Flickr: The forgotten but potentially most useful social network for hyperlocal and local news sites

Posted: January 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: ideas, Journalism, social networks, web | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

sunrise over London

Everyone is always on the lookout for the next big thing on the web but over Christmas I reflected on one social network which is standing the test of time, Flickr.

The photo sharing site was launched in 2004 and Yahoo! soon snapped it up in 2005. It allows anyone to upload their photos, add detailed information and share them with the world. In the last 7 years it has grown to claim more than 51 million registered users and in August last year it claimed it hosted more than 6 billion images.

The key thing for me is that Flickr has built a smaller, niche but very engaged network of photographers – accessible to professional, amateur and wannabe professionals.

For me, Flickr is a perfect fit with the growing area of hyperlocal news sites and existing local news sites and 2012 should be the year, eight years after it started, that we re-connect and re-consider how we work with it as journalists and media organisations.

Despite the shift to mobile, multimedia and even more impressive download speeds – it is still words and pictures which drive the web. Just look at the 2011 most shared stories, it is the picture which very much makes the story and I suspect increases the ‘WOW!’ factor and makes people want to share it with their friends.

So how do you improve your Flickr offering, here’s a few examples and ideas;

Create your own group for your location, and keep at it

Some news sites have been constantly working with Flickr over the years, and are still on it doing what they do best – offering Flickr users the chance to reach a bigger audience.

The Liverpool Daily Post is a great example of this (disclosure: I work for Trinity Mirror Regionals, the parent company of the Liverpool Daily Post on their digital team). They have established a fantastic Flickr community where they set a topic every month and then users enter their photos on this theme. The best entries are then displayed on the Post’s website and also in print, with full credit and links back.

Although the paper is shifting to weekly publication, the Flickr group is something they should definitely keep going and make use of (and they will, according to William’s update to the group’s members). It fills pages, builds trust with their community and also produces some absolutely stunning photos of Liverpool.

The key to their success is the effort William, Neil, Jo, Sean and Dan put into the community. You see them liking photos, adding comments and responding to comments in the discussion board – they also take the time to connect with users of the site. This can only benefit the Post and it’s brand online.

Partner with an existing location-based group

I run a community news site – a hyperlocal news site if you must – for the city of Preston, called Blog Preston. When I started up I needed access to lots of photos, and immediately found the Preston flickr group.

I had a dilemma, I could start up another group for Blog Preston and make it clear any photos of the city uploaded would be used on the site or I could work with the existing group to use their photos.

They already had lots of members, photos and a very influential group admin called Tony Worrall. Tony has been one of the big reasons for Blog Preston’s continuing success, he is a one man image bank of Preston and in return for us promoting his Flickr group we are able to have access to a huge stock archive of brilliant photos of the Lancashire city.

You only have to look at these two brilliant images of the sunrise this morning over Brockholes and the city centre to see the benefit of this partnership.

What’s crucial is that any image used has a link back directly to that photo on Flickr, which helps promote the user and the Preston group.

If you’re a community news site I would strongly suggest partnering with an existing group, or if there is one and it is struggling – promote it and offer to get involved in running it.

Create groups around events or themes

As a media organisation we have the power of promotion, our existing promotional channels be it in print or online can be leveraged to get people involved. So I’ve been watching with interest the approach The Guardian is taking with Flickr, as well as having branded groups they’ve been increasingly creating one-off Flickr groups and curations around Bonfire night, The Shard in London and more.

It’s a cool idea, as you give your users a very clear brief for photos and are able to tap into the Flickr community – a very kind and generous one when you play it right – to have access to some absolutely stunning photos to compliment your staff photographers. Sending out a Guardian tog for a day around London to take photos of The Shard from all different locations would be expensive and time intensive, why not ask your readers, who might have half-decent cameras, to do it for you?

It’s never too late…

A lot of local media will have existing Flickr groups and it’s never too late to get them back on track. You’ll be surprised how quickly a dormant Flickr group can be brought back to life.

WalesOnline – my former site – has picked up the baton with their old Flickr group and the brilliant Andrew Wilcox is now guiding it towards a very good place. They will follow the model of offering publication in print, which still holds a lot of kudos for photographers, as a hook, and Wilco (as he’s known) is the perfect man to run the community.

The interesting thing is Wilco is not a journalist, he’s a web developer. But he’s got an interest in photography, a strong Flickr profile and the right, slightly grumpy and Welsh, mannerisms to make the community work. And it also helps that Wales is one hell of a great place to take photos.

Photos drive readers to your site

This week has seen some incredible sunsets across the UK, proper winter red glow sunsets which really have taken people’s breath away. The Manchester Evening News even live blogged and broadcast the sunset in Manchester, using the excuse that it is usually raining. It just showed how you can tap into what everyone on Twitter is talking about but offer up something great in return on your site – and with a strong Flickr group the sunsets can be made even better.

So, in 2012, maybe it’s worth instead of reading about the next big thing or how we’re all doomed, media organisations should plug back into the communities they already have or are already producing very valuable and great photos on their doorsteps. Flickr is local by its very nature, and we as media should be helping to promote and encourage more photos to be taken of local areas and subject areas.

You can find me on Flickr here, and here’s some more interesting reading about Flickr:

The official Flickr Blog | Providing insight into what is coming up on Flickr and spotlight on different photos and challenges

Flickr promises new features in 2012 | The Next Web report about product changes in 2012 for Flickr, and the challenge it faces from Instagram

Top Ten Tips for getting attention on Flickr | Useful guide from Thomas Hawk

What examples have you seen of great Flickr management? What cool ideas have you seen for using Flickr? Let us know in the comments below

Image credit of sunrise over London to pixelthing

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2 Comments on “Flickr: The forgotten but potentially most useful social network for hyperlocal and local news sites”

  1. 1 Andrew Wilcox said at 1:03 pm on January 16th, 2012:

    Thanks for the mention Ed

    Yes it’s great to see that the vast majority of members of the group are very happy to see their work in print.

    Some even saying that they will buy two copies of the paper – when their photo appears – always a bonus for newspaper sales ;)

    The quality of photos of Flickr has always been excellent and I hope we can get some great ideas and hopefully more off the wall shots of Wales from our members

    We all love the mountains and beaches shots but the character of the people and places will hopefully come out as well.

    of course on your next visit – get snapping and add them the group ;)

  2. 2 6 ways to get started in community management | Online Journalism Blog said at 8:34 am on March 27th, 2012:

    [...] if you’ve covered every possible angle on this front. For example: have you thought of looking for your community on Flickr? Last.fm? Digg? A locally popular platform? (LiveJournal dominates in eastern Europe, for example, [...]


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