightening to see media groups flushing cash down the virtual toilet on websites that are never going to pay the bills. Newsflash for company directors; the online gravy train left the station several years ago and it ain’t coming back!

michael (07/07/2009 10:06:11)
How very true, Alex. Business maxim is: Every cost must be funded. Be interesting to see the business plan for this venture and see what the payback timescale is. Did they do a SWAT on the effect hyperlocal websites would have on their print business? Did they have any kind of research to estimate how many people would visit or use the hyperlocal site? Just because AND is a big media company, don’t assume that at local level they have teh same nous about the basic rules of running a successful business.

Hapless Hack (18/02/2010 10:57:13)
These sites will follow all before and disappear within six months. A quick glance will show just how many people are actually uploading their own stuff… It was also reveal the quality (!) of said stuff… Stop wasting money on this and fund more trainees to report actual news!