Notes and thoughts from #tal13: Keeping the hyperlocal mojo, hyperlocal social media usage and loving where you live

Posted: September 29th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: blogging, conferences, Journalism, social media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

So I braved the Travelodge in Middlesbrough (once again) for the latest round of debate with hyperlocal site owners and local community sites at the Talk About Local event #tal13.

The day ranged from trying to rediscover your blogging mojo, to best tips for using Facebook and Twitter, how traditional media can work with hyperlocal sites and finally what does the growing usage of mobile internet and mobile consumption mean for hyperlocal sites?

Held in the impressive surroundings of MIMA, the beauty of unconferences (you pitch sessions and stick them on a big board which the organisers then shuffle about so inevitably all the ones you want to see happen at the same time ;) is the range of speakers/sessions is always so varied.

Here’s my thoughts from the four sessions I went to:

Getting your mojo back

Will Perrin, he of Kings Cross Environment fame, took us out onto MIMA’s terrace – complete with pumping naughties dance tunes – to rediscover just why we started all this hyperlocal blogging in the first place?

View from the terrace at MIMA, complete with Bart Simpson bouncy castle

View from the terrace at MIMA, complete with Bart Simpson bouncy castle

We took it right back to why each of us started our site and what tips we used to keep the motivation flowing.

I am very lucky on Blog Preston I have ace people like Tony Worrall, Paul Swarbrick, Lisa McManus, Gill Lawson, Paul Melling and Bernie Blackburn who all contribute regularly and keep the site moving along.

Here’s my three top tips for keeping the blog juice flowing:

- Have a calendar. Put events into a Google calendar which are coming up, this always helps for inspiration and quick posts. Plus looking back at “this time last year…” never fails to throw up some inspiration.

- Remember why you started, what post sparked your imagination? Me and Will both enjoy writing stories based on planning applications (sad, we admit) but it’s good to take a step back and reflect on why you aren’t doing more of the posts you enjoy. After all, it’s your site right?

- Hold meetups. I’m enjoying being back in the North West now and being able to sit in the pub with Tony, Paul and the rest of the team every other month and say “have you seen this?”, “have you heard about this?”. It’s amazing what you discover over a pint.

Using social media

Steph from WV11 ran a great session about what social media hyperlocal sites were using and how they were using it.

There were some great examples of how Facebook is becoming a tool for hyperlocal sites to increasingly expand their reach and readerships. Steph asked the question of whether if you were starting your hyperlocal site now would you just launch it there and not bother creating your own site?

Personally I’m not convinced by this, as having a blog/site allows you create very different types of content to what you put on Facebook.

However there were lots of good tips for how to ensure your Facebook and Twitter posts get shared and retweeted. Many of them similar to a post I wrote earlier this year about spending a month really focusing on growing Blog Preston’s Facebook page (just gone over 900 likes, wahoo!).

What can the Gazette do for you?

I ran a session around what the traditional local media can do to work better with hyperlocal sites.

It reminded me, with my Trinity Mirror hat on, that we need to work hard to engage with local bloggers and ensure we’ve got an open relationship so content can be shared or developed between our sites and hyperlocal sites.

Interesting chat with Anna Williams who runs a site in Amble, Northumberland called The Ambler. Her relationship with the local reporter at the Journal seemed steady, she would email tips and say hello if covering the same meeting. However, is there not more The Journal could be doing from say the Amble page on its site to feature The Ambler content and link off?

For traditional media I think having a vibrant hyperlocal media in our patch is encouraging, it increases the consumption and sharing of local news content and we have to accept we can’t be everywhere – so let’s work with those people who are.

Anna made the point she wasn’t really interested in payment, but did say being offered some informal training from The Journal would be of interest. Or spending some time visiting The Journal and learning from it would be beneficial. It’s not just cash people always want in return for stories.

Sarah Hartley made reference to the Birmingham Mail’s relationship with hyperlocal sites where it has done picture deals based on giving pictures from the BPM archive to hyperlocal sites in return for coverage of events. An exchange which helps everyone.

The mobile challenge

It’s already here. The shift to mobile when it comes to news consumption is rapid, and it is not slowing down.

We had a chat about whether apps would be an area for hyperlocal sites to consider. What would be on them? Don’t they cost a fortune? What would be unique enough? How would people find them?

We could only think of VisitHorsham who we know have an app (are there others!?). Yaffa Phillips, who is one of many running LoveMiddlesbrough, asked if you’ve got a great mobile site do you need an app?

Hyperlocal, where do we go from here?

I missed the session, which apparently spanned nearly two hours, about how do we fund hyperlocal sites? I think the crunch point is coming for a lot of sites, putting blood, sweat and tears in and seeing little return is eventually going to grind down a lot of sites which started in the 2006 onwards period.

There has been an acceleration towards hyperlocal sites moving into print (Brixton Blog etc) but whether this is sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen. Will we see more online only brands start printing to try and make their business model pay?

But do we obsess too much over the money? Did we all get into this to make cash? Most of the sites I know were launched to fill a void, a gap, or to correct an often overwhelmingly negative view of their area.

One of the most refreshing things I got out of TAL was a chat in the pub the night before with a site which when I viewed on my phone really made me think.

ilovestockton.me is so refreshingly brilliant, there’s not a trace of attempting to re-create a traditional media brand. It’s navigation is the sort of thing which would only mean something to someone in Stockton – they call culture, culcha (!) and the domain name is fantastic.

Jessie explained the domain name comes from the way locals say “I love Stockton me” and regularly added “me” after things they love or hate. The content, twitter feed and Facebook are unashamedly Stockton and generally positive. The range of content is varied and split not by your general news, sport etc but a very different navigation.

It reminded me, hyperlocal sites are often innovating, changing up and doing things their way because that’s what hyperlocal is, a rich tapestry of individuals making content across the UK – and we’re all the better for it.

Want to know more about hyperlocal? There’s a chapter in an e-book I’ve written with Hannah Waldram (soon to be of Instagram hipster cool) and Marc Thomas (already too cool for school) about communities, social media and hyperlocal. It’s called Connected and I’m reliably informed* it takes just over an hour to read. It’s available via Guardian Shorts.

*this was by someone from Wolverhampton, so take it as you will….

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2 Comments on “Notes and thoughts from #tal13: Keeping the hyperlocal mojo, hyperlocal social media usage and loving where you live”

  1. 1 TAL13: Hyperlocal sustainability debate is highlight | Leeds Bloggers said at 1:25 pm on September 30th, 2013:

    [...] Preston and Trinity Mirror’s Ed Walker worries that we obsess too much about money. In his TAL roundup post, he [...]

  2. 2 Talk About Local ’13 | The Richard Jones Journalism Blog said at 4:35 pm on October 9th, 2013:

    [...] probably accounted for the relative lack of presence from mainstream media companies at the event. Ed Walker of Trinity Mirror (and Blog Preston) was there, but nobody from TM’s local Middlesbrough [...]


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